Afterthoughts on the Iran Treaty

Apadana of Persepolis — in Persepolis, Iran. (Credit:  Wikimedia Commons)

Apadana of Persepolis — in Persepolis, Iran. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Is it not brave to be a King, Techelles?
Usumcasane and Theridamas,
Is it not passing brave to be a King,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis?

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine

Now that the U.S. Congress cannot block the nuclear treaty between Iran, the United States and other world powers, one can exclaim along with Mark Twain, without fear of imperiling the agreement: “There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.” (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, chap. XXXI).

I have not read the agreement. One of the lessons to be learned from this recent process is that our politicians—and therefore we—do not need to read or know anything about anything before forming an opinion. Even before the agreement was drafted, 47 senators (all Republicans) wrote “an open letter to the leadership of Iran, warning them that any nuclear deal signed between Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama might not last beyond his presidency.” All we need now in these United States—if ever we needed anything else—is to consult God, and/or (the god) Money, not necessarily in that order, and our clear, firm opinion is given unto us. In that spirit, I offer the following maxims:

  1. It seems rich for the country that owns the largest nuclear arsenal in the world to lecture and berate another country for attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Not that I favor, mind you, nuclear weapons. But what is good for the goose seems to me also good for the gander. If Iran should surrender its nuclear capability, should not we?
  2. You will argue no doubt that Iranians are crazy jihadists who will drop a nuke on Israel if given the chance, and you may be right. But the only country to ever explode nuclear bombs against an enemy is the United States. What is inarguable is that we are nuclear bomb throwers, and that our national policy is crafted so as to make sure the rest of the world fears us.

    Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), 1909. (Credit:  George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

    Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), 1909. (Credit: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

  1. “People will die,” crowed Senator Ted Cruz at a rally against the nuclear agreement in the nation’s capital. People die in all wars—that is one of the horrors of war. If either the United States goes to war with Iran, or Israel bombs its nuclear sites, many innocent people—soldiers and civilians, Americans, Europeans and Middle Easterns—will also die. And in the end you will be just as dead, dying for peace or for war.
  2. In strange fashion, President Barack Obama assured the American people that the deal was not built on trust: “It’s built on verification.” In a poll conducted by Monmouth University, “55 percent [of adult Americans] said that they did ‘not at all’ trust Iran to abide” by the terms of the nuclear agreement. In spite of the history of world wars in the 20th century, a congregation of nations that includes Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany—all of them parties to the Iranian treaty—have agreed to back the deal. And yet a majority of the US Congress cannot bring itself to do so.

This is not surprising. George Bernard Shaw warned us about precisely this impasse:

Just as the liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else; so a guilty society can more easily be persuaded that any apparently innocent act is guilty than that any apparently guilty act is innocent.

Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1913)

Having reviewed Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (see previous post), can we trust anyone when we become parties to a treaty? Must we ask the American Indian nations?

Thus the workings of the US war culture: the warring future is determined by the bellicose past, remaining not an abstraction, but rather “a perpetual possibility” (TS Eliot, Burnt Norton).


George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate in Literature, 1925. (Credit:  The Nobel Foundation)

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate in Literature, 1925. (Credit: The Nobel Foundation)


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