Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bombing Iran won't be good for the polar bear either

After Hurricane Katrina, many on the Democratic side of the aisle blasted the Bush administration's response in part by arguing National Guard troops should have been available to clean up after a disaster here at home contributing to one overseas in Iraq. Now, though, after what some are calling the Obama administration's Katrina, the liberal veterans group has inverted that argument, taking to the airwaves with a new $1.5 million ad campaign that features a Louisiana guardsman bemoaning the fact that he signed up to serve in order "to help protect America from our enemies, like in the Persian Gulf, not to clean up an oil company's mess here in the Gulf of Mexico."

As if the I'd-rather-be-killing-Middle-Easterners message wasn't explicit enough, the ad includes a scary photo of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the star of an earlier VoteVets campaign that resurrected the evidence-less claim that Iran has essentially been behind every IED attack that has killed an American solider, nevermind that most insurgents soldiers have been killed by Sunni groups and that most foreign fighters come not from Shiite Iran but Sunni Saudi Arabia. Granted, it would be nice if the National Guard didn't have to clean up an oil company's mess, there's no disputing that, but wouldn't it be nicer if, instead of needing them "protect" us in the Persian Gulf, we didn't need them to do anything at all? But then, understanding who is the enemy du jour and that hyping foreign threats is the first thing they teach in American Political Advertising 101, major progressive groups have chosen to make Iran and Mr. Ahmadinejad the go-to foreign demons -- alongside the recent and mildly ironic addition of BP -- in their public appeals for climate legislation and "energy independence."

Operation Free, for instance, a coalition of liberal veteran groups, claims the Senate proposal from John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) "could cut Iran's oil profits by up to $100 million every day." The Center for American Progress likewise cites the figure to argue for climate legislation as a way to hurt Iran, whose "economic and political strength" poses "a threat to the national security of the United States and the world"; the Natural Resources Defense Council has done the same, as has Senator Kerry.

Like the Obama administration's claims about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, though, the oft-cited $100 million figure isn't based on actual evidence. As the Center for American Progress' Brad Johnson belatedly explains, the number assumes not just the passage of domestic climate legislation, but the implementation of "a global carbon policy system that brings total emissions down" -- in other words, something that will not happen anytime soon if ever. The number also happens to be based on a three year old MIT study that didn't actually look at the Kerry-Lieberman proposal.

Asked to reconcile those facts with his group's use of the number, an Operation Free spokesman pointed me to the "could" portion of their claim; that is, a Senate climate bill "could cut Iran's oil profits by up to $100 million." To put it another way, saying I could be the next Miss America if I just toned my abs a bit is not at all the same as saying I would be -- though there's still a chance, however improbable and infinitesimally small -- understand?

At a time when we already have the Obama administration expanding covert military action against Iran, is it too much to ask that environmental groups not fan the flames that could ignite another conflict in the Middle East with debunked or unfounded claims, all on behalf of a bill of dubious environmental merit? If you want to advocate for the Senate climate bill, god help you, stick to the harrowing images of stranded polar bears and leave the poor Persians alone.


  1. We need to re-assess what a Liberal is and whether or not that really has anything to do with being Left, or with being progressive, depending on how progressive is defined. I say not.

  2. I appreciate you posting about this, as I'd noticed the VoteVets effort for awhile. It's embarassing, and points towards a lot of difficulties that invariably arise when you work with veterans groups around a old style liberal to left agenda. With the exception of those veterans that have expressed adopted a left perspective, it's hard.