Let’s not make an Iraq out of Iran

These days, it’s not much fun to watch the news. Every time I do, I hear increasingly crazed whispers about the existential — and imminent — threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to the United States.

The whispers of war are soon followed by images of scary-looking nuclear facilities, ballistic missiles and mushroom clouds accompanied by rather heavy-handed, dramatic background music.

That’s not all. Right before the news segments are about to end, you can count on some neoconservative war hawk solemnly declaring that Western civilization is at stake if we don’t take immediate action and invade Ira—

Hold on. Haven’t we heard this story before?

Of course we have! It’s virtually the exact same story neoconservatives fed us in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Only this time they are using it to push for the invasion of Iran.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the eerie similarities between threats anonymously leaked to the media in 2003 and today: sleeper cells that threaten the homeland, nearly completed weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles that could strike our allies in Israel and Europe.

It’s as if neoconservatives have just dusted off their old set of talking points and replaced the “q” in “Iraq” with an “n.”

Enough is enough. It’s our job as citizens to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. That means standing up and calling out dewy-eyed journalists whenever they repeat fact-free allegations about weapons of mass destruction without a whiff of skepticism, like well-trained parrots rather than rational human beings in possession of their critical faculties.

A troubling example of this “stenographic journalism” came during a recent episode of “Out Front” with Erin Burnett. The show featured the IRA-linked neoconservative warmonger Rep. Peter King (R–NY) as its main guest. Before Burnett pitched to King any questions, she opened by declaring, “No one buys Iran’s claim that (its nuclear program) is for peaceful purposes.”

That’s a pretty bold statement. She must have some solid proof to back it up, right? Well, no. The only proof Burnett offered was to quote remarks made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at a Senate hearing last month: “Iran’s technical advances … strengthen our assessment that Iran is more than capable of producing highly enriched uranium for a weapon if its political leaders, specifically the Supreme Leader himself, choose to do so.”

The quote may seem damning, until you realize that it says nothing about Iran’s nuclear intentions. It just talks about their nuclear capabilities. Two very different things.

Even more telling, Burnett left out the portion of Clapper’s testimony at the same Senate hearing that actually spoke about Iran’s nuclear intentions. Clapper told Senate lawmakers: “We don’t believe (Iran has) actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon.”

Iran’s nuclear program should not be fodder for idle speculation — the issue is too serious for that. It’s better to look to what the relevant government agencies have to say. According to recent reports, our intelligence agencies have reached the same conclusions other international agencies have, that there is no evidence Iran has revived its decommissioned program to pursue a nuclear warhead.

The situation in Iran is far from ideal, yes, and its fanatical leaders are inviting targets. But our options are limited. We could preemptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, like Rick Santorum has urged. But nuclear experts, including our own generals, have said this would only delay Iran’s nuclear capabilities by a dozen months or so — and it would provoke further hostilities in the region.

It’s hard to say just what we should do. Crippling sanctions, covert military operations and diplomacy seem to be good starting points. I don’t know if that will be enough to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, which could prompt a Cold War-esque arms race in the region. But I do know one thing: The fear and mind-numbing panic that allowed the Bush administration to drag us to war in Iraq has no place in this national debate.

Our military and civilian leaders should approach our options with critical and level heads. We, as citizens, should demand a level of evidence that was not forthcoming during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

I don’t envy the sticky situation President Obama and our State Department have found themselves in. Somehow, they must come up with a solution that doesn’t involve hyping the Iranian threat and dragging us into a third war in the Gulf region in less than a decade.

_Jason is a senior in Engineering and Business._