America’s Permanent War Formula

When it comes to starting wars, we don’t even bother to change the script anymore.

By Matt Taibbi and cross-posted from Rolling Stone.

Here we go again. Iran has not only shot down an American spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz, but refuses to feel bad about it.

Iran’s General Hossein Salami — one assumes this is a real person — said of the drone downing, “We are completely ready for the war. Today’s incident is a clear sign of this accurate message.”

We all know what this means. This aggression will not stand, man.

Depending on who’s doing the counting, the United States has attempted to overthrow foreign governments roughly 72 times since World War II. The script is often the same, and the Iran drama is following it. Go back through history and you’ll often see these elements:


In August of 1964, Lyndon Johnson told the American people that North Vietnamese, in an “outrage,” fired at the USS Maddox and two destroyers in “open aggression on the high seas.” Explaining that “our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting,” LBJ assured us that “firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace.”

We now know there was no second torpedo attack by the North Vietnamese. Cables suggested the U.S. was returning fire because an “overeager sonarman… was hearing ship’s own propeller beat.”

A year later, Johnson himself would say, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

The Iranian “aggression” case is another murky high-seas drama. It was reported that recent damage to a pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman bore “a striking resemblance” to the signature of “devices in Iran’s arsenal.” The initial New York Times story about the damage to tankers in May suggested a link to photos taken of missiles loaded into small boats by “Iranian paramilitary forces.”

In neither of these news stories was it mentioned that the tankers in question weren’t American (of the four hit so far, one was Norwegian, one Japanese, and two Saudi). Still, the United States released black-and-white images purporting to show Iranian Revolutionary Guards trying to remove an unexploded mine from the hull of the Japanese ship, i.e. to hide the evidence.

Sometimes the “aggression” is more real than in others (Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait is a little different from a “sketchy” late-night firefight in Panama), but the result is usually the same. It somehow never strikes Americans as odd, however, that the “aggression” takes place in or around a faraway country with no ability to attack the territorial United States

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