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Monday, January 06, 2020

What would war with Iran be like? 

We were talking yesterday about the possibility of a US-Iran war and how we are experiencing misty, water-coloured memories of the awful build-up to the invasion of Iraq way back in 2003, when related scare-mongering about Iran was also going on.
One of the things I remembered most clearly from that time was this old column from I, Cringely: The Pulpit, written by a journalist called Mark Stephens under the pseudonomyn Robert X. Cringely.  
I have never forgotten it so I looked it up last night on the Wayback Machine. The article was nominally about the 2004 reelection of Bush, but it also featured Stephen's description of a 1986 incident in the eight-year Iran-Iraq War and what this incident taught him about how Iran and America would compare in "moral" determination:

If the experts are correct, the 2004 election results mean we now live in a country where morality is apparently the major concern of people. Am I wrong, or is the same thing not true in Iran? And if our morality is in fundamental conflict with their morality, which side will be willing to sacrifice more to obtain what they view as their just end? I can tell you it ain't us.
Back in 1986 I talked Penthouse magazine into giving me an assignment to write the story: "How to Get a Date in Revolutionary Iran." The premise was that hormones are hormones, and those wacky kids in Tehran, most of whom could still remember the Shah, had to be finding some way to meet members of the opposite sex. So I headed off to Iran to find out the truth. If you are interested in such stuff, the only time a single man and woman not from the same family could be together in private back then was in a taxi (he being the driver), so all the teenage boys who had or could borrow cars turned them into taxis. This, of course, put all the power in the hands of the woman since she could see him but he had to take pot luck.
I eventually finished the piece and decided to go see the war since I had been in Beirut and Angola, but had never seen trench warfare, which is what I was told they had going in Iran. So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.
It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.
Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.
Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world. But of course President Bush, who may think he pulled the switch on a couple hundred Death Row inmates in Texas, has probably never seen a combat death. He doesn't get it and he'll proudly NEVER get it.
Welcome to the New Morality.
I don't think Trump "gets it" either, and he knows even less about war and death than National Guard pilot Bush did.
I believe the only reason Trump is threatening war with Iran right now is his fear of impeachment and his belief that a Republican senate would never vote to remove a "war president".  
He's likely right.  So I think the world can only hope that the impeachment trial in the Senate moves quickly enough to change Trump's calculations - in the unlikely event that the Senate vote actually removes Trump from office, its a new game. And in the more-likely scenario of non-conviction, then Trump will just go golfing and war with Iran will be cancelled.



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