Patriotism, real & imagined: Glenn Greenwald on American “bloodlust” & Iran’s ‘peace’ bomb

Mural in Iran

One of the greatest conceits of Americans on the far left who never tire of demonizing their own country is that their obsessive criticism is actually an act of love.

They often suggest that, despite engaging in the most vitriolic, incendiary rhetoric about their own nation -critiques completely out of proportion, and devoid of context – they are the true patriots.

For such commentators, of course, crimes committed by other nations and political actors don’t concern them much.

Glenn Greenwald is a perfect example of this brand of American politics.

In Greenwald’s anti-American universe, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 is not just a mistake, but is arguably on the same moral plane as the Nazi conquest of Europe.

He believes that America is racist against blacks and Latinos by design, that US Muslims are the victims of routine, systemic and horrific injustices, and that most Americans are fooled by the illusion that they enjoy real democracy. 

In his world, Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier charged with “illegally downloading [and disseminating] tens of thousands of classified U.S. military and State Department documents, is not a traitor who betrayed his oath, but an American hero deserving of a medal.

And, naturally, Islamist extremists and their apologists throughout the Arab and Muslim world aren’t enemies of progressive thought – and a clear danger to the West – but victims of “extreme violence” at the hands of the US and Israel.

Greenwald, in an Oct. 2 piece at ‘Comment is Free’, ‘The true reason US fears Iranian nukes: They can deter attacks‘, explains the ‘real’ reason why the US is attempting to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Every now and then, they reveal the real reason: Iranian nuclear weapons would prevent the US from attacking Iran at will, and that is what is intolerable. The latest person to unwittingly reveal the real reason for viewing an Iranian nuclear capacity as unacceptable was GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the US’s most reliable and bloodthirsty warmongers.”

Greenwald then quotes Graham, the “bloodthirsty warmonger”, explaining why Iranian nuclear weapons should be feared:

“They [the Iranians] have two goals: one, regime survival. The best way for the regime surviving, in their mind, is having a nuclear weapon, because when you have a nuclear weapon, nobody attacks you.”

Greenwald then sums up what he believes to be Graham’s argument:

“[Graham believes that] we cannot let Iran acquire nuclear weapons because if they get them, we can no longer attack them when we want to and can no longer bully them in their own region.

Graham’s answer is consistent with what various American policy elites have said over the years about America’s enemies generally and Iran specifically: the true threat of nuclear proliferation is that it can deter American aggression.

The No 1 concern of American national security planners appears to be that countries may be able to prevent the US from attacking them at will, whether to change their regimes or achieve other objectives. In other words, Iranian nuclear weapons could be used to prevent wars – ones started by the US – and that, above all, is what we must fear.[emphasis added]

Yes, Greenwald is suggesting that an Iranian nuclear bomb could actually serve to prevent wars.

Such political calculus, however, completely ignores the fact that – far from wanting to avoid war – the Iranians would likely use their nuclear umbrella to make resistance to their ongoing wars throughout the Middle East more difficult to deter and combat.

Iran’s foreign military adventures, aimed at exporting the Islamic revolution by arming, funding and training terrorists – and assisting in state terror – around the world (including the Taliban, Hezbollah,  Hamas, Shia militias in Iraq, and even by sending Iranian forces to assist Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown in Syria), would be emboldened if Western governments faced a nuclear armed Islamic Republic.

Nonetheless, Greenwald sees Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and one of the worst human rights violators on the planet, as the victim of American aggression and imperialism.

Greenwald, schooled by Noam Chomsky, believes that the Islamist rage which fuels terror attacks against US forces is understandable, and that the obsessive anti-Americanism represents an organic reaction to their victimhood.

Indeed, Greenwald perfectly represents the anti-American left, those who mock Americans for their love of country, and their belief that they live in a vibrant and prosperous democracy, while convincing their fellow citizens that the US is, in fact, one of the worst violators of human rights at home and around the globe.

Critics such as Greenwald arrogantly declare America’s every fault and misstep as proof that she is not the single most powerful force for freedom.  

However, don’t be tempted by his faux-progressive, completely ahistorical revisionism.

Though, to their credit, Americans are indeed prone to self-criticism, as realists they need to acknowledge that their country’s faults are small in comparison to her contributions.  Pride in America is indeed well founded.

While protest is clearly consistent with patriotism, it is unpatriotic to engage in gratuitous criticism completely divorced from any reasonable sense of balance or proportion.

It is not enough for such professional critics to love a mere “ideal” of America, or some lofty abstraction disconnected from the actual place Americans call home. True patriots love the land, the rises and falls, the real history of an entirely human people – the particular, imperfect citizens of the United States.

Real American patriots, and, indeed, all genuine liberals, would acknowledge and properly contextualize the reality of America’s faults, while cherishing (and fiercely defending) American values and enthusiastically celebrating the nation’s contributions to freedom and democracy in the world.

America is, of course, maddeningly imperfect, but, by any reasonable political standard, is also one of the least imperfect lands on earth. 

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