Juan Cole: Interviewed about Iran, Turkey & the US

Historians in the News

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush has asked Congress for another $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The request brings this year's total to more than $196 billion, by far the highest amount since the 9/11 attacks. If the trend continues, war funding could top $1 trillion by the time Bush leaves office. By some measures, that amount would exceed the cost of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

The record-high request comes as the drumbeat continues for opening a new war with Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney warned Sunday that Iran faces “serious consequences” over its nuclear program and alleged role in Iraq. His comments came days after President Bush spoke for the first time of “World War III” if Iran obtains the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. And the threat has been bipartisan: the three leading Democratic presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards -- have all declared that no option is off the table to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan. He runs an analytic website called "Informed Comment," where he provides a daily roundup of news and events in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world. In his new book, Juan Cole steps back from his widely regarded analysis of contemporary politics to chronicle the first Western invasion of the Middle East since the Crusades. Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East is a history of France's 1798 invasion of Egypt, a conquest the still has repercussions today.

Juan Cole joins us now from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Cole.

JUAN COLE: Thanks so much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Before we go back in time, can you talk about this latest news, the latest threats against Iran? How serious are they? Do you think a US war with Iran is imminent?

JUAN COLE: Well, I think the Cheney camp in the Bush administration very much would like to bomb the nuclear research facilities, which, as far as we know, are civilian facilities near Esfahan. And what has been leaked from their office is that they’ve talked about various stratagems for getting up such an attack and that they have been blocked so far by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and by Secretary of State Condi Rice.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the shifting rationale? I mean, we saw in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- or was it Saddam Hussein was a tyrant? -- that didn’t fly with the US, so they went with WMD, and Saddam Hussein didn’t have WMD. We hear about the nuclear issue, and then we hear about the shifting rationale, that the American people see it as too similar to the missing WMD in Iraq, so that the rationale would be that Iranian soldiers are fighting in Iraq and killing US soldiers.

JUAN COLE: Well, the most disheartening thing for the Cheney war camp must be that a recent poll shows that they’ve actually managed to convince the vast majority of Americans that Iran is trying to get a nuclear bomb and that Iran is actively killing US troops in Iraq. Neither thing is actually in evidence. They’re possible, but it hasn’t been proven. But most Americans have accepted this story. And yet, 78% of Americans say that they don’t want a US attack on Iran. So, so far, all of the rationales that they have trotted out and trumpeted through the media for attacking Iran have not been sufficient to convince the American people that action is necessary....
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