AS THIS WEEK’S United Nations General Assembly advanced, faithful to the template, nothing could have been more clear than that the world is suspended discouragingly between the Scylla of Holocaust denial and the Charybdis of Holocaust panic.
I’ve become accustomed to the hateful worldview of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In similar fashion, Benjamin Netanyahu’s invocations of impeding genocide are nothing new. Recall that it was precisely three years ago, on 24 September 2009, that he produced blueprints of Auschwitz, as a rebuke of Ahmadinejad’s recurring UN General Assembly revisionism. Three years before that, he informed the world that “it’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.” The Persian race toward the nuclear bomb — for many years now a race whose finish line has been only some yards distant, if one believes Mr. Netanyahu — was the prelude of another holocaust and a threat to the entire western world.
Having expelled Iran’s diplomats, Canada produces further pregnant signals. Prime Minister Harper recently staged a photo with anti regime Iranian-Canadians, and Jason Kenney’s office sent a mass email whose subject was “LGBT Refugees from Iran.” Whose skid is the government buttering here, and to what end exactly? But before you attempt to answer that question, allow me to close the circle by returning to the subject with which this essay begins. Here is a statement recorded in the Hansard of Friday, September 21, 2012:
Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC): Mr. Speaker, our government continues to exercise moral leadership on the international stage. Two weeks ago we closed our embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada. This Iranian regime poses the most significant threat to world peace and security. It has routinely threatened the existence of Israel and engages in racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide. It has provided military assistance to the Assad regime. It has refused to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program. It is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. It shelters and materially supports terrorist groups. The regime in Iran has also shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel. Under these circumstances, Canada could no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran. I commend our government’s ongoing moral leadership on the international stage, especially when confronting terrorism and anti-Semitism.
Among a number of boilerplate and indeed factual charges, we find again grand claims of global danger and of coming genocide. Or, to pursue the terms of Israel’s Prime Minister, it is 1938 and Iran has undertaken the Anschluss Österreichs and the annexation of the Sudetenland. The earnest of Kristallnacht has been declared, and we are somewhere in time between the ghetto and the Final Solution. Presumably on this basis a war with Iran is both a moral necessity and a practical inevitabilty.
There are two immediate problems with the “incitement to genocide” argument. The first is that if one wishes to press the matter there are terms in which to do so. To qualify as a 1938 Nazi regime, then, Iran would have to manifest an irredentist impulse, in this case by invading its version of Austria — Bahrain. Pan-Iranianism may well inform the regime’s activities, and it is also possible that Saddam Hussein’s error in Kuwait was not lost on the Velayat-e faqih (that lesson being: nuclear weapon first, invasion of your neighbour second). These are however instances of speculation, and slippery causes upon which to found a war. The second problem also returns us to the lessons of Iraq, where good arguments for regime change, based in international law and the actual crimes of the Ba’athists, yielded to fear-mongering calls for WMD pre-emption. Any attempt of the Canadian government to weasel in a speaking point of that character should be met with firm scorn.
The question mark at the end of this roundabout discourse of mine concerns the opaque behaviour of the Canadian government. I’ll put it this way: what are Canada’s plans in relation to Iran? There has been a lot of activity of late, and quite a few charges laid. The seriousness of the charges applied rather outrun the government’s remedies, and now that genocide has been slipped into the federal vocabulary, one ought to wonder if there are additional remedies in store. Is it 1938 in Ottawa? — and if so, when is the government going to admit as much?