Last week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3783: Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere. When this bill first came to light earlier this year it had some serious flaws: it conflates diplomatic missions with terrorism, and is based almost entirely on sub-par research by Roger Noriega at the American Enterprise Institute. The single bright spot in the legislation then was that it was presented as a request for an objective accounting of “Iran’s growing presence” in the Americas. During debate last week, however, it was changed to “Iran’s growing hostile presence”, and a provision demanding a comprehensive, government-wide response was added. Both reinforce suspicion that the GOP hard-liners in charge of Congressional foreign policy are looking for an ever-louder echo chamber.
This bill is a convergence between two long-time campaigns of the ultra-conservatives in Washington politics: war with Iran, and denunciation of liberal governments in Latin America. Iran’s visits to the ALBA countries earlier this year stoked accusations of Hezbollah activities throughout the region, with little or no evidence to back them. Now, months later, Israeli news sources reported (without even an attempt to provide evidence) that Hezbollah has established training camps in Nicaragua. Baffled Nicaraguan military and government representatives have asked for substantiation, but have yet to receive it. It appears that the accusations are another in a long string of hit and run media attacks in the United States’ showdown with Iran.
The approach is reminiscent of the cold war: containment of a foreign power, a worldwide dragnet for sympathizers, and policies of hemispheric ownership. By asking the State Department to ‘combat’ Iranian influence, the House is writing the report it is requesting, and eliminating the option of an objective analysis from experts. Instead, we have to settle for the muddled worldview of hard-line conservatives repeated again and again through different official channels. This is how bad policy is made.
Phyllis Bennis noted the parallels between this skewed world-view and the 1984 conservative propaganda film Red Dawn. The plot: a communist invasion enabled by Cuba, Nicaragua, and a coup in Mexico is staved off by a gang of mid-western NRA poster kids. Like the Cold War policies, Red Dawn is being remade this year with the same plot and slightly different villains. Right now it seems that the House is taking its cues from Hollywood: re-releasing Reagan-era policies with Islam and Iran replacing Communism and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately for those of us working in solidarity with Latin America, the victims are likely to be the same.
What do you think? Is Congress spending too much time at the movies?