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7 Aug, 2015

Averting déjà vu: Why the travel & tourism industry should back Obama on the Iran nuclear deal

Bangkok – President Barack Obama’s 5 August 2015 speech on the Iran nuclear agreement was replete with warnings about heeding the same bunch of warmongers trying to use the same bunch of discredited arguments in the same old table-thumping way as they did in whipping up the U.S. political establishment to sanction the 2003 attack on Iraq.

In unequivocal terms, Mr Obama told the American public, especially the hundreds of young men and women who have suffered after being sent to Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction that were never found, “In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war. On the front end, ask tough questions. Subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis. Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war. Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right.”

The full text of the speech can be downloaded here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/08/05/remarks-president-iran-nuclear-deal

In arguing his case for Congressional approval of the agreement, the President spent a huge amount of word-space repeatedly reminding the American public of the mistakes of Iraq 2003, and the consequences thereof. Here are some classic quotes:

(+) Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising.  And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

(+) Now, there are some opponents — I have to give them credit; there are opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war.  In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless. But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.  (Applause.)  The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.  We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less than 1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.

(+) Over the last couple weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative.  I have yet to hear one.  What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run-up to the Iraq War:  Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically; we can take military strikes without significant consequences; we shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line; tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission; we can get a better deal.

(+) I know it’s easy to play on people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich.  But none of these arguments hold up.  They didn’t back in 2002 and 2003; they shouldn’t now.  (Applause.)  The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since.  It’s a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before war, and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.

He reminded the public that “if you repeat these arguments (against the deal) long enough, they can get some traction”, which is also what was done by the Iraq warmongers in 2003. He also reminded Israel and its shamelessly butt-kissing supporters in the US and worldwide that their own role in trying to sway public opinion is not going unnoticed, and this time may produce different results.

In 2002-03, Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil was the only travel industry journalist with the courage and integrity to publicly oppose the Iraq war. The travel & tourism industry, especially its so-called visionary leaders, did/said absolutely nothing to even remotely oppose it. Today, it is déjà vu.

Verily, moral and intellectual cowardice has no limits.

Just take a look at the mess in the Middle East today — the human suffering, the financial, environmental, cultural costs. Obama talked about the U.S. alone spending a trillion dollars. Ask yourself if it was worth it, whether it could have been avoided, and what would you have done if it were your family in the firing line. Most important, note that not a single public official has been held accountable for the devastation. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir over war crimes, but ignores the former leaders of the U.S., U.K., and Australia, all backed by their warmongering politicians and Israel, who destroyed Iraq over a lie.

A winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and now in the twilight of his two-term presidency, Mr Obama has indicated that he has learned from that mistake, and will do everything possible to avert making it twice. It would behoove the global travel & tourism industry to echo that call and back him, and do so with head held high. Indeed, if it again remains silent, the travel & tourism industry will be making the same mistake twice. For an industry that makes lofty claims about having the interests of the future generations very much in mind, that would be a colossal double mistake indeed.

This editor has also set up the industry’s first voting opportunity for anyone working in travel & tourism to have his/her say. The vote-box is located on the top right-hand column of this website. It will remain there for the foreseeable future. Have your say and get on whichever side of history you wish to choose.

For those with short memories, I am providing weblinks to the numerous columns I wrote in the Bangkok Post before and after the 2003 Iraq war. The Bangkok Post eventually gagged the column. The editors of “The Newspaper You Can Trust” made one big mistake. They assumed that by gagging the column, they will gag my voice. In the Internet age, however, the written word is no longer simply forgotten in dusty newspaper archives. It can be revived in the public domain as an embarrassing reminder to those who got it wrong. That is what I am doing now.

Read, reflect and let your conscience be your guide.

6 Oct, 2002: Double Standards of Death: How Many More Innocents Will Perish in Iraq, The Sequel? https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2002/10/double-standards-of-death-how-many-more-innocents-will-perish-in-iraq-the-sequel/

13 Jul, 2003: The Lies that Led the World to War in Iraq https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2003/07/the-lies-that-led-the-world-to-war-in-iraq/

2 Nov, 2003: Mahathir’s Assessment Can Be Denounced, but Not Denied https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2003/11/mahathirs-assessment-can-be-denounced-but-not-denied/

2 Apr, 2006: New Research Unveils the Link between “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy”  https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2006/04/new-research-unveils-the-link-between-the-israel-lobby-and-us-foreign-policy/

24 Jul, 2005: Wag The Dog Distractions: The Oldest Trick in the Book https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2005/07/wag-the-dog-distractions-the-oldest-trick-in-the-book/

20 Apr, 2003: Orwell’s “Animal Farm” Warnings on How Totalitarianism Creeps In More Relevant Than Ever https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2003/04/orwells-animal-farm-warnings-on-how-totalitarianism-creeps-in-more-relevant-than-ever/

7 Sep, 2003: NYT Journalist’s Book Questions Rationale Behind the “War on Terror” https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2003/09/nyt-journalists-book-questions-rationale-behind-the-war-on-terror/

21 Dec, 2008: Sole of Despair: The “Shoeting” of George W. Bush

29 Oct, 2006: When will the American people finally tire of being lied to? https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2006/10/when-will-the-american-people-finally-tire-of-being-lied-to/

17 Sep, 2006: Flashback: How did we EVER get hoodwinked into these mindless wars? https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2006/09/flashback-how-did-we-ever-get-hoodwinked-into-these-mindless-wars/

15 May, 2005: ‘Islamophobia’ taking hold in the US https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2005/05/islamophobia-taking-hold-in-the-us/

5 May, 2002: Nobel Laureate Bishop Tutu: “Oppressing another people will get Israel neither security nor safety”  https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2002/05/nobel-laureate-tutu-oppressing-another-people-will-get-israel-neither-security-nor-safety/

6 Mar, 2011: When Obama told Jewish Leaders to do some “Soul-Searching” about Middle East Peace https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2011/03/when-obama-told-jewish-leaders-to-do-some-soul-searching-about-middle-east-peace/