Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
January 13, 2007



Compared to what’s going on now, Nixon wandering the halls and babbling at paintings was kid’s stuff.

If there is a tendency to see this Administration as less dangerous since the election — what with apparently greater containment from Congress; the supposedly sobering impact of freshly-added Bush 41-era personnel; and overtly greater resistance from GOP regulars — one should not be taken in.

Psychologically, when you have a body (either an individual or a collective one) with this level of denial, aggression and hubris, and you pair it with this level of failure and public repudiation, what you get is a humiliation that is typically warded off by two things: one is paranoia (subsuming all personal faults, flaws and weaknesses into an obsession with “the enemy”) and the other is desperation (which, if the energy is still there, can result in near-delusional visions of coming out on top).

The fact my “Striking Oil” post earlier this week — of the Bidoun Magazine Iran/Uncle Sam cover and the map of the virtually-overlooked U.S. submarine incident in the Persian Gulf — immediately preceded Bush’s speech was not incidental.

If Bush, Cheney and Rice were more psychologically healthy (following the skeptical reaction to Bush’s speech, and the withering criticism Rice encountered before the Senate on Thursday), they would be acting/feeling chastened right now.  Instead, the product — unbelievably, from a non-clinical standpoint — is this dogged, paranoid and militaristic obsession with Iran.

I applaud Joe Biden this week for taking a loud and unqualified exception to where this is heading. This morning’s story in the NYT (Bush Authorized Iranians’ Arrest in Iraq, Rice Sayslink) is about as big a signal as one could receive about the compulsion to “get back on top.”

According to Rice, Bush’s authorization for the Erbil action grew out of a decision made in a Security Council meeting in the fall.  Other military moves, according to the paper, include the placement of “another” aircraft carrier off the Iran coast, and the stationing of Patriot antimissile systems in various countries close by the Iran border.

Openly warning the Administration over moves against Iran, Biden emphasized during the Foreign Relations hearing that Senate authorization to topple Saddam Hussein did not give Bush authority to go after Iran.  Leaving nothing to vagary, Biden specifically called out the Administration’s attack last week on an Iranian liaison office in Kurdish Iraq, and the seizure of its personnel.

As The Times concludes, Bush’s reference in Wednesday’s speech to Iran interfering in Iraq, combined with Rice’s new “willingness to discuss the issue” of Iran as a direct threat indicates a new level of hostility toward that country.

All of which brings me to this cover of last week’s Jerusalem Post weekend magazine.

It used to be they kept such stuff quiet.  However, with both the U.S. and the Israeli right wing operating with such impunity these days, hawkish intentions are now blatantly up front — evidenced by the American Enterprise Institute authoring a publicly-available war escalation plan that superseding the advise of our own military, and this JPost article, outlining the way Israel might be approaching a possible “D-Day” (or “decision day,” to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities) in 2007.

Its one thing to live in America, where we one is physically distanced from the flash points and actual instruments of the holy “war on terrorism.”  Living in Europe these past months, however, or visiting Israel, as I did last week — where you witness the open possession of weaponry, and feel the palpable tension and brooding in the separate ethnic and religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem –  the visuals become much less metaphorical.  After that, you get a better taste of the sense of that F-15I right above you, the force whipping the trees and the sound (if not the payload) splitting open your head.  (Notice also, reading right-to-left, as they do in the Middle East, how the jet is just that much more forward.)

In the months since the Israeli – Hezbollah war, I have made more progress in sorting out my own politics toward Israel.  If this sounds blindly obvious, one thing I appreciate much better now is the fact that Israel has as much of a left – right split as the U.S. does.

To that end, I can be just as fearful of a damaged and paranoid Israeli right, as I can be of the military potentiation with Washington.  And its only that much worse now that those American progenitors of “global war” are not just obsessing over Iran, but also politically, if not psychologically decompensating.

(image: Ariel Jerozolimski. Jerusalem Post. Cover. January 5, 2007)

  • JJF

    This is a sobering post, and appropriately so. Dangerous waters ahead. The crew and passengers want to head to shore, but the captain is taking us out to sea. The cruise is due to end Jan 09 but the only sane act may be to mutiny before then.

  • tina

    I usually regard simplistic Freudian statements as just lazy, but I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning so I can’t help it. Those pudgy missles hanging off the bottom/back of that plane look testicular to me. The message is “The Highest Stakes”. It’s very very important that we do this NOW! Right now! It sounds like Israel’s been emboldened/enabled enough to get a case of military blue balls. The fair Persian damsel in distress may, however, rather than lying down and weeping for mercy, deliver a few swift kicks to the soft bits.… well, I think that’s where the analogy peters out.
    I was looking forward to the picture of Bush’s fake tear at the Marine’s funeral, I was all revved and ready to go. I hope the BAG posts it, it’s a gem.
    Now time to see how that coffee is perking.

  • margaret

    For once, I agree with Tina. My first impression, “ballsy,” macho, testosterone-driven foreign policy. But…..there is that reminder of your post about the US submarine-Japanese tanker incident last week…a tight spot for so many carriers and ships from this country gathering in a menacing way…giving Iran a nice target…and, what if they have the same nuclear capability as Israel, via Pakistan, or some other source..North Korea…or stolen weaponry from Russia, where the security is lax since the fall of the “Wall” with which to bounce back whatever Israel delivers? I’m afraid our foreign policy is based on the desire for “Rapture.” I’m happy for Bush and Company to have their private “rapture”experience; just leave me out of it.

  • lytom

    Looks to me like an “armed flying insect” and very threatening, could even bear nukes.
    Humans copying the nature for the worst possible effects to use against other human beings without regard for the life itself. The written words are so alien to life! There is no image of blood that comes with this word planned strike and force.
    Pretext is always used to convince the others that it is in their interest too and for their survival.
    The threat is clearly pointed toward Iran, and the hope is that this time Israel will do better job in destruction than they did to the Lebanese people. That can only be achieved with the help of US government’s military might.
    Time is running short. It seems the aggressors always are ahead of the peace crowd.

  • echo

    We read :
    The text mentions an upcoming decision.
    We see :
    The plane has already taken off.
    It is loaded and heading toward a destination.
    It suggests inevitability/forgone conclusion.
    The plane originates from us/hearth/homeland/earth as suggested by the trees.
    The phrase that begins ‘If all else fails’ is an attempt to obscure the false dichotomy that they really mean namely : If the U.S. does not take out Iran then Isreal must.
    /Thank you so much for this gem of a website.

  • The BAG

    Tina: The tear tomorrow. Promise.

  • Rafael

    First a nitpick, thats an F-16 probably a Block +40 (either a Netz or Barack). Its interesting that this picture shows the collision of the Israeli and American interest and military complexes. Here you have an American plane, in IAF colors, jam packed with Israeli electronics and American weapons (IAI been the biggest manufacturer of non-European/American advanced aircraft electronics, the missiles on the wing tips are AIM-9L Sidewinders a distinct product of the American military machine) roaring at full thrust of the tarmac.
    This is the image that many around the world see on their televisions and what Palestinian youths and Lebanese saw during the summer when they looked up to the skies. The prefect symbiosis of American hardware and wealth and Israeli colonialist intent.
    They impact of this image on the Israeli public should not be ignored. The IAF has a mythic reputation as a “nation saver” among many Israelis, especially those that remember the Yom Kippur War. This involes not only the power of the IDF but the need for desperate measures to deal with any aggressor or would be aggressor.

  • Aunt Deb

    I think the most interesting thing about this is the use of the word “can” in the caption question. Do Israeli security experts really have doubts about their capacity to stop the Iranian nuclear program by bombing? I think attacking Iran at this point would not be anywhere like attacking Iraq’s nuclear program was for the Israelis. Certainly, the IDF can stop the Iranian nuclear program by bombing the sites involved. But will that stop Iran? No.
    Another thing — the use of the big mean flyin’ machine as the icon of overwhelming threat is not quite what it used to be. The IDF has been bombing Gaza and tried to blast Lebanon into submission but the ole magic doesn’t seem to be working quite like it did back in the heyday of righteous expansionism.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    The Semen-Stained Dress
    Henry the Kissinger has been hanging around Darth Cheney, et al ~ You will recall how he/Nixon bombed Cambodia, some sort of “Peace With Honor” gesture, politics of anxious masculinity thing ~ before U.S. withdrawal = casus belli : interruptus ?
    (everyone knows if we just suddenly stop raping this bitch IRAQ, her whole family will go mad, so we might as well start raping her sister IRAN)
    Meanwhile, Bush says critics must offer alternative : “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush made clear on Saturday that he would not back off his plan to send more troops to IRAQ despite bipartisan hostility to the idea, and he accused his critics of failing to offer an alternative.
    ALTERNATIVE : replace the Commander-In-Chief.

  • itwasntme

    Very scary image. It looks like a giant shark with a spear in it’s hand. If I were living anywhere in the ME, I’d be deeply frightened. Since I live here, I’m deeply angry.
    I went to a demonstration the day after Bush’s speech, and surprised that we got over 150 people at a small intersection in West LA – Bundy at Rose Avenue. Most of those attending were clearly over 40. I said to the gray-haired man next to me, “I didn’t think I’d be out here again 30 years later.” He replied, “I didn’t demonstrate then. But this is just too much. I think Bush’s Father must be agony about what his son is doing.” I surmised he was a republican, but was polite anyway.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Interesting how the linked Jerusalem Post article lists Israel and North Korea as states that have (or are suspected of having) nuclear weapons.
    In fact, North Korea *doesn’t* have nuclear weapons.
    The article continues, “Adding Iran to the mix will not only constitute an existential threat to Israel, but will also impair its operational independence.”
    Iran *doesn’t have* nuclear weapons EITHER.
    (Aside, per Webster’s: “propaganda: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause”)
    Back to the JP article, is this beautiful, unself-conscious quote:
    “What if a soldier is kidnapped in Lebanon and we want to go to war?” asks one senior official. “All Iran would need to do is wave its nuke at us and make us reconsider.”
    Repeat, in disbelief: What if Israel *wants to go to war*? If Iran had a nuke, it would force Israel to *RECONSIDER*!
    God forbid that Israel be forced to reconsider its *desire* to go to war.
    No, it’s much better to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites now (before Iran has actual nuclear weapons), because the radioactive fallout will be far less than it would be 10 years from now, when Iran *might* have nuclear weapons.
    Juan Cole’s take in Salon on the U.S.’s nuclear Russian roulette with Iran: “Did the U.S. just provoke Iran? Thursday’s raid on the Iranian consulate is more evidence that President Bush is ready to escalate the conflict.”

  • PTate in FR

    The plane is grotesque. Bristling with bombs, it embodies power. Yet I also assume, for Israelis, the plane represents hope for the future. I remember a crazy fundamentalist who claimed that the Israeli airforce, in the Seven Days War, had angels flying alongside the planes, shielding them from the missles of the enemy. Airplanes like this one–do you see the angels on its wings?– will protect Israel against her enemies.
    Israel is surrounded by nations and people that hate her and whose hatred seems implacable and whose numbers are increasing faster than hers. Because of the worlds addiction to oil, her enemies are gaining in wealth and power. I project the trend line of isolation, hostility and influence, and I wonder if a peaceful future is possible for Israel anymore. Every year things get a little worse for her–she is a little more isolated, more under attack, less able to negotiate with her neighbors. If the future of Israel depends on big planes bristling with bombs, then Israel has no future.
    As I clicked the comments section to this post, I looked again at the picture of Dr Rice’s operatic emotionalism. Your analysis above–that the psychological defense against humilation is to grow more paranoid and more desperate–is excellent. Scary, but excellent. Bushco are delusional, paranoid and desperate: No amount of evidence will persuade them that they are wrong. The picture of Dr Rice–she is trying to communicate, she is passionately convinced that we are wrong, that we are not seeing the danger–and she wants to weep with the frustration of our ignorance. They just want to finish the job so they can prove how wrong we have been about them.
    Israeli’s right wing is also delusional, paranoid and desperate. They imagine that a big plane, loaded with bombs, can bring safety and peace to Israel.

  • donna

    Like I’ve said before, if Israel wants to cease to exist, bombing Iran is a good start.
    One seriously hopes this is all bluster. If Bush and Israel are serious, then I fear for Israel. It will end quite badly.

  • truthseeker

    The Bag has outdone himself with this post and given us evidence of a great personal shift. I’m in a discussion group with some Jews, and this whole ME thing is very conflicting for them. Some can’t even discuss it and just bow out. Others struggle. We’ve seen that with some commenters here in the past. And I agree with The Bag’s posit that the remaining triumvirate have a high level of denial, aggression and hubris, but to that I’d add codependency. They continue to prop up each other and ignore the falling debris all around. I wonder if one dry-drunk can have that effect on those around him.
    Doesn’t it seem the aircraft/weaponry just gets uglier as time goes on? Did anyone see the ’stealth’ bomber fly over the Rose Parade this year? How’s that for a war mongering imagery invading all aspects of our communal life. Totally inappropriate! BTW, I live in the path of that flight and the sound was terrifying and deafening. To see such a picture of the F-15 (whatever) one can only imagine the terror of people on the ground.
    The article sites a series of air crashes killing people close to Ahmadinejad. They blame Israeli agents, we blame the CIA. One wonders if they are one and the same. Are those ships off Iran’s coast there to start a war or to support Israel? Israel’s right wing must be in as much of a panic as ours is, after the recent events in Lebanon. At this point, who knows what or who to believe?
    Am I wrong or isn’t it an act of war (traditionally speaking) to attack a country’s embassy, no matter where it is. Didn’t we treat it as such when our embassies have been attacked? And why are they not getting upset about the recent Athens embassy attack? Or do our leaders have a guilty conscience about the raid at Irbyl (sp?). It’s like the rules we expect to be in force, aren’t and no one is paying attention.
    Hope this makes sense, it’s late and I’m signing off.

  • ummabdulla

    Just looking at the photo in isolation, it’s interesting how many different things I can see in that airplane. As someone noted, the nose of it looks like a shark, but then it sort of looks like the head has a mane, so it looks like some other animal, or a child’s toy. The whole thing looks like an ancient bird that seems so heavy that it shouldn’t even be able to get up in the air. And those two missiles (is that what they are?) are like the legs of a frog. And what’s that stinger-like thing all the way to the left?
    The trees down on the right look like a menacing bear, standing with his side to us.
    As for the issue of atacking Iran, I just got my morning newspaper (Arab Times), and it was pretty sobering. The red headline at the top of the page says “US military strike on Iran seen by April ‘07″. One of the reasons for the timing, it says, is so that it happens before Tony Blair is replaced as Prime Minister.
    According to their source, the attack will be from the sea so that none of the countries in the region have to be directly accountable; they say that the buildup has already begun and will be complete by the end of the month. We’ll supposedly be protected by “advanced” Patriot missiles.
    The source went on to say that Rice and Gates wanted to postpone the attack, but Bush and Cheney “insisted on attacking Tehran without any negotiations based on the lesson they learnt in Iraq recently”.
    Delusional is the word… “The Bush administration believes atacking Iran will create a new power balance in the region, calm down the situation in Iraq and pave the way for their democratic project, which had to be suspended due to the interference of Tehran and Damascus in Iraq… The attack on Iran will weaken the Syrian regime, which will eventually fade away…”
    I think Margaret’s on target with the Rapture reference. That comes up in media every once in a while and then gets ignored again, but if the people in charge actually believe that it’s their mission to bring about the Armageddon, then rational or “reality-based” arguments aren’t going to carry any weight with them.

  • gmoke

    I’ve been reading reports that usually circumspect US gov officials are talking about Israel as a nuclear power, something that previously was not done, at least explicitly.
    One/two strike. Israel with the bunker buster and tactical nuke and the US ready to squelch, supposedly, any Iranian retaliation. That would be my guess at this point.

  • Rafael

    Israel announced during the past year that it was buying new German diesel submarines, reports state that they are nuclear capable. My guess is that they are armed with Tomahawk TLAM-A/N. The U.S. has already sold the technology to the British and it would be to hard to swap a conventional warhead with a low yield nuke (say between .2-.5 of a kiloton). The tomahawk already has bunker busting capabilities.
    The problem is that these missiles can miss their targets or be shot down, and any use of this technology would point the finger at the U.S., Britain and Israel, making them possible targets for retaliation (a nuclear strike is enough of an excuse to retaliate, no matter the yield of the warhead).

  • ummabdulla

    gmoke, what is that tactical nuke supposed to be aimed at? Just curious, since I live just across the Gulf from the Bushehr site…

  • Aunt Deb

    I have been reading about the attacks on Jimmy Carter from those who cannot tolerate his new book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem. It’s really quite amazing the extent to which many folks will go, in order to deny the need to rethink and change policy and attitudes. I have to wonder at the willingness of so many not simply to accept the feeling of righteous desperation but to glory in it.

  • truthseeker

    In reference to the rapture, I would doubt Cheney/Bush believes in any such. That 28% unshakable followers in the polls, maybe many if not most of them believe. That’s why Cheney/Bush mouths the right words. I’ve read that many pentagon officials believe it and who knows how many underlings around the WH and State. How much influence they have on Cheney/Bush, who knows. My bet would be that Cheney does whatever is good for Cheney and he’s probably convinced Bush that it’s good for his ‘legacy’ too. Bottom line, they’re cynical manipulators.
    From what I’ve been reading/hearing of late, Cheney/Bush has sent war ships to the Mediterranean, we know that the US has subs in the Strait of Hormuz, on Iran’s coast, and Cheney has appointed an admiral (!) to oversee a desert army. From what we know of this administration, i.e., that they are master manipulators, the question is: Do we think they are going to make the big bluster and start lobbing nukes at Iran and Syria, or are they going to convince Israel to do same (considering the recent ‘outspoken’ talk of Israel as a nuclear power) and stand by to watch. They did this during the Lebanon fracas. “Let’s you and him fight.” Will Israel fall for it again?
    When and if this happens (either scenario) what will Russia and China do? They have recently collaborated to shoot the US in the foot at the UN. Does this crowd really think they will now just sit back and watch? No wonder everybody in Washington is scared spitless.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes