Monday, October 13, 2008

Industrial self-sufficiency & Gucci: My report from Iran # 2

Yesterday I went off to see Tehran's equivalent of Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. They had all the latest stuff there -- Gucci, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy, Mont Blanc, DSquared2, Yves St. Laurent, etc. The women were dressed to the nines. Forget just plain ordinary veils. Everyone there was wearing Hermes.

So much for sanctions.

"One reason that sanctions don't work so well over here" said an Iranian woman I met at the local KFC (Kabooky Fried Chicken), "is because there is so much European money invested in Iran that, even though the EU officially supports the imposition of sanctions, European investors cannot afford to completely play by the rules laid down by the US. And the other reason is that Iran is mostly industrially self-sufficient. We even make our own cars."

Iran, unfortunately, is not TOTALLY industrially self-sufficient, I was just about to find out. Today we flew from Tehran to Yazd and our plane was very very late in arriving. "Why is it so late?" I asked the man sitting next to me in the passenger lounge.

"This delay is due to the sanctions. Airplanes and airplane parts are hard to get in Iran right now."

"But doesn't sanctioning airplane parts put civilians in danger?"

"Yes it does. We just had a crash recently because of this. Plus it's hard to make repairs and we are forced to use the black market or to improvise. For instance, we now rent some of our planes because we are not allowed to buy them. We rent them from Russia, Turkey and even Bulgaria. But even so, many of our planes are in such poor shape right now that they aren't even allowed to land at European airports." Great. That's just what I needed to hear right before boarding my flight to Yazd.

"But why doesn't Iran make its own planes?"

"Specialization. In today's world economy, it's not possible to make everything." Oh. So the sanctions actually do end up hurting Iran -- unless of course you have a passion for Gucci. Then apparently you are okay.

But in general Iran really is industrially self-sufficient.

I wish that America was too.

For instance, just how vulnerable would WE be if we had sanctions imposed on us?

Let's suppose that the rest of the world finally got all pissed off at America because of Bush, Cheney and McCain's reckless and lawless foreign policy? Suppose that the rest of the world finally got fed up with all the waterboarding, preemptive strikes, DU contamination, WMD lies, lack of financial regulations and various other nasty things that the neo-cons have done across the globe in the past eight years? Suppose that the rest of the world decided to impose sanctions on the US? We'd be in big trouble. Why? Because America is NOT in any way industrially self-sufficient.

We'd be screwed.

PS: President Eisenhower definitely had the right idea when he had all those freeways and highways built in the name of national self-defense. Bush's current idea of breaking the law of posse comitatus and billeting troops here at home isn't what is going to keep America safe. That's just window dressing. What WILL keep us safe, however, is to maintain industrial self-sufficiency.

The very backbone of America's national safety comes directly from our ability to maintain as much industrial self-sufficiency as we possibly can -- like we did back in World War II. But right now America has almost NO backbone.

PPS: Tonight I talked with another Iranian man (a surprising number of Iranians speak English) who told me some more stuff about Iran. I'm not sure if I'm getting the Big Picture over here after having only been in the country for three days, but here's what the guy said. "Ahmadinejad is to Iran what Bush is to America. Dr. A ran for election on an 'ownership society' platform, promising to give us economic prosperity and all that 'I'm a uniter not a divider' stuff -- but in the end Ahmadinejad turned out to be only a tool of Iran's richest families and a cheerleader for confrontation and war -- just like George W. Bush."

What else have i learned over here? Another Iranian I met at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art talked about his hopes, dreams and fears. "I served in the Army during the Iran-Iraq war. It was a time from Hell. I watched my best friends be killed."

"What started that war?"

"The Iraqis, with the backing of the United States, tried to seize one of our most oil-rich provinces. " Aha. Iraq used to be the neo-cons' chief catspaw in the Middle East regarding Iran and look what happened to it. And now Israel has taken the place of Iraq in that role. What's with all this hatred of Iran?

"It's not so much hatred of Iran," my new Iranian friend said. "It's that the Americans in power want to divide and conquer the Middle East in order to get control of the oil and to promote weapons sales. Even Israel appears to be a fall-guy in this scenario -- and Saudi Arabia definitely is. Americans always try to have a bogey-man in the region so that they can sell more arms. Remember that Ronald Reagan was selling arms to both Iran and Iraq at the same time during the Iran-Iraq war. You really have to live in the Middle East to understand all this stuff."

No wonder the people of Tehran are more interested in buying Gucci than in making war -- and why they are not as fond of Ahmadinejad as we have been led to believe. Iranians have all "been there, done that" before. But then that doesn't excuse us Americans either. We've also all been there and done that too. We already went through all of that -- being convinced by self-interested leaders that war is a necessary thing -- regarding Vietnam.