Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Beloved Ace

James McManus knows a lot about poker, and he is an accomplished writer, but when it comes to offering insights on Iran--his is a weak hand. Even though McManus has no expertise on Iran, he was featured on NPR this morning and had his piece, "Bluff," published in the LA Times on November 5, 2006.

McManus, noting the origin of poker from a Persian game, as-Nas (which he translates as "my beloved ace"), asserts that Iranians are naturally partial to bluffing (deception) when it comes to diplomacy. He also makes some provocative assertions about Iran's President Ahmadinejad and US policy toward Iran:
  • "you have a President of Iran a Basij recruiter...signed up people and trained them and encouraged them to walk across minefields, most of these people were children by the way."
  • "because there’s a very real possibility that he may have the weapons soon and would be willing to use them."
  • "when one of the first speeches he gives after being inaugurated as president says that martyrdom is the highest art form that human beings can participate in...."
  • "Ultimately we may have to eliminate the possiblity of bluffing given the apparently suicidal nature of Ahmadinejad and his policy."
I'm not interested in defending the bigoted Ahmadinejad; Juan Cole has noted his shortcomings (many of which mirror those of Bush!). Also the the Basij of Iran is a violent, deplorable organization. But to express horror at the suicidal tactics of stopping Iraq's agression in the Iran-Iraq war is a bit hypocritical given that the US was helping Iraq with the slaughter. And to posit that the praise of throwing away one's life in battle is unique to Iran leaves me wondering where the US "worship" of our war dead fits into the equation.

What is most striking about McManus is that despite his unique angle as an expert poker player, his main ideas about Iran are nothing but recast neoconservative talking points. If you try to find the sources for the quotes and ideas presented in McManus' NPR interview and in his LA Times article you will find that again and again they are neoconservative or pro-Zionist. Each of the following article-links are likely sources of McManus' quotations and share his arguments:
The heart of McManus' argument is that if Iran ever gets a nuclear bomb, it will probably use it on Israel because that would produce two results that the political leadership of Iran wants: 1) the destruction of Israel and 2) mass suicide (in the apocalyptic retaliation that would follow). Therefore McManus would argue that the US must never let Iran get a nuclear weapon.

I frankly know very little about poker. But I know a scam when I see one. And whether McManus intends it or not, he is getting played by a bunch of neoconservative policymakers who will happily use people like him to build a climate of prejudice and fear that will prepare the public for military strikes on Iran.

No comments: