4/18/2006

Ocular Proof

From Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece on the U.S. administration's machinations with regard to Iran:

"If the order were to be given for an attack, the American combat troops now operating in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops “are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds,” the consultant said. One goal is to get “eyes on the ground”—quoting a line from “Othello,” he said, “Give me the ocular proof.” The broader aim, the consultant said, is to “encourage ethnic tensions” and undermine the regime."

The oddity of this intertextual intrusion into such a straight-laced piece of reporting struck me.

From Act 3:

OTHELLO
Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore,
Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof:
Or by the worth of man's eternal soul,
Thou hadst been better have been born a dog
Than answer my waked wrath!

IAGO
Is't come to this?

OTHELLO
Make me to see't; or, at the least, so prove it,
That the probation bear no hinge nor loop
To hang a doubt on; or woe upon thy life!

(Is everyone these days an Iago?)

I can't help but remember the farcical performance by Colin Powell in front of aerial photos of fuzzy rectangles before the invasion of Iraq. Ocular proof indeed.

And, of course, Iago fabricates proof: the tell-tale handkerchief, false intelligence, insinuation. Now, Saddam is no Desdemona; do not get me wrong; and neither is Ahmadinejad, by any means. But why must we "encourage ethnic tensions"? Because, let's be honest, hasn't that always paved the way to lasting peace in the past?

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