Empires need carcasses to gnaw on and enemies to justify their imperial actions. America is no exception to the rule. We became a militaristic state with the onset of World War II and have never let up since. At first we thought to indirectly confront the Soviet Union and China through calamitous wars in Asia, none of which were defensive except in the most trivial sense. Then came a lull, temporary of course, with the fall of communism in Russia and China put on a back burner. How now to justify our vast military and the money and blood it consumes? Al Qaeda, of course, and 9/11, that attack being a direct result of U.S. meddling in the Middle East as Osama bin Laden and terrorists ever since have maintained. The neoconservatives' modern Pearl Harbor had arrived, and now we could take democracy to all the benighted corners of the earth and bomb them into proper statehood.

Libya, Syria and Serbia were just morsels compared to our latest imperial project, Iran. For reasons unclear, Washington's warmongers have it in for that country. Let's compare Iran's sins to ours: Paul Pillar notes that Iran helped create Hezbollah when Israel attacked Lebanon. It has modestly supported the Houthis in Yemen who are being starved and slaughtered by the Saudis with substantial U.S. aid. It militarily helped Iraq and Syria when they were under attack from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Yet, all in all, Iran hasn't attacked another country in centuries, a rare feat these days.

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The United States, on the other hand, overthrew Iran's duly elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and placed the Shah in power, who in turn established the murderous secret police SAVAK. Iranians revolted against him in 1979, angering us into helping Iraq's Saddam Hussein wage a war against Iran which killed an estimated 1 million Iranians. As imperialists it's hard for us to do, but let's imagine China, say, establishing a dictatorship in America and then helping another power kill 6 million Americans (adjusted for population).

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We broke the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action treaty with Iran which heavily restricted Iran's nuclear activities and have piled on layers of sanctions (oil exports are down 86%) while still, incredibly, demanding that Iran observe the agreement. We've surrounded Iran with countries and military bases that are hostile to it. We fought two unnecessary wars in Iraq in between which we killed nearly enough Iraqi civilians to populate North Dakota, and then we wonder why Iran is reluctant to give in to our demonstrated tender mercies.

Whose sins are greater? When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Iran should act like a “normal” country, he seems to be saying that it should wage offensive wars as often as possible, like we do.

Economist Joseph Schumpeter remarked of bellicose Rome that “There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in real danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome's allies...” We've long since ceased being the good guy.