The relationship of Iran and the United States is arguably staring the U.S. in the face as another potential war in western Asia, said Air Force Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002-05.
The University of Central Oklahoma welcomed Wilkerson this week for his presentation “We Need Not Be Enemies: Iran and the U.S. in the 21st Century.”
“You should be, and I know I am, weary of war in western Asia, …not just morally and reality pulling teeth wise, but also fiscally,” Wilkerson said.
The U.S. has spent nearly $4 trillion in 13 years to wage conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the global war on terror, Wilkerson said.
“Frankly, we don’t have a whole lot to show for it — not in real terms. You can say, ‘Well, we haven’t had another terrorist attack.’” Wilkerson said. “And the reason for that is we have spread our GI’s across the globe and put red targets on their backs, and let people that are affiliated with or are al Qaeda fight them and kill them.”
The U.S. puts less than 1 percent of its 300 million people on the battlefield to die and come home with traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorders and other abnormalities, he said.
“They are committing suicide at astronomical rates,” Wilkerson explained. Health care is the most rising cost for the Department of Defense, he said.
President Barack Obama has said it is not acceptable for Iran to possess nuclear capability. Diplomacy is failing to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said. Obama has military options on the table to counter Iran, Wilkerson said.
Crippling sanctions are hurting Iranian children, sick people and those Iranian people, not the government, who have not considered the U.S. an enemy, he added.
To avoid war, U.S. diplomats should be able to talk to the Iranians, Wilkerson said. This is something that the Obama administration has denied until recently.
National Public Radio reported Thursday that Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected an offer made by Vice President Joe Biden for direct talks between the nations.
“Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problem,” Khamenei said.
“I’ve been trying to go to Iran for six months. I can’t even get a visa,” Wilkerson said. “That’s not the way to treat your enemies or even your potential friends. You need to talk.”
Israel began as a socialist state in 1948, Wilkerson said. Today Israel has a destroyed labor movement and 60 families have 63 percent of the country’s wealth, and 55 percent of land in Israel is owned or occupied by the security complex, he said.
“That’s not tenable. You cannot maintain a Jewish state and a democracy under those conditions for very much longer,” Wilkerson said. “So if Israel doesn’t do something domestically and (in relation to) its immediate neighbors soon to accommodate a more peaceful environment — one that is going to adjust its own domestic situation to be more egalitarian, more liberal, more democratic, and at the same time, recognize the countries around it not as enemies, but people who want to live in peace and commerce together, it isn’t going to work. That’s why I’m so frightened about Israel’s long-term future.”
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