If it seems difficult to convince ourselves that we are truly a nation at war, or that certain nations really are our enemies, perhaps we have only ourselves to blame.
Even though the Bush administration has labeled Iran one of the members of the “axis of evil,” an Associated Press analysis of trade records found that U.S. exports to that country have increased by more than tenfold during President Bush’s time in office.
The administration has approved the applications of more than 2,800 companies to do business with Iran, and several major businesses are on that list. They include Canon, Wells Fargo, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods and GE Healthcare.
In the first seven years of this century, the United States has sent Iran $546 million worth of goods, including cosmetics, women’s underwear, sculptures, fur clothing, perfume, musical equipment and airlines parts. Cigarettes are the most exported product the U.S. sends to Iran, totaling at least $158 million during the Bush administration. The value of vaccines, blood products and similar medical products has been considerably less — $73 million.
Reporters based in Iran say there is no shortage of American branded products available for purchase there.
The explanation offered by a State Department spokesman is that such exports, ranging from bras to bull semen, are directed toward a segment of the Iranian citizenry to which the U.S. is trying to reach with a conciliatory message — one of inclusion in the world economy to help build familiarity and trust. Meanwhile, governmental leaders are on an often confrontational path that some observers say will result in a military response.
The fact that Americans are doing any business at all with Iran comes as a surprise to many. Whether it’s a prudent foreign policy should be a key part of the debate during the presidential campaign.