One of my contacts in the intelligence community just wrote to me: “Saw in today's Early Bird that Liz Sly at the Trib has caught up with what you predicted 3 or was it 5 years ago. The winners in the IQ incursion would be Iran. Your logic was unpleasant and unassailable. It just took a while for the rest to catch up with you.”
Somebody please write in when this article he refers to is available online. Alas, will anyone remember that I stood at the CIA in 2002 and preached a "love offensive" in Iran? A "Nixon-to-China" that would throw the mullahs off balance and help the students and moderates re-take their country? Certainly not guaranteed to succeed, but with no downside cost if it fails. Moreover, no priority in the entire region should have been higher than restoring the longstanding friendship between the Iranian and American peoples. And no country was better poised to become an “island of democracy in the middle east” than the only regional muslim nation that already had a moderately functioning civil society and institutions, only awaiting a velvet revolution to give them real life.
It would have been a jiu jitsu move worthy of Kissinger, with some real chance of improving the world, while ruining the day of all of our three enemies over there, Saddam AND the mullahs AND the Saudihouse. If Condi Rice had even a sliver of Kissinger’s brains....
Where is a prediction registry when you need one? I was laughed at then. And being right does not change opinions. Still, some people are starting to talk the way I did, four years ago. There’s some satisfaction in that.
And now, while we are on this topic, Russ Daggatt is on top of his game. Here’s his latest:
Bush is Still Trying to Figure Out Which Side We're On
At this point, you may be getting really confused. It's really not that complicated:
We were attacked on 9-11 by al Qaeda which was in cahoots with the Taliban, all a bunch of radical Sunni Muslims.
Most of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudis and Saudis provided the money and ideology for al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is our ally.
When we drove al Qaeda and the Taliban out of Afghanistan, they regrouped across the border in Pakistan where they have been more or less unmolested ever since. Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, the technology for which they provided to North Korea, Iran and others. Pakistan is our ally.
Saddam Hussein, a secular Arab nationalist, had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks and brutally repressed racial Islamic fundamentalists. He also was the major rival of the radical Shiite government of Iran next door. He was a close friend of the Bush family foreign policy entourage... until he stopped being controllable and made the mistake of offending neighbors who were even closer Bush family friends.
So, we overthrew Saddam Hussein and... installed a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Iraq. Are we having fun yet?
After 9-11, Iran supported us in our overthrow of their other major rival, the Taliban in Afghanistan (who, you will recall, harbored al Qaeda who attacked us on 9-11). Having overthrown Iran's two major geopolitical rivals, Saddam and the Taliban, we actually managed to make relations with Iran WORSE in the process -- saber-rattling at intervals perfectly timed to drive Iran’s moderates and students back into the mullahs’ arms -- demonstrating political finesse that would have made Machiavelli -- well, Don Rickles -- proud. (Bush called them "evil". Showed them. heh, heh, heh)
In summary, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (which has nuclear weapons), who finance and harbor al Qaeda, are our allies. Iran, which had nothing to do with 9-11 and helped us overthrow the Taliban, is "the enemy." So we overthrew the largest secular Arab government, and Iran's major rival, and installed a pro-Iranian government in Iraq. Because Iran is an existential threat. Which aspires to acquire nuclear weapons (like Pakistan, which is harboring al Qaeda and the Taliban -- and is our ally). Got it yet?
And since Iraq seems to be in the midst of a sectarian civil war between the Sunnis (backed by our Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere) and the Shiites (backed by our existential enemy, Iran), it's clear we need to stay and fight in Iraq on behalf of our existential enemies, the Iranian-backed Shiites.
Well, maybe not so simple. But, fortunately, we have the geopolitical genius of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney figuring this stuff out so we don't have to. All we need to know is that they're fighting "The Enemy" and "The Terrorists" (whoever that happens to be today -- it's classified).
Seymour Hersh has the one MUST READ piece this month, in . I hate to edit it or pull out selective quotes. Read . But the crux of his piece is that the Bush administration has essentially decided to REDIRECT ITS ATTENTION away from radical Sunni jihadists -- i.e., the folks who attacked us on 9/11 -- and instead take sides in the brewing Sunni-Shiite civil war in the Middle East. In fact, he says we've pretty much decided to throw in our lot with the Saudis and buddy up with the al-Qaeda wannabes:
"This time, [a] U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that "they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It's not that we don't want the Salafis to throw bombs; it's who they throw them at -- Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."
But if they created and control it... doesn’t that mean that, back in the summer of 2001...
Ooooog. Now Russ has me depressed. And confused. So let’s simplify. Time for a modified truism.
Fool my leader once, shame on you.
Fool my leader twice, shame on my leader.
Fool my leader a zillion times?
Clearly, my leader is cahoots with you and I am the fool.
Continuing with Hersh: Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.” ...
Of course the inevitable winners out of all this will be the winners of the last 6 years... BOTH the Saudis and the mullah-party in Iran. Do not let Sunni-Shiite violence on the street fool you! That is a deliberately set-up distraction and a quagmire to suck in and destroy the US Army. It has nothing to do with the oil zillionaires in Riyadh and Tehran. Who have no reason whatsoever to wish each other ill will.
There is no conceivable scenario in which they do not both come out ahead, even in the event of some pin-prick air strikes into the heart of Iran!
If that happens, the chief result will be to rally the Iranian people behind the mullahs for an entire generation, completing the core effort of this administration, to snatch defeat out of the very jaws of victory.
All in all, the “Stupidity Theory” for this administration is simply falling apart... the almost-universally held notion that obstinate, dogmatic, microcephalic incompetence is sufficient to explain the steady and relentless demolition of US military readiness, our professional officer corps, our skilled intelligence community, our reserves, our alliances, our world popularity, our budget and fiscal health, our science, our internal social cohesion, and our ability to even PARSE who our enemies are.
The problem with the Stupidity Theory is that it depends upon a statistical impossibility. For even loony, moronic frat-boys should have stumbled into one correct decision in six years, simply by accident. At least one decision that actually benefited the United States of America.
When does a pattern of absolute purity and perfection finally suffice to make people change their minds? Or to consider an alternative scenario? The possibility that these are NOT stupid men, after all? Ask yourself this... how many MORE coincidentally perfect “blunders” will it take, before you would be willing to ponder even the remote possibility that a new theory is needed? One that is more consistent?
When the single, historic effect of an administration is to demolish Pax Americana, it does not require the author of garish thriller novels to come up with a possible explanation. When the winners of every US policy are the same hostile foreign interest groups, every single time, is it possible to at least ponder an alternative scenario?
Alas, all of the true paranoids, who are mentally equipped to notice such patterns -- the fellows who used to scream at us about “black helicopters” and “Whitewater” -- now seem incapable of noticing the “Blackwater” helicopters that are streaking back and forth, inside America and abroad, portending a new era of private and completely unaccountable mercenary force. Where are some paranoid screamers, when you really need them?
Well, there are some PROFESSIONAL paranoids and pattern recognizers who should be on top of this. Guys at the FBI and CIA and such. But, apparently, they are too busy keeping their heads down.
Shame on all of us.
=== followup ===
There are some sane people out there. New Mexico Governor (and Democratic presidential candidate) Bill Richardson (who negotiated the Clinton administration's Agreed Framework with North Korea back in 1994) had this recent piece in the Washington Post.
And when Director of National Intelligence, John D. Negroponte, took a transfer to the slot of deputy secretary of state, everyone in town recognized it as a fellow getting out of a ship that was not only sinking and on fire but also headed for sharp rocks. The number of clandestine operations around the world that are being financed directly out of the Vice President’s office, bypassing the professionals of the CIA, has reached a level that makes Iran-Contra look like a cooking school.
Which makes me a bit dubious about the latest rumor in circulation. “Speculation is mounting in Washington about the future of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. With the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq and the recent indictment of his former Chief of Staff, Cheney is fast becoming a political liability to the Bush Administration. We predict he will resign in order to give the powerful political position to one of the GOP’s rising stars.”
The article writer concludes that Rudy Giuliani - former Governor of New York State - would be the obvious choice, and let the religious right lump it. A guy with a chance in 08, especially in light of the (debatable) status as a “hero of 9/11.”
Cute. But I doubt it. The VP office is the very center of scores of clandestine operations that are too political to entrust the professional services like the CIA, any one of which will fall apart without a steady hand at the helm, to keep all participants focused and terrified and silent. Cheney is the glue, holding together the entire frankenstein alliance.
Ah, but thank God that Western Civilization has more than one center.