There are some insights I'd like to share, first on the elections in Russia ...
...and then on cogent criticism of the U.S. administration by former supporters.
Target Iran: The Truth about the White House Plan's for Regime Change was published, and he's been sounding the claxon of impending war ever since. A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Ritter served as chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 when he left as a pointed critic of the Clinton administration's commitment to weapons inspection and its Iraq policy. Before the United States' 2003 invasion, Ritter disputed the Bush administration's claims regarding weapons of mass destruction under Saddam's control and predicted that, instead of the quick and easy war being promised, Iraq would turn into a quagmire, though not necessarily of the type he envisioned. His analyses have been embraced by both the right and the left at various points. (God bless contrarian curmugeons.)
I'll quote extensively below, from a recent interview with Ritter... while diagreeing with him in dour ways. But, by all means, go read it yourself.
I refer folks to THE GLOBALIST whenever they have interesting articles. This time: ahead of Russia's parliamentary elections, it explores Vladimir Putin's bizarre crackdown. And, against the backdrop of the Annapolis summit this past week, they explore the Bush Admin’s innovation: a diplomacy-free foreign policy that relies almost exclusively on military means. Alas, a subtitle - “What will it take for the United States to become as skilled at diplomacy as it is at waging war?” - exposes a flawed premise, since we have (alas) also become very, very bad at waging war.
Excerpt: “One disappointing development is that optimism about the democratizing influence of the Internet is increasingly coming into question. In their report former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan Reporters sans Frontières concluded that “all authoritarian regimes are now working to censor the Internet.””
(Addendum: While I share the widespread worry about Putin’s authoritarian moves, which have been even more blatant and anti-freedom than the neocon putsch in America, I do want to remind folks of one thing - that Putin quashed moves to amend the Russian constitution to allow unlimited presidential terms. Thus, he must leave office and attempt the role of “leader” behind the scenes. Still autocratic, yes, and deeply disturbing. And yet, the public acceptance - and precedent - of cyclical reversion of official power is a terribly important thing. Symbolically, at least. Even if hypocritical, it pays homage to the virtues of law, in a land where political instincts still reflexively turn toward the Man. We can hope.)
In the continuing tragicomedy of former Bush henchmen standing up... former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will publish a memoir in April titled What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. In an excerpt by his publisher, McClellan in the Valerie Plame scandal: “The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true.
“I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.”
And another once-friendly (and highly credible) critic weighs in.
See “Bombs Away?” - an important article in the Detroit Metro-Times, interviewing an irascible but devastatingly on-target intelligence analyst who worked for the Bush Administration, zeroing in on the momentum that is building, for a U.S. attack upon Iran.
(Now that most daily papers and TV outlets are consolidated in a few hands, we must look beyond daily papers - from Seymour Hersh's reporting in The New Yorker to articles in The Nation - and the picture emerges of an administration that is determined to attack Iran. John H. Richardson's "The Secret History of the Impending War With Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know" in the November issue of Esquire magazine is particularly eye-opening. Richardson, using two former high-ranking Middle East experts who worked for the White House as his primary sources, warns that the Bush administration is "headed straight for war with Iran" and that "it had been set on this course for years."”
Let's take a look at Scott Ritter's Target Iran. He portrays himself as the straight-shooting analyst unconcerned by who supports him or whom he offends.
In the interview, Ritter addresses the Bush Administration’s run-up toward war with Iran, adding that: “there's nothing that has occurred that leads me to believe the Bush administration has changed its policy direction. In fact there has been much that's occurred that reinforces the earlier conclusions that were based on good sources of information. We take a look at items in the defense budget, the rapid conversion of heavy bombers to carry bunker busting bombs on a specific time frame, the massive purchasing of oil to fill up the strategic oil reserve by April 2008. Everything points to April 2008 to being a month of some criticality. It also matches my analysis that the Bush administration will want to carry this out prior to the crazy political season of the summer of 2008.”
(DB note: I had not known about the filling of the Strategic Reserve. Yes, it disturbingly suggests preparations for war. But there’s another interpretation. Some years ago, when oil was much cheaper, the Bushadmin sold oil from the SR. Now they are buying, when prices are high. (Helping thus to keep them high.) This is the exact opposite of what governments are supposed to do. But just fine, if (say, hypothetically) you are an agent of the oilcos and certain petro-powers.)
It is a very important article, offering us hope that the alternative press will step in, where mainstream journalism has let democracy down. Still, where Ritter utterly collapses is in answering the question why?
Why are Bush-Cheney and the Neocons pushing this agenda. Here’s his appraisal: ”It's not just supporting Israel. It's not just taking down Saddam. It's about geopolitics. It's about looking down the road toward China and India, the world's two largest developing economies, especially the Chinese, and the absolute fear that this resurgent Chinese economy brings in the hearts of American industrialists and the need to dictate the pace of Chinese economic development by controlling their access to energy. And controlling central Asian and Middle East energy areas is key in the strategic thinking of the Bush administration.”
Sorry, but I just don’t get this. It’s back to the old “get the oil” explanation, reflexively touted by Michael Moore and others, as a left wing catechism of lazy thinking. It doesn’t hold up, when you examine the net outcome of our Alcibiadean foray into Iraq -- a trillion wasted taxpayer dollars, depletion and demoralization of the U.S. Army, expenditure of nearly all our international goodwill... all in order to achieve absolutely zero increase in our control over the oil supplies of the Middle East. Let alone any augmentation of American leadership in a unipolar world.
Yes, the standard answer to this failure, on the left, is to say “They meant to get oil, but the neocons proved incompetent!” A facile explanation that ignores just how competent the Bush Cabal has been , at achieving other goals. Like whipping their domestic opponents from pillar to post.
Indeed, ponder just how preposterous it is, to maintain the standard illusion of Neocon goals --say that their aim has been to augment American power, wealth, and leadership in a unipolar, U.S.-led world. Unipolar U.S. leadership was precisely the situation that George W. Bush inherited when he entered office. Only Russia, China, France and the Saudis seemed to grumble at that situation, and rather impotently.
In fact, the overall effect of the last seven years has been diametrically opposite to the goals that Ritter ascribes to the Bush team, and that Neocon philosophers have claimed. Not only has American influence and popularity plummeted, and our dependence upon irascible sources of foreign petroleum increased, but the destruction of the U.S. military (and its turn-of-the-century reputation for invincibility) has helped foster the rise of new “poles” of influence, far more willing to challenge America than at any time since the Cold War.
Indeed, I kept hoping Ritter would be asked this question about the coming War with Iran. With what forces are we supposed to fight this large, regional power, many times the size of Iraq and vastly better organized?
With only two or so heavy combat brigades left, that are at any level of readiness for national land war, the Army and Marines are in no position to take on anything new, or even to keep going under current burdens. The Navy, still potent and professional, simmers with resentment toward the this administration, a loathing rumored to be so actinic that there is talk of “work-to-rule” passive resistance, especially if very much of the Fleet is sent - as sitting ducks - into the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf.
Only the Air Force appears to be both ready and willing - perhaps even eager - to do the administration’s bidding.
And, yes, at the sole whim of the Commander in Chief, the bombers may fly. A plethora of pinprick shocks may rain upon Persia, under the age-old delusion that a proud nation will thus be cowed into submission. Even though history - along with our own reaction to the horror of 9/11 - teaches us that air assaults, all by themselves, tend to strengthen national cohesion and resolve, rather that weaken it.
Now add to this another likely outcome of such an attack - the engendering of rage and sympathy throughout the Muslim world. What about the much-touted Sunni-Shiite rift? Right now, the press makes much of this division within Islam, and it does seem fierce at the ground level, in Iraq. But I have never been convinced that this schism is all that bilious at the higher reaches of national and clerical power. Anyway, it will vanish when America starts raining bombs on yet another Muslim nation.
The chief effect of this attack will be to unite Islamic peoples under a common banner. Something that is never mentioned, even as a possibility, by the press, or the State Department or even the administration’s critics. (Not to mention some of our regional “friends” who may be urging Bush to attack, but for very different reasons than they speak aloud.) So, shall we fight to thwart the nuclear ambitions of Iran, only to see Pakistan’s arsenal of nukes fall under control of the Wahhabis and the Ayatollahs?
Still, Ritter is a voice of sanity, promoting an idea that I proposed at the CIA in 2002... reaching out to the Iranian people. Making nice. Depriving the Ayatollahs of an outside enemy, so that the natural fractures in Iranian society will again start pushing that great nation toward what the young people and middle class and educated folk all want. Freedom and peace. (Why, if Bush wanted to reverse ideology and suddenly support nation-building and regional transformation in that region, did they choose not to support democracy in the one large Middle Eastern nation that already had some? Along with a deep tradition of friendliness to America? The choice of the least likely ground (Iraq) to try planting these seeds should be re-examined with a cynical, even paranoid eye.)
Ritter continues: “The same can be said in Afghanistan and the entire central Asian region. We keep putting our hopes on allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, which produced 14 of the hijackers who slaughtered Americans on 9/11. Pakistan, which was the political sponsor of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and continues to have ties to radical Islamic terror organizations. These are our allies? And we call Iran the enemy? We've got it backward. The Iranians are actually the ones we should be working with to oppose dictatorships like Pakistan and irresponsible governments like Saudi Arabia's.”
About Bush himself, Ritter worries: “Here's a man who speaks of World War III and the apocalypse and he has his hand on the button and he talks to God. I don't know, if it's a show, its a dangerous show, if its real, we should all be scared to death.”
Go read the whole article, then cram it in front of your Ostrich friends. I’ll leave off with his comment on an especially worrisome question. If we go about attacking Iran... would larger powers intervene?
“I don't think the Russians or the Chinese would become involved. They don't need to. All they have to do is sit back and wait and pick up the pieces - because it is the end of the United States as a global superpower. That's one thing I try to tell everybody. The danger of going after Iran is that it is just not worth it. What we can lose is everything, and what we gain is nothing. So why do it?”