Are we headed toward war?
Russ Daggatt has been reminding us that the next twenty months are fraught with dangers, even as the Administration of George W. Bush settles into a tailspin of lame duck political irrelevance. It is vital to remember that, although despised by 3/4 of the electorate, the President retains several great powers.
Of course, the great presidential power that Bush will find irresistible, as his days wane, is the one that he has used recklessly to make the mess we are in. That of ‘Commander in Chief.’ Daggatt worries, rightfully, that Bush will almost certainly use that power yet again, before leaving office. If for no other reason than it is there.
From all the signs -- some of them blatant -- the swan-song “decider” spasm will manifest in a fierce and sudden military attack upon Iran.
The waters are being tested and prepared. Take the recent piece in OpinionJournal, the online presence of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It is by long-time editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz, generally considered the godfather of today's neoconservative movement. “The Case for Bombing Iran I hope and pray that President Bush will do it. “
Comments Daggatt: I'm not making this stuff up -- these are the guys Bush listens to. And it's not like they are keeping this secret. This is the WALL STREET JOURNAL.
Almost every paragraph has a factual error or some bizarre assertion -- I'm not even going to begin to try to refute them all.
(E.g., It is not true that "schools in England are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils." It is still law in England that the Holocaust must be taught in English schools. This has become a very popular right-wing myth in this country. One unnamed teacher in one unnamed school in Northern England dropped it from one course -- but it was taught in other courses.)
Podhoretz seems to think that Iranians would respond to an attack by the US by overthrowing their own government ("But a bombing campaign would without question set back its nuclear program for years to come, and might even lead to the overthrow of the mullahs ").
Makes perfect sense. The US overthrew a democratically-elected Iranian government in the '50's (Iranians have a long memory about this kind of thing), shot down a Iranian civilian airliner in 1988 killing all 290 aboard, supported Saddam Hussein's war against them, has a couple of hundred thousand troops occupying countries on both sides of them, has it as official policy to overthrow the Iranian government, and is currently holding five Iranian consular officers hostage. But if the US engages in an unprovoked attacked on them, they would respond by overthrowing their own government.
That's what WE would do if attacked, obviously. And, after all, the neocons have pretty much a perfect track record forecasting outcomes of US military adventures in the Middle East. And there is a certain logic to their arguments -- the more we follow their advise, the more dangerous the world becomes, which forms a compelling paranoid case for following more of their advise. (It's like Republican ideology generally -- the more they screw up their management of our government, the more it supports their case that government is a total failure.)
Like other neocons urging an attack on Iran, Podhoretz expresses confidence that Bush will do so ("Accordingly, my guess is that [Bush] intends, within the next 21 months, to order air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities from the three U.S. aircraft carriers already sitting nearby. " Our only hope is that the neocons are as WRONG about this as they are about everything else they predict.). Seymour Hersh has been writing in The New Yorker about plans for such an attack for months. He anticipates a large number of military resignations if such an attack is actually ordered (the uniformed military may be our last, best hope for averting this disaster -- and we may never even know it, at least at the time).
Allow me to comment and offer my own perspectives on this frightening scenario.
First, and yet again, please find for me one commentator who has been saying, longer than I have, that our chief hope must rest upon the skill and loyalty and patriotism and basic sense of the men and women of the US Officer Corps. They are the top victims of this gang. The ones most relentlessly oppressed and harassed and intimidated by a clade of genuine monsters.
As for the rabid neocons. Yes, Podhoretz & co are absolutely loony. When it comes to predicting Iranian actions, they are recapitulating one of the worst mistakes that bad leaders have relentlessly repeated, 4,000 years of statecraft -- assuming smugly that the enemy will react in a way that is DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE to the way that you and I or any normal person would react.
Why do leaders and others do this? If we were attacked by an outside foe, we would rally together courageously, bury our differences and meet the challenge, even if we despise our leaders. It is what human beings nearly always do! Moreover, it is what Iranians have done -- on a lower lever, political scale -- ever since Condi Rice began her loco and insipid "Axis of Evil" campaign of saber-rattling. With the sole palpable effect of driving the moderate Iranian majority into the mullahs' arms.
IS THERE ANY CAUSE FOR HOPE?
All right, Daggatt and I are in agreement about Podhoretz. And we concur that a drumbeat is rising, propelling the fringe 20% of diehard neocons in this country toward declaring war on Iran, on behalf of the other 80% of us. Because - putting it simply - they have a president and we do not.
At risk of belaboring a point that merits endless repeating... to me, the issue is plain. Will the professionals of the intelligence community, the civil service, the foreign service and the United States Officer Corps find a way to do their jobs, at last? Will they, during the next 20 months of danger, protect us from this pack of outrageous lunatics who have hijacked the top three or four tiers of every Executive department of this great nation, filling those layers with graduates of BobJones University and Messiah College? With maniacal third raters who devoutly believe they are doing God's work by pushing us toward Armageddon?
I have ranted endlessly that "this is all about the professionals." Only they can penetrate the cabals, find out the truth, counter-suborn henchmen, and whistle-blow in ways that take away their power to destroy America. Only they can put in place procedures that would SLOW DOWN an attack on Iran, until sane and adult political processes can step in to shelter brave officers who just-say-no.
WHY THE RUSH TO YET ANOTHER WAR?
All right, that's the top agenda and I think we're in basic agreement so far. But...
...but where Russ and I differ is over WHY this is happening. Why the rush toward an attack upon Iran? With nearly all of our land forces already committed to a land war of attrition in Asia, why should we press the accelerator and take on another nation, several times the size of Iraq?
It seems that a great many sincere people are subscribing to a weird notion that Israel is the prime driver. That the Jewish state is fervently chomping on the bit to blow up every nuclear facility between the Jordan and the Indus. Some of our dear friends on the left point to the goggle-eyed, pro-Israel statements made by those on the neocons’ “Book of Revelations wing.” Fanatics who see Israel-centered wars leading to the Big One on the Plains of Meggido - yum..
It's all very elegant and satisfying. And indeed, the most rabid of the fundamentalist Israel supporters do seem to fit this image.
But do the Israelis themselves? Not according to my contacts over there, who universally tell me that there is deep worry about being pushed into war with Iran by an over-eager US administration. (They are also very, very wary of their “dear friends” on the fundamentalist movement, who ALSO yearn for blood to gush from the eyes of every Jew who refuses to convert, when the Battle of Armageddon comes around. DOUBLE yum!)
Look, the Israelis do not have time for delusional games. These people are grownups who have their kids lives on the line. They know that A few bombed reactors will swiftly be replaced by others, financed by the Saudis. Pakistan already has nukes and these may swiftly be put at the disposal of a pan-Islamic Uma, if that widely sought dream ever comes about. (OUR fundies are not the only ones dreaming about a showdown in Megiddo!)
Despite short term hopes of hampering Iranian bomb production, in the intermediate term, Israel is going to have to rely upon deterrence, the same way the US did, threatening enemies with MAD.
In the long term, only peace will save the region from some horrible day. And the Bushites have done nothing to propel that. Zero engagement. Not a finger lifted. Because the their best friends in the region do not want it.
The Israelis know this. And except for their own fringe, nobody on Earth will be more glad to see a new US Administration. One that is run by adults.
THEN WHAT’S THE UNDERLYING REASON?
So, if it ain't Israel, WHY is the Bush Cabal violating every principle of leadership, government, or common sense and preparing to launch yet another war, when our reserves are already committed, our alliances are already in tatters, our social cohesion already ruined, our finances beggared and our nerves already frayed?
We keep on trying to explain Bushite behavior by adding epicycles of stupidity, graft, dogmatism and insanity. These Ptolemaic edifices often collapse -- (for example, if we went to Iraq for oil... where's the damned oil?) -- but always excuses are made and new epicycles inserted so that the gears keep turning to the satisfaction of those who hate these guys.
I do, too!
But maybe it's my union card as an astronomer... and a guy who helped to plan space missions ... that makes me grow weary of constantly filing and shaping and refitting gears in order to maintain a theory that simply does not work anymore!
Because, even though I believe that the Cheneykleps ARE stupid, venial, fanatical and insane, I also know that such people would have, by now, at least by sheer accident, have done ONE thing right! Complete morons would have stumbled into one successful policy, simply by random chance.
Instead, in managing the government of both America and Pax Americana, they have demolished nearly all of our strengths and made the whole world discontented with what had been a complacently-accepted unipolar world..
Their perfect record of mismanagement and destruction of US influence, popularity, power, wealth, cohesion, strength and so on ought to be suspicious! There comes a point when a mature, scientifically-minded person must consider other possibilities. At least for the sake of open-minded exercise.
OF COURSE, I COULD JUST BE MESSING WITH YOU.
I am paid to be interesting, not to be right. Yes, I have a top scoring record for successful predictions. But even more prevalent is a propensity for contrarian “poking.” At whatever notion seems prevalent or too-readily accepted as common “wisdom.”
Perhpas. Perhaps that is what’s going on here, right now, before your eyes.
THEN AGAIN... PERHAPS THEY ARE NOT MORONS, AFTER ALL
Will anyone, anyone at all, be willing to ponder the simple, "Copernican" alternative explanation for all of this?
If the effect has been to ruin Pax Americana in twenty different ways... will NO ONE even posit the remote possibility that perhaps the universally consistent outcome of all administration practices might have been deliberate, after all?
Does it really take a fiction writer to ponder this “manchurian” thriller-plot, even as a remote possibility?
Try the idea on for size -- even if (like me!) you cannot bring yourself to believe it "officially." Because it certainly does fit the run up to a spasm-war against Iran, perfectly. Because such a spasm attack would:
* instantly unite all Iranians behind their mullahs for a decade.
* end the Sunni-Shia rift, uniting Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Quaeda, joining in common cause against the "crusaders."
* finish off our last shreds of popularity in Europe and anchor rising Russian influence in the Middle East.
* bring to the US Air Force and the US Navy all the joys that have been experienced, in recent years, by the Army and Marines. (While putting THREE CARRIER GROUPS into unnecessary jeopardy in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf...
Oh, I could go on, but here's the chief point. Stupidity, venality, dogmatism and insanity are insufficient to explain why a leadership clade would deliberately destroy the nation and system they are sworn to defend... and where they keep their money.
If you have a better explanation for the perfection of their record, and for the perfect way that certain groups have always benefited from apparently "stupid" decisions, then come on, out with it! But stop with the boring attempt to explain away such consistency as the product of epicycles of stupidity and coincidence.
The coming Iran War is much more than it seems.
It is proof that we need to finally slice through the epicycles and contemplate a simple, heliocentric explanation for the last six years.
(See also: Stop the IRAN War now…)