Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

08 April, 2006

And thus into the breach

We lefties have been concerned about Bushco's saber-rattling against Iran for some time, but have hoped that the morass of Iraq and the military's subsequent recruiting problems would act as a brake on their overt mission of imperiali... I mean, "spreading freedom." However, after digesting the details in Sy Hersh's must read article in the April 17 New Yorker, I've become decidedly more pessimistic - and much more terrified - about the prospects of military action. What follows are some excerpts and commentary, but the piece deserves to be read in its entirety (as is the case with most of Hersh's reporting).
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’”
Let's be clear - Ahmadinejad and his merry band of theocrats are 100% nutsos, but Nazis they ain't. This rhetorical trope only complicates the issue of non-proliferation and firmly establishes a mindset in which military intervention is the only avenue available to deal with someone who views supposedly views diplomacy as a means for appeasement.

I also find that last sentence to be more than a little ironic, given that the more immediate threat of the Bush Administration pre-emptively bombing yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern country is far more likely to precipitate another world war (if you don't believe that we aren't already in the midst of a low-intensity global conflagration).
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”
I've learned to be very, very frightened when Bush is portrayed with having this much conviction. And I thought his legacy was going to be "saving" Iraq - is this an implicit admission that our mission there has failed? As for having the courage to do what no other elected official would do, substitute "stupidity," "arrogance," or "hubris" for "courage," and I'll buy that argument.
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’”
It's not what I smoke, which tends to leave me feeling mellow and giggly. And haven't we heard the humiliate the government, people rise up, welcomed with flowers argument before - say, about four years ago?
When I spoke to [Patrick] Clawson [of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy], he emphasized that “this Administration is putting a lot of effort into diplomacy.”

>snip<

In response to detailed requests for comment, the White House said that it would not comment on military planning but added, “As the President has indicated, we are pursuing a diplomatic solution”; the Defense Department also said that Iran was being dealt with through “diplomatic channels” but wouldn’t elaborate on that; the C.I.A. said that there were “inaccuracies” in this account but would not specify them.
Inaccuracies, eh?
“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. “That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
BINGO!
In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat.
Would anyone like to place a bet that the name of said Democrat is one Joe Lieberman?
[A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee] said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
There's much more to this article, including some obvious similarities between "our" fundamentalist government and "their" fundamentalist government, as well some scare-the-shit-out-of-you talk about nuclear first-strikes, but I want to end on that last bolded quote.

How do we deal with a man and his enablers who clearly believe that they are doing the work of god on earth? People who believe that their "accountability moment" was in November of 2004, and their razor-thin victory entitles them to operate carte blanche? People who couldn't give fuck-all about public opinion? People who believe that they have the right to spy on and imprison whoever they deem a "threat" whenever they please, evidence and Constitution be damned? Because I'm scared as hell and am quickly running out of ideas, and the people were fighting against are seriously batshit insane. Unquestionably. It's come to the point where I feel like I'm relying on senior military officers standing up to our civilian leadership:
The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”
And that's fucking scary!

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