It should be clear to everyone by now that the Bush administration and the neoconservative clique that is egging him on are pushing for military action against Iran. To my mind, the decision has already been made and what is being sought now are ways to drum up national and international support.
Just as they used the nuclear weapons scare to gin up support for the illegal, immoral and, as it turned out, ill-fated invasion of Iraq, they are returning to that same plan to see if it can work its magic again. Once again, the mainstream media is falling into its role of letting the range of debate be restricted to those narrow areas of strategy chosen by the White House and the members of the pro-war/pro-business party and its think tanks, and not giving wide publicity to the kinds of fundamental questions and information being offered by people like Gordon Prather and Charley Reese.
The task for the Bush White House is harder than it is with Iraq. Despite the repeated claims that Bush is receiving a “bounce” in the polls from the 9/11 anniversary or this or that speech, the fact is that Bush’s approval numbers seem to quickly settle into the range the range between the mid 30’s and the very low 40’s depending on who is doing the polling.
The war in Iraq has dragged on for three and a half years with no end in sight. It has resulted in huge numbers of civilians (estimated in the hundreds of thousands) there being killed either by US military action or as a result of the lawlessness and sectarian strife that is raging. Then there is the steady drip of US troop deaths, averaging around two a day, that now totals over 2,500.
The US and its allies have clearly lost control of large segments of the country such as Anbar province and are now reduced to digging trenches around Baghdad to provide at least a semblance of stability to the part of the country most visible to the international world. Despite that, the rate of killings in Iraq in the last two months have reached an average of over a hundred per day.
This is similar to Afghanistan where the resurgence of the Taliban and warlords have reduced the US-backed President Karzai to being effectively just the mayor of the capital Kabul. It is always a bad sign when a governing authority is struggling to merely maintain security in the capital city of a country.
Given that the US military is stretched so thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, you would think that the prudent course would be for the US to reject out of hand any fresh military ventures such as invading Iran, and instead hunker down and see how to salvage at least some kind of face-saving withdrawal out of Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid the ignominy of defeat in both those countries. Otherwise it will be faced with what looks to be increasingly like a pullout reminiscent of the helicopter evacuations from the roof of the Saigon embassy in the last days of the Vietnam war, images that lasted for a long time after the end of that debacle.
But in thinking this way, you would be like the colleagues of Sledge Hammer, urging rational and thoughtful actions to someone who is bent on using force and violence as the first option.
In this case, Sledge Hammer Bush is being urged to go for broke by the neoconservative clique around him and who have access to the media through the grandiosely titled Project for the New American Century. They made no secret of their plans to create the modern day equivalent of a new Roman Empire with far-flung American bases controlling every important strategic interest, and the Middle East with its vast oil reserves was a prime target for intervention. All they needed were excuses to go to war, which were trumped up against Iraq and are now being similarly manufactured against Iran. They needed national support for these imperial ambitions, and the strong emotions unleashed by the events of 9/11 were conveniently hijacked for that purpose.
The plan called for overthrowing the governments of Iraq, and then Iran, with Syria in the sights as well. Of course, Saudi Arabia, with the world’s largest oil reserves was always the biggest prize but its government was already friendly and compliant to the US, and having equally friendly governments in the other countries would ensure that it continued to be so.
That warmongering group is getting increasingly frustrated with how their grand plans have ganged agley. It must have seemed so easy on paper. First you invade Afghanistan, then you invade Iraq, and then Iran (nicely sandwiched between those two countries) would fall like a ripe fruit to a kind of pincer action. The planners seemed to be confident that the overwhelming US military might would easily overthrow the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq (which was a correct prediction) and that the people of those countries would be so delighted with the overthrow of their despotic governments (a mixed but fairly correct prediction) that they would eagerly accept US suzerainty over their countries, which was the one prediction that went disastrously wrong.
It turns out that people in general tend to not like being ruled by other countries. Having a foreign troop presence on a seemingly permanent basis inevitably leads, over time, to a resistance movement that will seek to expel it. This would not come as a surprise to anyone who has had any experience or knowledge of the history of colonial rule, but seems to be a lesson that powers with imperial ambitions have to learn from direct experience.
The danger is that the Bush/neoconservative axis is running out of time and options to achieve the next objective of overthrowing the government of Iran. Not only does the Bush administration have little more than two years left in office, the congressional elections of November run the real risk of the Republicans losing their dominance in the House of Representatives or the Senate or both. What that would mean is that the opposing faction of the pro-war/pro-business party would have the majorities and take over the chairs of some key committees. While the Democratic Party is also pro-war, and some of its leaders (like Hillary Clinton) are barely distinguishable from the neoconservatives, there are a few people in key committees who might use their increased clout to slow down and even stop the rush to war.
This is why I am somewhat fearful of the period between now and the elections. If the neoconservatives around Bush feel that time is running out and their plans to invade Iran could be thwarted as a result of the elections, we might see some bad decisions being made between now and then. Of course, it seems clear that the US does not have the troops to invade Iran the way it was done in Iraq, and other countries are not likely to supply them. Furthermore, even if such a decision were made, it would take time to set up a ground war. The Time magazine report that minesweepers are being prepared to be sent to the Straits of Hormuz is a disturbing sign that preparations may be already underway.
The current weakness of the US military’s position, with its conventional forces being bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, raises the possibility that the temptation might arise to use so-called tactical nuclear weapons, horrifying as that possibility is.
Sometimes I can reassure myself that nobody could be that insane to seriously contemplate invading Iran, let alone use nuclear weapons for that purpose. But then I realize that we have Sledge Hammer Bush in the White House, for whom the most violent and reckless option always seems to be the most attractive. It must be clear even to him that if Iraq is what defines his presdency, he will go down as one of the worst presidents in US history. The temptation will be strong to throw the dice once more, to make “success” in Iran (whatever that is) make up for his blatant failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No reasonable person would contemplate something so stupid, of course. But we must remember that we are dealing with the determination of the neoconservatives imposing their will on a weak President. It was not for nothing that former CIA agent Ray McGovern said that during the time of former President George H. W. Bush (for whom he used to provide the daily CIA briefing) these people were called “the crazies” and were kept at arm’s length.
With Sledge Hammer Bush, the crazies have found their soul mate.
POST SCRIPT: Another episode of Religious People Behaving Badly
Jon Stewart explains the controversy over the Pope’s recent remarks that inflamed some Muslims.