Those Mushroom Clouds Again

On Tuesday, August 28, you had to decide on your own what was important and what was not, as most of the news cycle was consumed with one story

 

BOISE, Idaho – A defiant Sen. Larry Craig denied any wrongdoing Tuesday despite his guilty plea this summer in a men’s room police sting, emphatically adding, “I am not gay. I have never been gay.”

 

Who cares?  Some of us are not Lithuanian, and have never been Lithuanian.  Yeah, this could have implications in the coming presidential election – the business with the mad texting gay congressman from Florida, Mark Foley, and the reluctant House pages, may have sunk the Republicans in the midterm election.  Well, that and Duke Cunningham going off to jail and the Abramoff business, as many went down with Jack.  The evangelical who was doing cocaine with the male prostitute didn’t help much either – Ted Haggard was not making the “family values” folks look good at all.  And when in March 2006 Claude Allen, the former Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, resigned suddenly for what turned out to be shoplifting at Target (remember?) things just seemed to be going from bad to worse.  Even Fox News had to mention some of all this, even in passing.  And there was Jeff Gannon, who seems to have been a gay hooker named James Guckert, getting White House press credentials and special day passes to visit anyone there any time he wished, asking softball questions at the rare presidential press conferences.  It has been interesting.

 

On any given night you can see Fred Barnes on Fox News crowing that the Bush administration and the Republicans have, unlike the Democrats, never been touched by scandal – the last six years have been extraordinarily clean and decent.  Well, he believes this is true.  But then Republicans actually in office would like Larry Craig to go away, quickly.  They don’t need this.

 

Still, cable news editors may have misplayed this one.  The business with Senator Craig is not a new story, or not much of a news story.  It’s just reporting another instance in a series, and it may be that viewers would like something actually new, something that matters to them.  They know this stuff – a man who votes against gay marriage, who votes against civil unions for gays, who votes to ban gays from the military, who voted to impeach Bill Clinton for his moral turpitude that could have destroyed all families, who was Mitt Romney’s Senate liaison, turns out to be a guy who now and then solicits a bit of oral pleasure from anonymous strangers in public restrooms.  Yeah, such things happen.  Romney dumped him fast.  End of story – until the next instance.  Yawn.

 

People who wonder, glancing at their 401(k) account now and then, if they will spend their retirement years in a cardboard box under an overpass, might have thought the day’s other news more relevant to their lives, as the Dow dropped another two hundred eighty points.  Many called it a freefall.  Various big-gun business types are saying a recession is coming, soon.  That might be something one should follow.  Who is gay and who is not, and what is morally appropriate, and who gets to decide what is appropriate for everyone, is interesting and all.  Losing most of what you have saved and invested is another matter – it’s a bit less theoretical, or theological.   It is immediate.

 

And so are matters of life and death.  War is like that.  It involves life and death, and for those of us with family in the military, it can be immediate.  For everyone else it is “potentially immediate” – or something like that.  That’s why the third-tier news story of Tuesday, August 28, was a tad troubling

 

The United States demanded Tuesday that Iran end any support for extremists in Iraq “at once” and raised the specter of a “nuclear holocaust” in the Middle East if Tehran gets atomic weapons.

 

US President George W. Bush branded the Islamic Republic “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” citing its backing of Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Shiite fighters killing US troops in Iraq.

 

“And Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust,” he told the American Legion veterans group.

 

“Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere, and the United States is rallying friends and allies to isolate Iran’s regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late,” he said.

 

Shortly before the president’s speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the U.S. is “prisoners of your own quagmire. You have no choice but to accept the rights of the Iraqi people.” He added, “I can tell you there will be a power vacuum in the region. We are ready with other regional countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and the people of Iraq to fill this vacuum.”

 

In 2002 and 2003, in making the case for a war with Iraq, the president and his team would frequently tell Americans that we couldn’t wait for actual proof to justify an invasion, because the “smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud.”  Steve Benen here says this is even less subtle.  And as for the Iranian position – “It’s almost as if Ahmadinejad is taunting Bush. Given the circumstances, that seems like a very bad idea for all concerned.”

 

No kidding.  And he also mentions this

 

I appreciate your efforts to honor the American flag. There are those who say the flag is just a piece of cloth. That’s not the view of those who bled for it and saw it drape the caskets of some of our finest men and women. It was the American flag that we planted proudly on Iwo Jima, that first graced the silver surface of the moon. The country is careful to protect many things because of what they symbolize. Surely we can find a way to show equal respect for the symbol that our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines and Coast Guard’s men and women have risked their lives for – the flag of our nation. So today I join the Legion in calling on the United States Congress to make protection of the flag the law of our land.

 

Threats and flag-waving.  Here we go again.

 

Something is up.  In an editorial in the Washington Times the day before, noted neoconservatives Tom McInerney and Fred Gedrich laid out their three point “plan” to deal with Iran –

 

One, inform Iran that it must stop: (1) developing its nuclear program immediately and verifiably; (2) providing ordnance and training to Iraqi Shi’ite militias like the Mahdi Army, the Badr organization and others; (3) supporting foreign terror groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and (4) providing sanctuary to al Qaeda leaders and operatives. If Iran fails to cease these activities, the consequences will be selective U.S. air strikes on nuclear facilities and anything that supports them; IED factories; and the special navy, air force and ground force units of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

Two, encourage Iranian opposition and resistance groups and dissidents to combine efforts to peacefully change Iran’s government. The time appears ripe. The regime doesn’t allow 65 million citizens basic political rights and civil liberties or a free press. And poor governmental policies have created high unemployment and inflation. Additionally, the regime is resorting to a wave of repression against trade unionists, teachers, journalists, students and intellectuals. During the past four months, it reportedly arrested more than 1 million people and hanged and stoned several hundred of them to death.

 

Three, after congressional consultations, revoke the 1997 Clinton/Albright State Department decision to place the multiethnic Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) on the United States terror list. The MEK is the largest, best organized, and most feared of all Iranian resistance groups and more than 50,000 members have been killed by the Islamic regime.

 

Well, Karl is gone and Uncle Dick has been whispering in the boy-king’s ear, and the press effort has begun.  Who needs Judy Miller now?  (Yes, the politically non-involved will find those words mysterious, but anyone following matters for the last six years will understand.)  It sure does look like we’re ramping up for a war with Iran.

 

See the blogger “Cernig” here

 

There’s so much wrong with this plan that it’s difficult to know where to start. Every sane analyst who has ventured an opinion has said that attacking Iran would strengthen the current regime’s position, not weaken it, as dissidents were swept away in a tide of nationalism. The entire premise that diplomacy is dead and bald demands “or else” are the future of U.S. foreign policy lies behind the neocon and Bush administration failure in Iraq and was counter-exampled by success in belatedly following the Clinton plan for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program. The MEK – far from being advocates of a “a secular, democratic, nuclear-free, and death penalty-free state” as described by McInnery and Gedrich – are a Marxist/Islamist terror group who did Saddam’s bully-boy work, are the subject of a major trial for atrocities against the Iraqi people and believe that their true leader (the figurehead leader’s husband) is the actual 12th Imam.

 

But other than that?  Has it not occurred to anyone that we’re picking a fight with the key ally of the government we created and support in Iraq?  The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki is a Shiite who spent the Saddam years in exile, in Shiite Iran, in Tehran itself.  He now goes there and works on various sorts of agreements regarding goods and services.  So we have to stomp on his ally?  And we have, in Anbar, calmed that place down by arming the local Sunnis to fight “al Qaeda in Iraq” there, the Sunni folks who like nothing better than to wipe out the government of Nuri al-Maliki before he can wipe them out.  Once they have finished with “al Qaeda in Iraq” there will be trouble.  We will be forced to admit we support both sides in a civil war for Iraq, and neither side wants us there much at all.  It’s a bit mad.

So we get tough with Iran and maybe bomb them back to the Stone Age, even if any independent expert you ask says any attack on Iran would be an absolute disaster, with massive blowback throughout the region.  But we get the media drive that says forget about that.  The Iranians would be grateful and all that, and the world would cheer.  The British government has publicly said it would not support an attack on Iran, but now Nicolas Sarkozy says France might – something about it would of course be catastrophic, but what are you going to do?  France has nuclear weapons.  They should not.

And you know the Democrats would go along (“Former Congressman Joe Scarborough discussed the possibility of an American attack on Iran with guest Pat Buchanan”) –

 

“My guess would be that Barack Obama and Miss Hillary and the others would be in a state of paralysis,” he stated, “because it might be a very popular initial move and elements of the Democratic Party would support. You take Joe Liberman, would cheer his head off.”

 

“I think if you took polls of the American people, they would put Iran right up at the top of America’s enemies list,” Buchanan continued. “So I think in the Democratic Party, of course, you’ve got the – with due respect, you’ve got the Israeli Lobby and Israel, and you’ve got the hardline like Lieberman, and you’ve got the Neoconservatives, and you’ve got a lot of evangelical Christians and others who think this is a real menace and you ought to hit them.”

 

… “I don’t see politicians in this city standing up and saying, ‘That was an outrageous thing to do, Mr. President.'”

 

… I think the initial reaction would be ‘the president’s the leader and we’re at war.'”

 

“No, the Democrats haven’t learned anything.  Their own base is upset because they won’t stand up to George Bush.  They’re not standing up to Bush on Iraq. They’re afraid to be taking a stand because they don’t want to be seen as weak on defense.”

 

And so it goes.  You can watch the president’s “son of mushroom clouds” remarks in this video clip.

 

And late that same day we got this

 

American troops raided a Baghdad hotel Tuesday night and took away a group of about 10 people that a U.S.-funded radio station said included six members of an Iranian delegation here to negotiate contracts with Iraq’s government.

 

The Iranian Embassy did not confirm the report. But it said seven Iranians – an embassy employee and six members of a delegation from Iran’s Electricity Ministry – were staying at the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel, which was the one raided by U.S. soldiers.

 

An arrest of Iranian officials would add to tensions between Washington and Tehran already strained by the detention of each other’s citizens as well as U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s violence and alleged Iranian efforts to develop nuclear bombs.

 

Videotape shot Tuesday night by Associated Press Television News showed U.S. troops leading about 10 blindfolded and handcuffed men out of the hotel in central Baghdad. Other soldiers carried out what appeared to be luggage and at least one briefcase and a laptop computer bag.

 

Iran has been complaining about our detention, since January 11, of five Iranians who were in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.  We said they were members of Iran’s Quds Force, the guys we accuse of arming and training Iraqi militants, and we grabbed them.  Iran said no, they were diplomats.  The government of Nuri al-Maliki said no, they were diplomats.  It doesn’t matter.  Now and then you come across items that say Condoleezza Rice at the State Department was upset by the Irbil Five being grabbed, and that her objections were overruled by Cheney – but she was always more decorative than useful.  You see who is in charge now.  (It’s odd – when Rumsfeld ran Defense, State pretty much reported to him – they had no power to decide anything and Colin Powell was eventually forced out of the administration – and now Cheney seems to be marginalizing the State Department, cutting off Rice at the knees – which seems to indicate they don’t like it when the token black folk get too uppity, or someone suggests diplomacy.)  In any event, we’ve done it again – ratcheting things up a notch.

Note: The following morning Rice got her way – “A group of eight Iranians, including two diplomats, were released by U.S. forces Wednesday after being detained because unauthorized weapons were found in their cars, the U.S. military said. An adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq called the situation “regrettable.” – and Uncle Dick was no doubt uttering, “Rats!  Foiled again!”

And late in the same day we got this – US PREPARING ‘MASSIVE’ MILITARY ATTACK AGAINST IRAN: STUDY – “The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis.”

 

What?

 

The report as a PDF file is here – Dan Plesch and Martin Butcher.  Plesch is Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy in the UK.  Butcher is an international consultant on security politics.

 

Basically the study concludes that the we’ve made military preparations to destroy Iran’s “WMD” and their “nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure” within days if not hours of President Bush giving the order, but we are not publicizing the scale of these preparations – which makes the confrontation more likely.  We are retaining the option of avoiding war, but using our forces as part of an overall strategy to simply change that regime – to get rid of that government.

 

But we don’t use troops – “Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion. Attacks focused on WMD facilities would leave Iran too many retaliatory options, leave President Bush open to the charge of using too little force and leave the regime intact.”

 

The basics –

 

      US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.

      US ground, air and marine forces already in the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan can devastate Iranian forces, the regime and the state at short notice.

      Some form of low level US and possibly UK military action as well as armed popular resistance appear underway inside the Iranian provinces or ethnic areas of the Azeri, Balujistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan. Iran was unable to prevent sabotage of its offshore-to-shore crude oil pipelines in 2005.

      Nuclear weapons are ready, but most unlikely, to be used by the US, the UK and Israel. The human, political and environmental effects would be devastating, while their military value is limited.

      Israel is determined to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons yet has the conventional military capability only to wound Iran’s WMD programmes.

 

You want more?

 

Try this –

 

Most significantly, Plesch and Butcher dispute conventional wisdom that any US attack on Iran would be confined to its nuclear sites. Instead, they foresee a “full-spectrum approach,” designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of “a weak or failed state.” Although they acknowledge potential risks and impediments that might deter the Bush administration from carrying out such a massive attack, they also emphasize that the administration’s National Security Strategy includes as a major goal the elimination of Iran as a regional power.

 

Dissent –

 

Former CIA analyst and Deputy Director for Transportation Security, Antiterrorism Assistance Training, and Special Operations in the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism, Larry Johnson, does not agree with the report’s findings.

 

“The report seems to accept without question that US air force and navy bombers could effectively destroy Iran and they seem to ignore the fact that US use of air power in Iraq has failed to destroy all major military, political, economic and transport capabilities,” said Johnson late Monday after the embargo on the study had been lifted.

 

“But at least in their conclusions they still acknowledge that Iran, if attacked, would be able to retaliate. Yet they are vague in terms of detailing the extent of the damage that the Iran is capable of inflicting on the US and fairly assessing what those risks are.”

 

Does that matter to those we elected to keep us safe?

 

And there are the upcoming elections, so see this from the report –

 

This debate is bleeding over into the 2008 Presidential election, with evidence mounting that despite the public unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Iran is emerging as an issue over which Presidential candidates in both major American parties can show their strong national security bona fides.

 

… The debate on how to deal with Iran is thus occurring in a political context in the US that is hard for those in Europe or the Middle East to understand. A context that may seem to some to be divorced from reality, but with the US ability to project military power across the globe, the reality of Washington DC is one that matters perhaps above all else.

 

… We should not underestimate the Bush administration’s ability to convince itself that an “Iran of the regions” will emerge from a post-rubble Iran. So, do not be in the least surprised if the United States attacks Iran. Timing is an open question, but it is hard to find convincing arguments that war will be avoided, or at least ones that are convincing in Washington.

 

And you want to follow the saga of the senator in the airport restroom?

 

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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