Crackpots in the White House, and Iran
Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Here we go again. With a congressional election looming in November, President Bush’s support continues to erode. Fully 47 percent in a recent Washington Post / ABC poll say they “strongly disapprove” of his leadership. Even the White House’s warmest supporters concede that Democrats stand an excellent chance of regaining the majority in the House and/or Senate. With the majority comes subpoena power. So it must be time for a nuclear war scare. Sure enough, the April 17 issue of The New Yorker contains a jaw-dropping article by famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claiming that the White House is conducting “intensified planning for a possible major air attack” including tactical nuclear strikes against Iran. Hersh’s sources, mostly
anonymous, reportedly high-ranking Pentagon officers and U. S. and European diplomats, claim that Bush has conceived a “messianic vision” that he alone can save the world from Iranian aggression.
“There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community,” Hersh writes, “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? ”
Supposedly, Hersh’s sources say, Bush “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.”
In an interview on CNN, Hersh said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have fought to remove the nuclear option from the administration’s contingency plans, only to be shouted down by White House staffers. He added that senior officers are prepared to resign over the issue.
“[O ] ne thing about our military,” Hersh said, “they’re very loyal to the president, but they’re getting to the edge. They’re getting to the edge with not only [Donald ] Rumsfeld, but with [Dick ] Cheney and the president.”
Presumably caught off-guard by what appear to be tactical leaks by opponents of this insane scheme, Bush characterized them as “wild speculation.”
Maybe so. On the other hand, underestimating this administration’s ruthlessness and dishonesty is always a mistake. Every time the Bush White House has found itself in a bind since 9/11, it has evoked fear of Islamic terrorism.
Before the first Gulf war, the president’s father postponed asking Congress to support military action against Iraq until after the 1990 elections to avoid politicizing the debate. George W. Bush did exactly the opposite in 2002, leading a shrill propaganda campaign that falsely persuaded millions of Americans of Iraq’s complicity in 9/11 and Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent arsenal of nuclear weapons, and forcing a vote on a de facto war resolution weeks before the election.
So why wouldn’t the White House conjure an Iranian bogeyman in 2006? Taking over Iran has long been an obsession of the neo-conservative visionaries whose Project for a New American Century provided the ideological justification for invading Iraq. Two-thirds of Americans polled last February said they think a nuclear-armed Iran would attack Israel; 82 percent said they thought the Iranians would give nuclear weapons to terrorists.
But how many could actually locate Iran on a world map? To most, Iran and Iraq sound like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. But call it Persia, as Iran used to be known, and those percentages would likely drop sharply. Persians aren’t Arabs; as Farsi-speaking Shiites, they have little more sympathy for al-Qa’ida than Americans do.
Remind voters that the two nations fought a bloody war in the 1980s, prompted by Iraqi aggression, and add that Persia is somewhere between three and five times larger than Iraq—depending on whether you’re talking about population or land area—and has far more difficult terrain and a more unified, nationalistic population, and American enthusiasm for fighting an unnecessary “pre-emptive” war there would likely diminish fast.
It’s for all of those reasons and more that Hersh’s sources appear to have begun a pre-emptive leaking campaign of their own against the neo-conservatives. Threatening Iran with nuclear weapons isn’t a sign of strength, but a confession of weakness. As the single greatest strategic beneficiary of the U. S. occupation of Iraq, the Persians have been indulging in foolhardy bluster of their own. The recently elected Ahmadinejad, however, holds office at the sufferance of the ayatollahs, who wield the real power. Although dogmatic and authoritarian, they also have tended to be cautious. Persians want nuclear weapons because Israel and Pakistan already have them; also because they’ve noticed that nuclear-armed countries don’t get invaded. Above all, they want assurances that won’t happen. For now, we must all pray that crackpots in both countries can be restrained.
•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.
Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."