Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist
As mentioned previously, there seems to be a war coming with Iran. It's not just Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker - William Arkin in the Washington Post reported that in his Early Warning column. The cover story of the week's Time Magazine tells us the plans are finalized and units are on notice. And the reporters who used to be Knight-Ridder - now McClatchy - here tell us there's the new the Iranian directorate at the Pentagon - getting the "real" information on the building of nuclear weapons there - bypassing the CIA and other agencies again, relying on Iranian exiles in America who want their old Iran back. That worked so well the first time with Iraq of course. And yes, Knight-Ridder alone was the news outfit that got the run-up to the Iraq war right - pointing to the holes in the information about the actual threat Iraq posed, and being skeptical, in a reasonable way.
And here we're told we are already on the ground in Iran, conducting operations there -
1.) "The evidence is overwhelming, from both the Iranians, Americans, and from Congressional sources."
2.) "The plan has gone to the White House. That's not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we've gone to a different state."
3.) "I would say - and this may shock some - I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way."
That's from Colonel Sam Gardiner, the retired colonel who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College and who famously found more than fifty instances of demonstrably false stories planted in the press in the run up to the war, back in 2003. The link is to a television appearance - he's one of CNN's military analysts. Maybe he's wrong.
But then his white paper is now available, a report for the Century Foundation - The End of the 'Summer of Diplomacy': Assessing U.S. Military Options in Iraq, September 2006 (in PDF format).
And it contains this gem -
The italics were added to emphasize the obvious. This isn't supposed to make sense. Something else is going on.
In any event, Gardiner says the preparations for war "will not be a major CNN event." This will be subtle, sort of, as it "will involve the quiet deployment of Air Force tankers to staging bases" and "additional Navy assets moved to the region." He also adds that while nobody's talking about a land invasion of Iran - as there's no resources left for that - "significant elements in the government" do have much more ambitious goals than straightforward surgical strikes at Iranian nuclear facilities. You see, such strikes are very unlikely to actually resolve the perceived Iran issue, and there are administration figures who have convinced themselves that a sufficiently wide "air target set" will prompt regime change in Iran. We bomb them and the angry populace rises up and cheers us. Well, many have reported that's the current thinking.
Another voice - Matthew Yglesias here - "One should note that the curious thing about air power is that the professionals involved in managing it have a longstanding, cross-national, and incredibly pernicious habit of massively and systematically overstating its efficacy in accomplishing all sorts of implausible things."
Yep, ask the Israelis about that. But over at SLATE, Fred Kaplan here is wondering if the "prepare to deploy" order that's "been sent out to US Navy submarines, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers, and two mine-hunting ships" means we're going to war with Iran.
But Yglesias then adds this -
The italics there come from Yglesias. He wants things to make sense, so he doesn't think we'll launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike against Iran. The first voice, Colonel Sam, argues the other way.
Another voice, from the SALON review of Frank Rich's new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold, there's this -
The review goes on to discuss what seems to be Rich's thesis - the Iraq war was waged to get Republicans elected again and again. That's the "sense" that the Europeans who talked with Colonel Sam seem to have overlooked.
On Tuesday, September 19, reporters asked General John Abizaid, the top US military commander for the whole Middle East, whether the United States is currently winning the war in Iraq. The Washington Post dutifully reported his answer - "Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war."
That's not very reassuring and not particularly realistic. It makes little sense. But it is an answer, and an honest one.
And here's another voice, from August 25, retired General John Batiste, the former commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq - "Donald Rumsfeld is still at the helm of the Department of Defense, which is absolutely outrageous. He served up our great military a huge bowl of chicken feces, and ever since then, our military and our country have been trying to turn this bowl into chicken salad. And it’s not working."
You can see the video of that here. (There are words you can't say on national television.)
And from the New York Times item of September 20, on how our government is really unhappy with the current premier of Iraq - he's not doing much of anything but visiting Iran and getting chummy with them - we get this - "To bolster Iraqis' confidence, American generals are spending money on quick reconstruction projects like trash pickup as the military goes through troubled neighborhoods of Baghdad."
Compare and contrast - Condoleezza Rice in a Times interview from October 21, 2000 with this - "We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten."
But that was Kosovo, of course.
Those two contrasting gems were brought up by Bill Montgomery, at his site Whiskey Bar, where he is either the editor and sole writer, or proprietor - or the barkeep, if you will. And his voice comes next with this -
But then, if Frank Rich is right (and not just rich), the whole idea is really to win elections here - by appearing tough and strong.
Eric Boehlert notes how that is going -here -
Oh well. You do what you can.
And something that came up before, in these pages - Monday, August 21, The Hedgehog Is Back - a discussion of Jim Baker's little group with this -
Who knew? And the Washington Monthly item ends with this -
That's most curious. Everyone knows it's time to do something.
Wednesday, September 20, the New York Sun reports this Iraq Study Group has met with its subgroups - the working committees - and we get this -
And that leads to another voice, Kevin Drum, with this -
Maybe so. Or maybe than why a war with Iran is necessary. It would provide cover for either unpalatable alternative.
How'd we get here? The final voice is Digby at Hullabaloo, from right out here in Santa Monica, with this -
And now we're at it again.
And a quick summary from another voice, Stanley Kurtz, at "The Corner" - the daily commentary section of the now hyper-neoconservative and Bush worshiping National Review, with this -
In any event, those are the voices out there. Make of them what you will.