"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." - Alexis de Tocqueville
"Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks." - General "Buck" Turgidson (George C. Scott) in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Saturday, April 8th, after the week's news cycle closed and the cable news networks went into "features" mode - Whatever will we do about our children and the perverts prowling MySpace?) - and as congress had gone home for two weeks of rest after doing not much of anything - no immigration reform bill in the Senate and no budget approved in the House - and as political junkies and policy wonks had settled down to watch a little baseball, or the Masters golf thing, or just decided to wash the car - a few things were being posted on the net by major publications, prior to their distribution on actual paper early Monday, for those who get their information the quaint way, by reading it on the printed page. The next week's news cycle begins sometime after midnight Monday, as everyone gets to play.
But times change and sometimes what will appear in print later raises some eyebrows as it hits the web.
There was a little item on the AFP wire that was one of those things that had some, those not following baseball or golf or washing the car, think something was up -
Say what? You had to be paying attention. Wayne White, the former deputy director at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, had, a few days earlier, mentioned something - "In recent months I have grown increasingly concerned that the administration has been giving thought to a heavy dose of air strikes against Iran's nuclear sector without giving enough weight to the possible ramifications of such action."
The administration of President George W. Bush is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy a key Iranian suspected nuclear weapons facility, The New Yorker magazine has reported in its April 17 issue.
The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that Bush and others in the White House have come to view Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a potential Adolf Hitler.
"That's the name they're using," the report quoted a former senior intelligence official as saying.
A senior unnamed Pentagon adviser is quoted in the article as saying that "this White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war."
... The former intelligence officials depict planning as "enormous," "hectic" and "operational," Hersh writes.
... In recent weeks, the president has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of the House of Representatives, including at least one Democrat, the report said.
But he didn't mention nukes. And there was, as noted elsewhere in the pages, Joseph Cirincione in Foreign Policy saying a whole bunch senior administration officials had made up their minds - we were going to war again, at least if you call bombing without the massive invasion part going to war.
But he didn't mention nukes either. That's what Seymour Hersh does here in the as yet to be distributed new issue of the New Yorker - we will bomb Iran, and we will use nukes. Maybe. It could be a disinformation plan - get a whole bunch of top guys to tell Hersh, off the record, that we're going to do this, and Iran will back down. Hersh does dig up the dirt and get things right. It'll scare them. They'll back down. So maybe Hersh is being used.
Or maybe not.
But there is an operational theory behind just doing it. It seems 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."
As theories go, that one is might seem to some to be a tad optimistic - humiliate their leaders with big explosions and nuclear fallout and the grateful masses will take over the joint and thank us. That might be a possible outcome. You never know. The people of Iraq don't seem particularly grateful at the moment, but then this could be different.
As for the details of the scheme, AFP reports this -
Let's see, top military dudes argue that if we bomb we don't use nukes, they are told they're wrong, the decision has been made, and some are ready to resign as this seems beyond stupid. Someone says there could be a "a chain reaction" of terrorist attacks worldwide against anything American, and the south of Iraq will be a flooded with the Iranian Army and more newly enraged Shiites out to kills our guys. But that's shot down. That's negative thinking?
One of the options under consideration involves the possible use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, to insure the destruction of Iran's main centrifuge plant at Natanz, Hersh writes.
But the former senior intelligence official said the attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the military, and some officers have talked about resigning after an attempt to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans in Iran failed, according to the report.
"There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries," the magazine quotes the Pentagon adviser as saying.
The adviser warned that bombing Iran could provoke "a chain reaction" of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world and might also reignite Hezbollah.
"If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle," the adviser is quoted as telling The New Yorker.
Digby at Hullabaloo here comments that this was pretty much inevitable -
That's a little cynical. Maybe this has nothing to do with popularity and the upcoming mid-term elections where prospects for the Republicans look more dismal by the moment. Maybe it's just removing a threat.
It's hard to believe they think that they have the political latitude to do this. But then it was hard to believe they thought they had the political latitude to govern as if they had won landslide elections or that they could survive the 2004 election if no WMD were found in Iraq. But they did. In fact, they've had their biggest successes by pushing the envelope beyond the point anyone would have imagined. I do not put it past them to believe that they can do this and somehow revive their flagging popularity.
How serious are they about making sure Iran does not get nuclear weapons.
Very, or not, as you see here, something from February 13, 2006 -
Iran? Oops. But her husband had been a bother.
The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.
According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.
John Cole, the disgruntled conservative, formerly a Bush supporter goes to the long Seymour Hersh article itself and offers this, a bit of commentary on the Hersh text -
Ah well, this all could be a really highly coordinated press plant. Make the Iranians worry. Use Hersh. If so, it's masterful. And unlikely.
Cole: People who already worry about the president's growing messiah complex won't get much encouragement:
Hersh: 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."
Cole: We've heard this song before, too many times to count. Bush supporters love to use terms like 'steadfast' and 'resolve' when they talk about their favorite president but they would fall over dead before admitting that those characteristics might have a downside. Gosh, ya think? A guy who famously doesn't study issues very deeply will inevitably make some boneheaded and even dangerous decisions. If 'resolve' keeps him from ever revisiting his boneheaded decisions then you end up with a net loss for everybody.
You might have wondered what happened to the neocons:
Hersh "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."
A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror expressed a similar view. "This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war."
Cole: Yep, still around. I don't give a shit what connotational baggage the term neocon has picked up over the years, this is their signature: spin stories about an imminent threat (paging Laurie Mylroie) to sell a war whose real goal is to strengthen America's global standing. Call it oil or geopolitical influence-building or whatever you want, these guys played the same song once already.
No-shit moments come up frequently:
Hersh: 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 [named Lieberman - ed. Just a guess.].
...The House member 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.
Cole: They consulted the same Congressmen who led the charge on Iraq, and nobody objected. No shit?
Hersh: Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, "The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision."
Cole: If you're not worried about a nuclear-armed president with a messiah complex, a medieval concept of metaphysics and an insatiable war itch then you have to be kind of slow.
Speaking of nuclear:
Hersh: One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.
... The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. "Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap.
... 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."
Cole: Anybody who toys with using offensive nuclear weapons, unprovoked, has simply taken leave of his senses. If we can 'preempt' an attack with nuclear weapons, then by what logic can we criticize North Korea for doing the same to us? Because in some metaphysical sense America is 'good' and North Korea is 'evil?' Baloney. Any leadership willing to inflict collateral nuclear damages on a population that hasn't attacked them first has an extremely weak claim on metaphysical goodness. The only 'good' that a leader like that can claim harkens back to medieval nations of the living saint, the incorruptible figure whose beatitude makes any action good just by virtue of them doing it. When you think about it, for a president who paints the world in medieval tones of 'good' and 'evil' and allegedly takes commands from God the concept may not be that much of a stretch.
We have a bipartisan bunch here, so let's hear what people think about two basic questions. First, do you buy these revelations? Bear in mind that the people who pushed back against Hersh's Abu Ghraib reporting were forced to retreat from one trench (nothing bad happened) to the next (if anything bad happened it was only a few bad apples) to the next (Rumsfeld didn't personally order prisoner) until they had to contort themselves into ridiculous positions in order to avoid giving up entirely (e.g., it isn't really torture until an organ fails). Seymour Hersh has credibility that his closest parallels on the pro-war side, e.g. Judith Miller or Bob Woodward, don't.
Second, assume for now that the reporting is accurate and answer whether you're comfortable to have your major policymakers set themselves on a "crusade" for violent regime change in Iran, most likely employing tactical nuclear weapons. It might sound like a ridiculous question to most, but I expect at least a few to answer in the affirmative.
Will there be denials? Or a useful "no comment" to keep the Iranians worried?
But the idea? "Any leadership willing to inflict collateral nuclear damages on a population that hasn't attacked them first has an extremely weak claim on metaphysical goodness."
Howard Zinn, here, writing long before this story broke -
Not likely. When Fox News picks up the Hersh item and tells us he's an alarmist but, then, we do have the right to defend ourselves and this is a pretty good idea, and CNN waffles and says it may or may not be true so let's not get all excited, but all the rest of the news and opinion media, in fear of appearing unpatriotic, agrees with Fox, and the Christian right welcomes the end days, it's off we go.
What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison - more than two million.
A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.
Ah, we'd never do such at thing.