Thursday, August 24, you had your choice of what major news item you'd decide to follow. Out here there was a flight from the Long Beach Airport to Bolder in Colorado - a charter, two-engine prop thing, carrying that odd little man who claims that ten years ago he murdered the six-year-old beauty queen. He may have. It's hard to tell. Perhaps had her late mother not dressed her up as a little tart and had her do the suggestive song and dance routines on stage he'd have found her too dull to think about. Or maybe he made it all up. But that was the news.
The other story that seemed to get some play was the big decision in the taxonomy of celestial objects - astronomers decided Pluto really isn't a planet. Leading astronomers just up and declared that Pluto is no longer a planet under new guidelines, and that downsizes the solar system from nine planets to eight. Note here that it's now a "dwarf planet" - whatever that is. Suzanne Nossel here argues only old farts care about such things, those who grew up in the fifties, sixties and seventies - "Maybe the thrill of outer space was bound to be fleeting. But the downgrading of Pluto is a reminder of how long gone it is." But it did get international coverage - Pluton n'est plus une planète - Les astronomes ont rétrogradé la boule de glace dans la nouvelle catégorie des «planètes naines». Le système solaire ne compte donc plus officiellement que huit planètes. Whatever.
For those fond of "big news" the item of the day was the drums of war starting up again.
Wednesday there had been the new congressional report on Iran, released the day before (here in PDF format), saying Iran might be deadly dangerous but the intelligence was rather thin, so it was hard to tell much of anything. This may have been a slam at the CIA and all the other spy folks the Cheney crowd thinks are totally useless (you remember they set up their own special office at the Pentagon so they got the real truth about Iraq's nukes and mobile chemical labs and all the rest, and about that meeting in Prague - the Atta fellow and the Iraqis - that the CIA and the Brits and everyone else said never happened). In short, it may have been a demonstration that you just cannot trust the folks who gather the information.
And that's what Mark Mazzetti was reporting the following day here in the New York Times -
We don't have the intelligence, the spy agencies are useless, so we'd better be safe than sorry and start bombing now? Something like that, but not exactly. It was a call to stop saying "we don't know much" and say flat-out that even if we don't know much it's obvious that these guys in Iran must be stopped now, so say so. It was almost a call to make up stuff.
Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.
… The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.
The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.
The Times item also notes "privately some Democrats criticized the report for using innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions to inflate the threat that Iran posed to the United States." That's to say even what's there, thin as it is, is pretty crappy - it just assumes a lot of danger. And there's this - "Some veterans of the intelligence battles that preceded the Iraq war see the debate as familiar and are critical of efforts to create hard links based on murky intelligence."
Well, that's what we do, and what the administration assumes the public still wants - assume the worst is absolutely true and send in our boys, or in this case, with not many boys still available, send in the tactical nuclear weapons. It's a political winner - keeping people safe. Wimpy Democrats never assume the hypothetical worst case is true and launch wars. That's why they never win elections. It would seem the fact we were wrong about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction is here almost a badge of distinction - the real patriots just don't take the chance they're flat-out wrong, they do things. It's a curious argument - what if we had been right? They erred on the side of keeping us safe. (That the war has had the opposite effect is not the point, of course.)
The Times quotes Paul R. Pillar, who until last October was the man who oversaw American intelligence assessments about the Middle East, saying this - "It reflects a certain way of looking at the world - that all evil is traceable to the capitals of certain states, and that, in my view, is a very incorrect way of interpreting the security challenges we face." But he's not trying to hold onto the House and Senate.
Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post sees it this way -
There is a popular sentiment among the Washington elite that what went wrong in the run-up to the war in Iraq has been sufficiently examined, and that it's all water under the bridge anyway.
It's popular in the White House and among Republicans for obvious reasons. But it's also remarkably popular among top Democrats and the establishment media, because they aren't all that eager to call any more attention to the fact that they were played for suckers.
There are, however, some people who believe that what led this country to launch a war of choice under false pretenses must be examined in detail - over and over again if necessary - until the appropriate lessons have been learned.
Otherwise, one might argue, history is doomed to repeat itself.
Enter history, stage right.
Once again, powerful neoconservative politicians who just know in their hearts that there is a terrible threat posed by a Middle Eastern country they have identified as part of the axis of evil are frustrated by the lack of conclusive evidence that would support a bellicose approach. So they are pressuring the nation's intelligence community to find facts that will support their argument.
This time, that scenario is being played out right in front of our eyes. Maybe that will make a difference?
Probably not. Americans have come to think of themselves as victims - everyone wants to kill us - and seem to revel in the fear and low-level hysteria of the "big threat." That's how we define ourselves now. It's sort of the national myth of who we really are. We're fed that, and we eat it up.
Who feeds us such stuff?
Froomkin points to this item from Dafna Linzer also in the Post noting that the report was "principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran." So of course the report "fully backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United States [and] chides the intelligence community for not providing enough direct evidence to support that assertion." And the author? It seems "the principal author was Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to John R. Bolton, the administration's former point man on Iran at the State Department." He's one of Cheney's guys. It's the same gang at it again.
Don't believe it? Read this from May 2005 - when the senate was trying to decide whether to conform Bolton to the post as UN Ambassador (which they didn't). Everyone was upset that Bolton had written a memo to the CIA telling them they were full of shit about Iraq - they knew nothing and there were nukes and chemicals and biological weapons. Frederick Fleitz settled the matter, saying he had written the memo for Bolton and the CIA was useless, and Iraq did have all those things. It seems he's at it again.
So it's war. Or it's sanctions, as at the same time Iran said let's talk, but not on the condition we stop our research. We say that's unacceptable. And in the deepest of ironies, the president had said this at his August 21st press conference - "In order for the UN to be effective, there must be consequences if people thumb their nose at the United Nations Security Council."
Yeah, except when we do it and launch a preemptive war against their advice. Not one reporter pointed that out, and surprisingly no one laughed out loud.
And we're not getting any help, as noted here -
US officials tell ABC News the White House had intended to issue a stronger statement rejecting Iran's response and calling for talks on sanctions against Iran to begin quickly, but pressure mounted from European countries overnight to hold off on the strong language and to allow time for countries to carefully consider Iran's response.
Ultimately, US officials say, the United States yielded to pressure from the European countries, namely Britain and France, to issue the milder statement that was released today.
No one wants to play with us, it would seem.
Well, we do make adjustments, as noted here - the president has apparently dropped his attempts to reassure us all that more progress is being made in Iraq than we all realize, "in favor of the contention that things could be even worse."
He was a cheerleader at Andover, but now it's yeah, team, it's awful, but really it could be much worse if we're not careful. That's some cheer -
The item also quotes Christopher F. Gelpi of Duke University - one of the two guys who advised the White House on public opinion in wartime (always say we're winning or really have already won) - "If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."
The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration - a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon.
… While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months.
… But with crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if US troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.
Well, maybe a new war will help. The argument seems to be that even if we're wrong about why we must have a war, again, this time we'll win this one, for sure - trust us.
A cynical view here -
And Christy Hardin Smith is even more cynical here - "Is it me, or did Bill Kristol just get all tingly with excitement?"
Basically, the report appears to be the first salvo in a fall campaign to justify a war against Iran (with Andy Card gone, they've perhaps forgotten that you don't introduce a new "product" in August). Only this time, they're not just presenting us with shitty intelligence and telling us we have to go to war (though the report does serve that purpose too). They're also saying, "the intelligence is shitty, so we cannot negotiate and therefore have to go to war."
Oh yeah, and one more detail on the Iran report from the Post item - the authors of the report "did not interview intelligence officials."
So it's "we don't know much, and we didn't ask, so things must be bad." It's a clown show. And we'll have another war.
But wait! There's more!
There's the deputy director of operations for the joint chief of staffs at the Pentagon (note - the room in which the joint chiefs meet is very classy and serious - got a peak once). In any event, he's saying this -
It's not just the nukes they're maybe working on - they're behind the mess in Iraq too.
The Iranian government is training and equipping much of the Shiite insurgency in Iraq, a senior US general said Wednesday, drawing one of the most direct links by the Pentagon.
... Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero said it is a "policy of the central government in Iran" to destabilize Iraq and increase the violence there.
"I think it's irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these (Shiite) extremist groups and also providing advanced IED technology to them," Barbero said. "IED" refers to the improvised explosive devices - roadside bombs - that have caused much death and destruction in Iraq.
As Laura Rosen asks here - "Is the marketing campaign against Iran begun?"
The grammar may be shaky, but she does note the main points from this House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat -
But they "did not interview intelligence officials." Maybe they read the newspapers or something.
• Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and despite its claims to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons...
• Iran likely has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability.
• Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program.
• Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. The U.S. Intelligence Community has raised the concern that Tehran may integrate nuclear weapons into its ballistic missiles.
• Iran provides funding, training, weapons, rockets, and other material support to terrorist groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere.
• Elements of the Iranian national security apparatus are actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq.
See this, if you like details - Columbia University's Gary Sick, formerly an official in the National Security Councils of presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, takes the report apart a paragraph at a time. They just made up a lot of stuff.
And we're to buy it, as Matthew Yglesias, notes here -
… this is part of the meaning of the President's embrace of the "Islamic fascism" locution. If the United States is at war with al-Qaeda, then a big confrontation with Iran is psychotic. But if the United States is at war with Islamic fascism, then the term fits the Iranian regime about as well (or as poorly) as it fits al-Qaeda, so we may as well start a war with Iran. Note that although the administration itself didn't play this particular card in selling the Iraq War the basic structure of how the sales pitch goes was previewed in Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism
. He argued that al-Qaeda should be seen as a species of "Muslim totalitarianism" and that Baathist Iraq was also a species of Muslim totalitarianism, and that, therefore since we were at war with the one we should also be at war with the other.
Bush and Cheney, of course, preferred the more straightforward gambit of simply implying that Saddam was behind 9/11 but the blueprint for the semantic switcheroo is already out there. And now we have the demands for the intelligence to be cooked up to order.
So we will have another war. There's no way to stop this. Everything has been lined up. So say "no" and you want us all to die. You hate America. And that's that.
Of course we may not have a war if someone takes care of things for us.
Thursday, August 24, Jeralyn Merritt reports this -
The Jerusalem Post item that started all this is here -
I'm just tuning into today's news, and Wolf Blitzer on CNN reported that Israel has nuclear weapons and may decide to try and take Iran out even if it has to go it alone.
A reporter from the Jerusalem Post said he has heard this too but that there has been no official confirmation from Israeli officials.
The reasoning seems to be that Israel wants to stop Iran's nuclear weapon development plans which it thinks will reach the R&D stage within six to 12 months. The US may not have the military capability to fight Iran, given how stretched it has become in Iraq.
So, we lost more than 2,000 precious U.S. lives to take out a despot who had nothing to do with 9/11 or the war on terror, only to be impotent at taking out what could be a real threat not just to hundreds of millions of Americans but the whole world?
I realize there is a big issue as to whether Iran is 5 to 10 years away from having a viable nuclear weapons program or 6 to 12 months away from entering R&D, but either way, it just shows what a waste this war in Iraq has been.
And it goes on in some detail, but it may just be more marketing - the "shame gambit." Rather than facing the shame of having dinky little Israel take care of the world's problem, we'll do it ourselves as we should as the top dog, or something like that.
There is growing consensus within the defense establishment that the United States will not attack Iran, and that Israel might be forced to act independently to stop the Islamic republic from obtaining nuclear weapons, a high-ranking defense official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
According to sources within the defense establishment, the Bush administration does not have political support for launching a strike against Iran's nuclear sites. "America is stuck in Iraq and cannot go after Iran militarily right now," the official said.
The defense official blasted the US for "not doing enough" to stop Teheran's race to the bomb. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he said, was leading the State Department in the direction of "appeasement."
And there's the escalation, as a few hours after that there was this -
With the purchase of two more German-made Dolphin submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads, military experts say Israel is sending a clear message to Iran that it can strike back if attacked by nuclear weapons.
The purchases come at a time when Iran is refusing to bow to growing Western demands to halt its nuclear program, and after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
The new submarines, built at a cost of $1.3 billion with Germany footing one-third of the bill, have diesel-electric propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for longer periods of time than the three nuclear arms-capable submarines already in Israel's fleet, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The latest submarines not only would be able to carry out a first strike should Israel choose to do so, but they also would provide Israel with crucial second-strike capabilities, said Paul Beaver, a London-based independent defense analyst.
Israel is already believed to have that ability in the form of the Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which are buried so far underground they would survive a nuclear strike, he said.
Like our first-strike multi-billion-dollar submarines aren't good enough? We're too scared to use them?
It's more pressure.
Again there's no way to stop this. Everything has been lined up. So say "no" and you want us all to die. You hate America. And that's that.
The irony of course is that our two wars - Afghanistan and Iraq - have inflamed the world against us and not produced the results we claimed would follow, liberal democracies that would transform the region, and subsequently bring an end to all terrorism. More and more terrorists are popping out all over the world as we do the best we can to kill all we can in those two nations. Israel had a parallel experience with Hezbollah. If war - no diplomacy, no talking and no listening (and don't treat terrorism like it is just some dinky little law enforcement issue either) - is the answer to keeping us safe, then the demonstration of that theory is not going well. It's rather the opposite - the concept was just wrong. No one feels any safer. Everyone knows things are getting worse. So we have another war to keep us safe? You'd think that would be a hard sell, but it isn't. We see no alternatives, or are told the alternatives are just stupid.
And off we go.
Some related thoughts…
And this -
I'd like everyone to take a deep breath and listen for a minute. The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act. And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.
And so it goes.
Why do we need terrorists to destroy the cornerstones of democracy with bombs when governments are willing to do it themselves out of fear? Isn't that a sign that the terrorists have won? First the US with its Patriot Act and warrantless NSA surveillance and now Britain, which is considering a new racial profiling program aimed at Muslims based on behavior, ethnicity, and religion.
Who needs the terrorists to take down America when the government is doing such a better job of it by eradicating the civil liberties that are the hallmark of this great nation? At one time we were the beacon of liberty in the free world. That light has been dimming since September 11, and unless we clap three times for Tinkerbelle, it's about to go out.
The next question is who will it be after the Muslims? My answer: no one important, just you and me.