• Think Progress:
The New York Sun, a reliable neoconservative outlet that has advocated for a Dick Cheney presidential campaign, declares today: "Attack on Iran Said To Be Imminent." The article’s lead states:Lots of good sources in that article. One of them:In a sign that U.N. Security Council-based diplomacy is losing steam, a number of sources are reporting that a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities may be imminent. France and America also are pushing for tighter economic sanctions against Tehran, without U.N. approval.Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said this week: "Definitely what we are seeing is a confrontation in the making."
Yesterday's edition of Le Canard Enchaîné, a French weekly known for its investigative journalism, reported details of an alleged Israeli-American plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. The frontpage headline read: "A report sent to the Elysée — Putin tells Tehran: They're going to bomb you!" [...]
And if the Bush administration can’t establish the need to go to war based on the threat of a nuclear Iran, it appears appears ready to claim that Iran’s cross-border activity in Iraq may justify military action. On that front, Congress — not wanting to appear weak — is facilitating the administration’s case. [live links excluded]
• Glenn Greenwald:
The Washington Post's Dana Priest, one of the country's most knowledgeable and reliable reporters, made this rather extraordinary observation yesterday about the prospects that the Bush administration would bomb Iran:Glenn goes on to say that the unanimous opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the "surge" did nothing to dissuade him. The Joint Chiefs are similarly unanimously opposed to attacking Iran. It makes sense to me. They don't want to die in a global nuclear war, which an attack on Iran could easily start, and if not, they don't want to get hanged by The Hague. Glenn goes on to mention a comment that in approving the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, Congress may have implicitly given the White House authorization to commence hostilities. Certainly what you, the military, the whole world or I think about it doesn't matter even a little to the Bush administration.West Chester, Pa.: History seems to be repeating it self as the drumbeat for war with Iran, based on accusations not backed up by any facts, intensifies. Do you think the Bush administration will launch a war (perhaps sending only the bombers) against Iran and if they do what are the likely consequences for the Middle East?There have been some equally extraordinary reports about what appears to be the virtual refusal of senior military officials to permit a war with Iran. Several months ago, it was reported that the CENTCOM Commander, Admiral William Fallon, blocked what had appeared to be the successful efforts by Dick Cheney and administration neocons to send a third aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf and "vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM":
Dana Priest: Frankly, I think the military would revolt and there would be no pilots to fly those missions. This is a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. Just look at what Gen. Casey, the Army chief, said yesterday. That the tempo of operations in Iraq would make it very hard for the military to respond to a major crisis elsewhere. Beside, it's not the "war" or "bombing" part that's difficult; it's the morning after and all the days after that. Haven't we learned that (again) from Iraq?At a mid-February meeting of top civilian officials over which Secretary of Defence Gates presided, there was an extensive discussion of a strategy of intimidating Tehran's leaders, according to an account by a Pentagon official who attended the meeting given to a source outside the Pentagon. The plan involved a series of steps that would appear to Tehran to be preparations for war, in a manner similar to the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.For obvious reasons, it is not a positive development to have the U.S. military serve as the primary check on the crazed warmongers who have control of our government. In a country that lives under civilian rule, that really is not and should not be the role of the military. Priest's claim that "the military would revolt" if it was ordered to bomb Iran is, at least in one sense, disturbing.
But Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief Mar. 16, responded to the proposed plan by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defence Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.
"He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it," says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon's message from a Pentagon official who had read it.
Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch". [...]
At the same time, the reason this is happening seems clear. Neoconservative extremists want endless war, and they are supported by the most powerful faction in our government, led by Dick Cheney, who has prevailed in every significant conflict over the last six years. And their radicalism has eroded not only the standing and strength of the United States as a country, but is close to shattering our military forces as well. Even with Iraq draining away all of our resources, they are eager, hungry and increasingly impatient for a new war with the much more formidable Iranians. [live links excluded]
• John W. Dean:
Nixon was an authoritarian president. So was Reagan. Indeed, it was during the Reagan years that conservatives made a complete change in their thinking about the American presidency. This change -- not coincidentally, I believe -- occurred as authoritarian conservatives began to dominate the GOP.People who still don't believe the U.S. would preemptively attack Iran simply aren't paying attention. It's a shame the most serious antiwar effort in our country is in the Pentagon. I've never been more proud of our military. These stories paint a picture of a United States that would have already attacked Iran and a world which may have been destroyed by now except that our military has said no to Bush and Cheney. Is it more comforting or disturbing?
The authoritarian conservative philosophy was fully articulated by Terry Eastland, a former Reagan Justice Department Director of Public Affairs, in his 1992 book Energy in the Executive: The Case for the Strong Presidency. This is a book that was studied closely by then-Halliburton Chairman Dick Cheney, and then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and his staff, long before they arrived in Washington in 2001.
"Reagan demonstrated that the strong presidency is necessary to effect ends sought by most conservatives," Eastland wrote. For conservatives, Eastland's book made clear, a strong president is one who wears his commander-in-chief uniform every day, and tells Americans how they should think and act, rather than one who responds to the wishes of the voters. It is a Father-Knows-Best presidency, one that considers Americans to be children who do not know what is best for themselves.
Nixon created the "imperial presidency." After the public rejected that concentration of power, in the aftermath of Watergate, Reagan restored the imperial presidency in another guise. Now, Bush and Cheney have created the post-imperial presidency. Using the threat of terrorism as their justification, Bush and Cheney have embraced the so-called "unitary executive theory" - which, in truth, is merely another term for an authoritarian presidency.
Eastland, like many conservatives, thought it a poor showing when Ronald Reagan left office with the highest approval ratings of any post-World War II president. Quoting the voice of authoritarian conservatism, Charles Krauthammer, Eastland assessed this supposedly unfortunate aspect of the Reagan presidency to be "Like dying rich… a great moral failure." As this comment shows, authoritarians do not want Americans to love or even necessarily like their president; indeed, they believe a president must be doing something wrong if they do.
Bush and Cheney's actions must surely bring a smile to the faces of folks like Terry Eastland and Charles Krauthammer, as they sink lower and lower in their approval ratings, spending all their good will and then some. Authoritarian conservatives will no doubt be disappointed if Bush and Cheney do not manage to get to single-digit ratings before they leave.
Many observers have suggested that the Bush/Cheney Administration may, in the eyes of history, be the worst ever. Yet this condemnation must seem beside the point to authoritarians, for these people simply do not care what others think of their performance. What is important, in their eyes, is simply that these leaders and their compliant followers are doing things the way they believe they must be done, and enforcing their will upon any who dare to dissent or disagree.
It is surprising they haven't issued an order to nuke every continent. Having turned the whole world against them, what other choice do they have? Still not convinced insane people run this country?
• Juan Cole:
I made two claims about the transcript published by El Pais of Bush's conversations with Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar on 22 February, 2003, at Crawford, Texas.The Bush administration has forsaken everything the military wants in the way of new technology to keep its preemptive wars against nonhostile nations alive. It ignores 71% of the population who say they want the wars ended. Congress won't stop them, leaving us to wonder whose job it is. I call on the military, American citizens and the international court to join hands and stop these maniacs before they destroy the world.
The first is that the transcript shows that Bush intended to disregard a negative outcome in his quest for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a war against Iraq. Bush wanted such a resolution. He expressed a willingness to use threats and economic coercion to secure it. But he makes it perfectly clear that he will not wait for the UNSC to act beyond mid-March. He also explicitly says that if any of the permanent members of the UNSC uses its veto, "we will go." That is, failure to secure the resolution would trigger the war.
Uh, that is the opposite of the way it is supposed to work. If you can't get a UNSC resolution, and you haven't been attacked by the state against whom you want to go to war, then you are supposed to stand down.
Both because he set a deadline beyond which his "patience" would not stretch (the poor thing had already waited four months; I mean, is he a toddler that he lacks elementary patience?), and because he specified a UNSC veto as a signal for his launching of the war, Bush made it very clear that he was willing to trash the charter of the United Nations and to take the world back to the 1930s,to an era of mass politics when powerful states launched wars of choice at will on the basis of fevered rhetoric and fits of pique.
The second claim that I made was that Bush was aware of, and rejected, an offer by Saddam Hussein to flee Iraq, probably for Saudi Arabia, presuming he could take out with him a billion dollars and some documents on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. Both provisions were intended by Saddam to protect him from later retaliation. The money would buy him protection from extradition, and the documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush's goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. The looting, which set off the guerrilla war, also functioned as a vast shredding party, destroying incriminating evidence about the complicity of the Bushes and Rumsfeld in Iraq's war crimes.
The claims by some pundits that Saddam's reported desire to take documents on his WMD programs out of the country proves he had such programs in 2003 or that he wanted to somehow retain specialized knowledge involved in them, are silly. Saddam had destroyed his chemical, nuclear and biological programs and stockpiles, which we know from the most extensive postwar inspections in the history of mammal life. Almost certainly, he wanted to keep with him the documents that showed precisely that-- that he was in fact in compliance with UN resolutions (which he was) and so could not on those grounds be subject to extraordinary rendition and delivered to the Hague. Also, as I say, he may well have wanted to keep with him documents with which to blackmail the Bush family, which in the 1980s had been involved in winking at and enabling his WMD capabilities.
Aznar asked Bush if he would grant Saddam these guarantees, and Bush roared back that he would not. (That is the answer to those who want to know where in the text Bush declines Saddam's offer to flee. Nobody in his right mind would flee without guarantees; by declining them, Bush scotched the deal.)
By refusing to allow Saddam to flee with guarantees, Bush ensured that a land war would have to be fought. This is one of the greatest crimes any US president ever committed, and it is all the more contemptible for being rooted in mere pride and petulance.
Note that even General Pervez Musharraf allowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go to Saudi Arabia with similar guarantees, even though Sharif was alleged to have attempted to cause Musharraf's death. A tinpot Pakistani general had more devotion to the good of his country, and more good sense, than did George W. Bush.
The passage in which Bush agrees with Aznar that it would be better if Baghdad fell without a fight refers to the possibility that the Iraqi officer corps would assassinate Saddam and decline to put up a fight. Bush would very much have liked such a fantasy to come true.
But he did not need to fantasize. He had a real offer in the hand, of Saddam's flight. He rejected it. By rejecting it, he will have killed at least a million persons and became one of the more monstrous figures in recent world history.
I have done a translation of the transcript, with some dictionary work. I would be glad of any corrections, but I think it is good enough for government work. No one can read it without recognizing that Bush was champing at the bit to go to war; that he only wanted the UNSC as a fig leaf and was determined to ignore it if it did not authorize the war; and that he had a deal on the table from Saddam but absolutely refused to pursue it, preferring instead either a sanguinary conflict or his adolescent fantasy of Baghdad falling without a shot.