Last summer, during the height of the media frenzy over the Plamegate scandal, numerous commentators observed that the issue was about much more than who did or didn't out the identity of a CIA agent. It was about the cover up of the administration's hoax to "prove" that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons program.
As Waas duly notes, there were plenty of folks in the mainstream media at the time who tried to get the hoax story before the public, but they were drowned out by the Rovewellian noise machine that planted images of mushroom clouds in the collective American mind.
Jumping ahead to the present, we see that the administration's new National Security Strategy has identified a new "most wanted" bogey man: "we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran."
Iran has an economy roughly the size of Holland's and a conventional military force that couldn't beat Saddam Hussein's over the course of a drawn out war in the '80s. What the administration fears--or wants to make us fear--is that Iran will use its infant nuclear energy program to produce bombs. Iran has always avowed that it has no desire to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and the accusations of Condi Rice and others aside, there's no hard evidence that proves they're lying.
The Bush administration is pushing the UN to impose sanctions on Iran if it doesn't allow International Atomic Energy Agency oversight of its nuclear program, but Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, thinks sanctions at this time are unnecessary. "Sanctions are a bad idea," he said this week. "We are not facing an imminent threat. We need to lower the pitch."
Lowering the pitch on Iran is the last thing the Bush administration wants to do right now. It needs to generate as much smoke as it can to divert attention from the latest Downing Street memo and Waas's uncovering of the National Intelligence Estimate summary written for Mister Bush that the aluminum tubes referred to in his 2003 State of the Union speech were probably not intended for nuclear weapons.
The administration also needs to draw the public focus away from the ongoing Iraq fiasco, and from its abject failure to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them on Taiwan, Japan, and other U.S. friendly countries in the Pacific Rim.
Most of all, the Bush administration wants to keep everyone from reflecting on the aggregate absurdity of its foreign policy. It invaded and occupied a country that didn't have nuclear weapons, it's making scare noise at a country that doesn't have nuclear weapons and says it doesn't want any, and it has promised not to attack a country that not only admits to having nukes, but says that it might use them in a preemptive strike.
And oh yeah; it needs to get everybody's mind off of the NSA domestic spying scandal.
Visions of Mushroom Clouds
The emergence of two recent stories is too timely to be coincidental. One is the hoopla over the Iraqi document dump. House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) forced the intelligence agencies, over their objections, to release thousands of raw documents captured into Iraq over the Internet. Senior intelligence officials say the documents contain hearsay, disinformation, and forgery, and Intelligence Director John Negroponte released a disclaimer with the documents stating the U.S. government could not vouch for their authenticity.
The lack of authenticity caution didn't stop the right wing blogosphere from glomming onto the documents, interpreting them with "in house" translators, and producing "expert analyses" that they prove Bush was right about Iraq all along. "Saddam's WMD and terrorist connections all proven in one document!!!" trumpets one of these experts who bills himself in his blog bio as "The smartest man alive!!!"
This kind of transparent maneuver isn't likely to fool anyone except the carnival side show types who populate Free Republic and other fringe web sites, but it will least keep the fringe firmly in the "base."
In concert with the data dump, though, is another piece of Rovewellian Theater that may influence the political center. News of it was released just in time to cover the commencement of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing considering censure of Mister Bush for his NSA domestic spying program.
WaPo's Ann Scott Tyson reports:
A huge mushroom cloud of dust is expected to rise over Nevada's desert in June when the Pentagon plans to detonate a gigantic 700-ton explosive -- the biggest open-air chemical blast ever at the Nevada Test Site -- as part of the research into developing weapons that can destroy deeply buried military targets, officials said yesterday.
The test, code-named "Divine Strake," will occur on June 2 about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas in a high desert valley bounded by mountains, according to Pentagon and Energy Department officials.
June will be about the time the Iran nuclear issue reaches critical mass, and six months before the national elections. The spectacle will be touted as a "strong message to Iran" that we can bust their bunkers if they force us to. But the real target audience will be the U.S. public, who will be treated to an actual visual image of something they've only been led to imagine before: a mushroom cloud rising over a major American city.
Gosh, what won't the Rovewellians think of next?