On June 1, in a news conference in Madrid, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured the world that “The President of the United States has made it clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course. That policy is supported by all of the members of the cabinet, and by the vice president of the United States.”
Helene Cooper of the New York Times tells us that Rice's statements came on the heels of reports that Dick Cheney staffers are saying that Cheney thinks diplomacy with Iran is pointless, and is trying to convince Mr. Bush to bomb it.
According to Cooper, a senior Bush administration official denies there is a deep separation between Rice and Cheney. "But," the official said, “the vice president is not necessarily responsible for every single thing that comes out of the mouth of every single member of his staff."
Uh, huh. Cheney staffers run around leaking things they're not supposed to? That doesn't sound likely to me. Steven C. Clemons of The Washington Note says that one Cheney aide admits "Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, [Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates, [CIA Director] Michael Hayden and [Director of National Intelligence Mike] McConnell have sculpted."
Cooper of the Times says interviews with members of Cheney's staff confirm the broad outlines of Clemons's story, and that some of the most hawkish statements came from David Wurmser, who is presently Cheney's principle deputy assistant for national security affairs.
In a BBC interview broadcast on June 1, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said “You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say, ‘let’s go and bomb Iran.’“
It's not difficult to figure out who ElBaradei was referring to as "crazies." The term seems to be gaining in popularity. Reportedly, new Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon told a confidant that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch" and that "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."
Western European officials share ElBaradei's concerns. “We fully believe that Foggy Bottom [U.S. State Department] is committed to the diplomatic track,” one of them says. “But there’s some concern about the vice president’s office.”
All Roads Lead to the Crazies
Journalists like Seymour Hersh and Larisa Alexandrovna have been warning for some time that Dick Cheney's shadow government has pushing for a strike on Iran for some time.
It looks more each day like a shift in the balance of power within the administration has occurred. With Cheney's firm ally Donald Rumsfeld gone, and with new Secretary of Defense seeming to side with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cheney's death grip on U.S. foreign policy may have indeed waned. If true, that could be a good thing. But at this point in the Bush II regime, unfortunately, foreign policy is so smothered with Dick Cheney's fingerprints that that it may be impossible to wipe clean.
Cheney's imprimatur on the Lebanon/Israeli conflict and on the Iran situation may have permanently destroyed Rice's ability to be regarded as an honest broker. Anyone dealing with Rice has good reason to suspect that any deal she brokers will be backdoor vetoed by Cheney. What's more, diplomatic measures taken in the pre-Gates days severely limit Rice's freedom of action.
The best example of this is the pre-condition set on direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. By demanding that it suspend all uranium enrichment activities before direct talks can take place, we made Iran an offer it couldn't accept. The U.N. Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty guarantees Iran's right to pursue peaceful nuclear technologies as an "inalienable right." By denying Iran this right, we essentially broke a treaty (yet again) to which we are signatory.
The effects of this sort of thing spiral. Russia and China, Iran's senior "axis of energy" partners, have yet another excuse to ignore treaties whenever it suits them. Last week, Russia tested two new offensive missiles in response to U.S. plans to deploy missile defense systems in central and eastern Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin said of the missile tests "It wasn't us who initiated a new round of arms race," and criticized the U.S. and NATO members for not ratifying an amended version of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty that limits the deployment of heavy non-nuclear weapons.
"We have signed and ratified the CFE and are fully implementing it. We have pulled out all our heavy weapons from the European part of Russia," Putin said. "What about our partners? They are filling eastern Europe with new weapons… What we are supposed to do? We can't just sit back."
I certainly don't aim to paint Russia, China or Iran as the "good guys" in our present foreign policy dilemmas. But we started the ball rolling with the Bush administration's unilateral abrogation of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention on Torture and other treaties, and when treaties become "just another piece of paper," the very fabric of international relations will unravel.
And that appears to be precisely what Dick Cheney and his crazies have been trying to accomplish all along.
Note: Cheney sideman John Bolton is famously known for having said, "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law."
Like Cheney, Bolton has a weak grasp of the U.S. Constitution, Article VI of which states:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.