Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iran Ate Lil' Bush's Homework

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."

-- George W. Bush, in an address to the Annual Convention of the American Legion on August 28, 2007.

This could be trouble. I'm not entirely sure that Mr. Bush knows what "authorized to confront" actually means. If Dick Cheney is the guy who explained it to him, it's a sure bet he doesn't. To set the record straight: nothing in the U.S. Standing Rules of Engagement or in any supplemental ROE or weapons control measure limits or negates the inherent right of self defense. Acts of self-defense are constrained by the sensibilities of concepts like necessity and proportionality, but nobody is expected to absorb a first blow before reacting to a hostile act or a display of hostile intent. Any time, anywhere, under any circumstances, every American service member--from the lowliest private in Iraq to the four-star admiral in charge of Central Command--has the right to do what is necessary to defend themselves and their units without so much as a "by your leave" from the commander in chief.

So when a president makes a point of saying that he's authorized military commanders to "confront murderous activities," he's a) getting ready to start another preemptive war on fuzzy pretexts or b) pandering to a bunch of drunk pro-war Neanderthals at a convention in Reno or c) both.

By a remarkable piece of coincidence, "hours after" Mr. Bush's remarks to the Legionnaires came the news that American soldiers in Baghdad had arrested a group of Iranians that included two diplomats and six members of a delegation from Tehran's Ministry of Energy. They were in Baghdad at the invitation of Iraq's Ministry of Electricity to discuss construction of a new power plant. And why did the Americans detain these Iranians? The Iranians' bodyguards, it seems, were Iraqis, presumably supplied to them by their hosts, the Iraqi Ministry of Energy. The Iraqi bodyguards were carrying weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and two 9mm pistols for which they had no weapons permits.

Heck, if that isn't proof positive that the Iranian government is behind the sectarian violence and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, what is?


The Americans turned the Iranians over to Iraqi authorities the next morning. Maybe it occurred to the Americans that nobody in their right minds drives around Baghdad without armed bodyguards and that practically nobody in Baghdad carrying weapons has a permit for them. If they hauled in everybody carrying around and unlicensed weapon, there wouldn't be anybody left to…

Hey, there's an idea! Locking up everybody we run across toting heat without a permit will end that darn insurgency and civil war faster than you can say "Hakim Robinson." Scoff if you like, but that's as good an idea as anyone else has come up with, and has just as good a chance of working.

Nothing's Their Fault

Or maybe the Americans let the Iranian delegation go because it occurred to them that their bodyguards' weapons might be traced back to being from the almost 200,000 rifles and pistols that disappeared after the U.S. distributed them to Iraqi security forces. That would be embarrassing because most of those weapons vanished in 2004 and 2005 when golden boy David Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi troops.

The administration and the Pentagon don't want any more attention called to that end zone fumble, especially now when we're hearing that the missing weapons are part of a multi-federal agency investigation of fraud and corruption related to the Iraq conflict. One whistle blower who worked for Shield Group Security, an Iraqi-owned company, told the FBI tales of guns, land mines and rocket launchers being sold for cash to insurgents, American soldiers, State Department personnel and Iraqi government employees alike. The informant described Baghdad as "a Wal-Mart for guns" and added, “It was all illegal and everyone knew it.”

That's the sort of news that might make Mr. Bush's claims that Iran is arming Iraq's insurgency sound pretty silly, if it got out where everybody could hear about it.

Journalists like Seymour Hersh and Larisa Alexandrovna have been telling us for some time about the Bush administration's long-term initiative-- largely driven by Dick Cheney--to attack Iran. When un-provable claims of Iran's ambitions to develop nuclear weapons proved insufficient to get America all Pavlovian about bombing Tehran, the administration turned to accusing Iran of providing arms to Iraqi militants for attacks on U.S. troops. Despite White House and Pentagon rhetoric to the contrary, those claims have also remained unproven. As Alexandrovna noted recently regarding improvised explosive devices (IEDs) said to have come from Iran, "Intelligence and military officials caution…that there is nothing tying the weapons directly to the Iranian government, nor is there a direct evidentiary chain of custody linking the IEDs to Iran."

One former CIA case officer told Alexandrovna that framing the Iranians for its own failures in Iraq would allow the Bush administration to avoid accountability. The Bush Administration “can say it’s [the Iranians'] fault we are losing the war in Iraq and that would be a convenient out for their failed policy,” the officer said.

It's been a little difficult to date for all but the most ardent conspiracy theorists to believe that Mr. Bush would attack Iran as a means of distracting attention from his historic blunders in Iraq. And yet, Wednesday night on MSNBC's Hard Ball program, bedrock conservative Pat Buchanan said of Mr. Bush's American Legion speech that he is "laying down the predicate for an attack on Iran."

Yep. Lil' Bush just might be that petulant.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.


  1. William Bollinger12:30 PM

    Juan Cole has more stuff on this at his blog.

    Too many sources seem to confirm something happening soon. Fill up what you can. It may be the last gas you get for a while.

    BTW, what do you think of the Jordan/Abu Ghraib trial? I missed the part in UCMJ about "Failure to cover-up".

  2. WB,

    Thanks for the link to the Juan Cole piece. As for Jordan's verdict, nailing him for talking about it was pretty bogus.

  3. Since the folks in power like using the Vietnam analogy, I guess we should have bombed the Soviets and Chinese during that conflict too. After all the Soviets and Chinese provided all kind of arms to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

  4. "Yep. Lil' Bush just might be that petulant."
    Might be?? You are a lot nicer than I am...

  5. Oh, and by the way:
    U.N. Inspectors Find Chemicals During Archiving Project.

    Purely coincidental timing. No doubt.

  6. Pro-Bush blogger "Grim" at Blackfive claims: Tehran must be "dealt with", after which, Baghdad will magically "resolve itself".
    (Just as Baghdad would magically resolve itself after the capture of Saddam, after the death of Zarqawi, etc., etc. ... there's always yet another magic spell to try.)
    "[...] The EFPs, the murders of Shi’ite holy men who are not aligned with Iran, these are not the mark of an ungovernable local situation. They are the mark of intentional troublemaking — proxy warfighting — by Iran against the United States."

    "[...] What we are seeing here is not a national liberation movement by Shi’ites against Americans come to be viewed as occupiers."

    "[...] A national liberation movement directed against us would be a cause for despair indeed; less so the situation as it is."

    "We can debate separately how we deal with Iran, but when we have dealt with them, a large part of this issue will resolve itself."

    "[...] Iran must be dealt with, one way or the other. [...] That may require changes in the ROE [...]"

    - - Blackfive

  7. Ben,

    I guess I don't need to say much about what I think of Grim or Blackfive in general. ;-)

  8. ozebloke2:20 AM

    What I loved about this story is that Iraq has to ask the Iranians to help put on the electric power that our 'coalition of the willing's been unable to manage in 4+ years of occupation.

    Way to go winning those hearts and minds!

  9. If we attack Iran, gas will be $12/gallon.

    And you never know -- it could happen soon:

    Test Marketing

    Iraq with an N? Anatomy of a Rumor That Has to be Taken Seriously

  10. David4:54 PM


    Thanks for your commentary. If we attack Iran we will only solidify the political position of President Ahmadinejad, antagonize even moderate Islamic states, and have tremendous potential for blowback.

    The doctrine of "preemptive war" will only weaken our standing in the world, and make us more vulnerable. How can we, as citizens, oppose such an unwise policy?

  11. Anonymous2:23 PM

    As an officer, how does it feel to see Bush pointing your ships and men down the throats literally of the Iranian SunBurn missile systems whilst claiming Iran has very little modern ordnance?

    Is this going to be the "Gulf of Tomkin" event do you think?

    The sinking of the CVH Enterprise which is due for decommission (insured, save the cost of decomissioning and a free war starter in the bargain), much in the same way as WWII's Ark Royal was allowed to flounder to unite British sympathies?

    But surely you in the US must have had an idea of what was going to happen, here is a man, the President whose father was linked to horrendous atrocities in Asia, his father and grandfather in turn linked to the Nazi's (even though the former apparently repented and worked for veterans in America), the latter being part of the cabal that financed Hitler into power BUT was also part of the same group who tried to bring about a coup in the US to place it under a fascist dictatorship (1933).

    Surely you must have realised that these people were dangerous?

    Possibly the only thing that could save your nation right now is either a massive U-turn, impeachemnt, possibly a military mutiny or failing that, civil war following an economic collapse...

    As a Commander, do YOU think your people would be happy to fire on their own countrymen? If you were in service right now, would YOU order your men into action against the people of America?

    And as a Commander of the services, how do YOU feel to hear of your veterans sleeping rough, dying from cold and hunger, locked up through excructiating trauma illness whilst Israel and Egypt get yet another handout of billions, billions that could feed and home those veterans?

    Sir, your country is in far, far worse condition maybe than even you think.

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