Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bush's Persian Ploy

I made the sound of one jaw dropping Monday when National Security Adviser Steven Hadley said that the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran "suggests that the President has the right strategy."

On Tuesday, Mr. Bush himself further confounded me when he said the NIE indicated the need to further intensify the harsh sanctions against Iran and, apparently, nixed any notion that his administration would accept any new diplomatic initiative from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I nearly became hysterical later on Tuesday when neoconservative fabulist Frank Gaffney said in the National Review that the NIE's reasons for assessing that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program were "highly subjective and debatable," even though those reasons were highly classified and there's no conceivable way he could know what they were. Wednesday evening I experienced something akin to rapture when Gaffney repeated his spiel on Chris Matthews' Hardball and demonstrated once again to the entire known universe that he wouldn't know reality if it crawled up his pant leg and died there.

Madmen, Neocons and the Washington Post

In all, the neocons' reaction to the NIE shows that at this point in their tea party, they've all gone hare and hatter bat plop crazy. The main myth they're trying to spin is straight out of an H.G. Wells novel. The intelligence estimate judges with "high confidence" that "in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." How does Hadley expect us to believe that Bush's Iran policy had anything to do with that? John Bolton and his team of leg breakers didn't bully the U.N. Security Council into ordering Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activity until 2006. However you want to parse what Hadley and others are saying about Bush's "right strategy," they're trying to plant the idea into the minds of Joe Six Pack and Melissa Merlot alike that Bush's tough guy stance was the thing that made Iran give up its nuclear bomb program, and there's no way that happened unless the smart boys at the American Enterprise Institute invented a time machine we don't know about.

Bush is trying to hang much of the justification for continuing his present Iran policy on Ahmadinejad. To hear Bush tell it, he was all roses and lipstick with Iran until Ahmadinejad came into power, and that's when he had to turn into a big meanie. It's more accurate to say Bush didn't pay much attention to Iran until Ahmadinejad came along and started hurling schoolyard insults at him, which Ahmadinejad knew full well that Bush would react to like a kindergartner. Bush is trying to fabricate an impossible link between Ahmadinejad and nuclear weapons even though the most pre-sapien members of his following can plainly see there isn't one.

And Frank, Gaffney… My word! I've come to expect pretzel logic from him, but lately he's sounding as batty as I've heard him since the first time he compared somebody he didn't like with Hitler. He's no longer content to compare apples and oranges; now he's equating oranges with elephants. In his latest article for National Review titled "Where’s Our Churchill?," he describes Iran as "a regime animated by apocalyptic visions every bit as dark as Mein Kampf," and echoes the standard neocon wheeze that frames direct diplomatic talks with Iran as the present day analog of Neville Chamberlain's "appeasement" of Nazi Germany in 1938.

Gaffney and his fellow ficticioners don't bother to mention that in 1938, Nazi Germany had the world's most highly trained and technically advanced military and nobody was ready to stand up to it. The gross domestic product and defense budget of 21st century Iran, by contrast, are less than five percent those of the United States. And unlike 19th and 20th century Germany, modern Iran has never initiated an armed conflict.

When you're more than twenty times stronger than a country that has never started a war, talking to it hardly constitutes "appeasement."

In March 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that America "faces no greater challenge from a single country" than Iran. If that's the case, we can quit spending more than a half trillion dollars a year on our military because we don't need one.

It's not a surprise, or even a disappointment, that the administration continues to pluck its Iran narrative from a bull. But I'm devastated that the editorial staff of the erstwhile fourth estate bastion Washington Post is so willing to help the Bush crowd erase history before it's even written. Their Wednesday column, "Intelligence on Iran," backs the Bush company line by recommending that it's an "odd time to recommend" that the administration drop the "precondition that the [Iranian] regime suspend uranium enrichment" prior to beginning "a broad dialogue."

This completely ignores the clause in the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty--which both the United States and Iran have ratified--that says "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

Our intelligence agencies just told us Iran isn't developing nuclear energy for weapons purposes, and we're signatories on the treaty that guarantees Iran's right to do what it's doing. The WaPo editorial staff dances around this circumstance by trotting out the lamest bullet in the neocons' Iran bashing arsenal: "Iran's massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions [which, keep in mind, are in defiance of the U.N.'s own Non-Proliferation Treaty], even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium."

A first semester political science major at the most obscure community college in America can figure out that the less of its own oil an emerging nation burns, the more it can sell to finance its infrastructure and economic growth. Before said poli-sci major starts her sophomore year, she can piece together the strategic wisdom that says if you're the first Middle East oil nation to establish a functioning nuclear energy industry, you'll become a regional superpower.

And by the time she's picked up a full scholarship to finish her baccalaureate studies at Stanford, she'll realize that the Iran crisis has always been about nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, because if Iran and its senior partners China and Russia can control when and how the world transitions from fossil fuel to the power of the sun, Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will have to suck hind spigot on the global energy cash cow.

If our small town poli-sci major can figure that out, the editorial staff of the mighty Washington Post should damn well be able to figure it out too.

It sickens my heart to reflect that in my youth, the Washington Post single-handedly rescued the United States Constitution from obliteration at the hands of Richard Milhouse Nixon.

What has become of us?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.


  1. seydlitz896:13 AM

    Very nice thread Jeff.

    "What has become of us?"

    Imo, our poliitical and economic elites lost faith in democracy somewhere along the line. The state became a milkcow for highly connected political investors and engages in wars which promote the interests of those same investors. War itself becomes a means of economic opportunity, not political purpose.

    Thus it is in their interests to continue to expand areas of conflict, not resolve them. To sow chaos not order, since it makes the looting (both of local mineral resources and of the US treasury) so much easier.

    All the while played to the tune of the "End Times" fandango. . .

  2. RE the elites: I don't think there's a Jeffersonian left in the bunch, Sey.


  3. wkmaier11:07 AM

    Well done Jeff, and amen brother.

    My guess is that, like me, your head explodes on a daily basis?

  4. Excellent.
    I've been mumbling all week how much I miss evolution.
    Do you suppose people will someday realize that these bat shit crazy people and their inbred ilk are using the same logic/level of lies on our economy.
    I don't generally agree with Pat Buchanan but he did make a good point that all the neocons loud rhetoric about Iran has had a severe impact on the global economy and for what? Breakfast cereal for the hubris?

  5. William Bollinger12:38 PM

    Something else I've noticed is neo-con mouthpieces pointing out that our intelligence agencies presented bad intelligence through cherry-picking and manipulating data to match pre-concieved ideological findings.

    Why should we believe them now?

    The fact that it was the neo-cons themselves who were cherry-picking and manipulating the data to match their pre-concieved ideological findings isn't somthing they somehow failed to mention though.

    Anything to discredit information they don't control...

  6. Thanks for stopping by and commenting everybody.

    WM, I think I've learned how not to let my head explode everyday, but it still happens once a week or so.

    Main and WB:

    I think I've said this before: under Bush, our intelligence has become the perfect political tool; takes the blame when things go wrong but is "darn good" enough to let us do things we couldn't justify without the right kind of intelligence.


  7. Anonymous1:36 PM

    You ask "What has become of us?"

    My working theory is democracies are far more prone to fall victim to demagogues and others blinded by ambition. This isn't to say that monarchies, aristocracies etc. don't have problems; they do, but they're different. In monarchies, everyone is supposed to know their place, which makes it harder for talented commoners and brazen megalomaniacs to attain power; it also makes it much harder to "vote the bums out of office." The Founders were well aware of the dangers Republics face, and put just about every safeguard against them that they could conceive of into the Constitution, from the Bill of Rights (Freedom of Speech, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Habeas Corpus, protection from intrusive searches), separate branches of government with checks and balances between them, an abhorrence of centralized government, to restricting suffrage to literate, property-owning men. The Founders clearly wanted to err across the board on the side of endowing their successors with a durable and stable republic rather than on the side of the Utopian goal of avoiding all potential inequalities. Restricting suffrage to the propertied, for example, was one of the best ways of ensuring that the ballot was largely restricted to citizens with good judgment, as there's a strong correlation between wealth and good judgment.

    It seems to me that there's been a trend at virtually every juncture in past decades to water down, if not extirpate, the safeguards against abusive government that our Founders left us. Power has been concentrated in Washington, the illiterate, the indigent, and even the insane, are urged to vote, the right to keep and bear arms - the last roadblock on the way to tyranny - is being eroded, the laws against random searches as well, and more. I sympathize with the less fortunate and less educated, but much as there are good reasons why drunks should not drive, there are good reasons why those manifestly unable to understand the issues at hand should not vote on them.

    When the United States became the world's superpower in 1917, things went quite well as long as the United States faced a powerful competitor that was immeasurably more inequitable. As long as Americans worried about their children having to speak German or Russian, there was a tacit agreement not to abuse the system's weaknesses. Since the United States became the hyperpower, it has pretty much done as it pleased. Many of the safeguards that the Founders insisted on, not because they were "mean" men who wished other Americans ill, but rather because they were shrewed men with a good understanding of human nature, are no longer here to protect us, and we have no potent enemy to dread.

    - We now have functional illiterates vote for candidates in the hope that their candidates will provoke a nuclear war and the realization of the Book of Revelation, a Secretary of State who can beguile the voters with visions of "mushroom clouds" and worse.
    - We have a "unitary executive" that more or less ignores an essentially emasculated Congress,
    - the First, Second and other Amendments are being watered down in the name of security,
    - power has been concentrated in DC to such an extent that Capitol Hill must endure the attentions of a brigade's worth of lobbyists, who do not answer to the people but rather special interests. When levees break, leaving a major metropolitan area under water, no high-ranking heads roll.

    There are other developments that would probably caused the Founders to have strokes; my point is that I believe Americans should take the time to read their Constitution, and ponder why their Founding Fathers set so many restrictions on how their country was to be governed, ask themselves if it was prudent to deviate from their decisions, and readopt their traditions as prudent. The other alternative would seem be to see the American Republic suffer the fate that the Founding Fathers so abhorred; that it go the way of the Roman Republic. As the right to vote was cheapened, power concentrated, and foreign wars became everyday occurrences, the once august Senate of Rome was forced to accept an ass as Consul, a four-legged one, mind you; eventually the Goths were before the gates.

  8. Anon,

    Thanks for thoughtful contribution to the conversation. As you say, Americans should read the constitution and think a bit about why the framers wrote it the way they did.

  9. Anonymous3:06 PM

    There is a bill working it's way through the Senate Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Joseph Lieberman, which was offered in the House by Jane Harmon. It passed in the house with only 6 nay votes.

    Supposedly it will address the possibility of "domestic terrorism."

    The Baltimore Sun had another take on it. They called it the "Thought Police Bill."

    A lot of people who have commented on it say it's "benign."

    I think with the overwhelming bi-partisan support it has already received, it has less to do with "terrorism" than dissent.

    People are looking at the two major political parties in this country -- as identical twins.

    Many groups, such as veterans, peace activists, progressives, feel strongly that, not another, but a choice is needed. They are funding and promoting candidates in opposition to the incumbents, of both political parties, whom they feel do not represent them, and a "throw the bums out" mentality is slowly creeping across the country.

    If Ms. Harman's legislation passes in the Senate, it will be harder and harder to do. The bums want to stay where they are.

    The oath that they took to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic" means nothing to most of them. If it did, impeachment would never have been taken "off the table."

    Your commentary keeps me sane.
    Thank you.

  10. Thanks for the nice words, Anon, and for the update on the Harmon bill.

  11. Bonnie3:46 PM

    "It sickens my heart to reflect that in my youth, the Washington Post single-handedly rescued the United States Constitution from obliteration at the hands of Richard Milhouse Nixon."

    I am with you on this. Who da thunk that we would live to see a President who made Nixon look like a choirboy. I canceled my subscription in July 2004. The only name I use to refer to the paper I used to revere is Pravda on the Potomac. It is so sad to see these things.

  12. Competence. I'm no fan of President Nixon, but at least he was largely competent (it's the paranoid and vengeful aspects of Nixon that destroyed him). Reflecting on why Nixon was competent, one only needs to look at the persons in his inner circle that he listened to on foreign policy (and contra those he listened to on domestic politics).

    It is truly tramatic and head splitting that it is impossible for me to think of anyone in the "W"'s inner circle that is either: A) universally respected; or B) someone who should be trusted with the levers of state.

    One thing that every candidate for president should be asked is who he/she would appoint and whose advise would they rely on. This shouldn't be rocket science--sometimes the very worst attribute of an advisor is inability to have a contrary opinion; and sometimes an even worse attribute of an advisor is giving advise that is totatly disjoint with reality.

    Both ills exist in epidemic proportions in this administration.

  13. I don't know, John. Those Watergate guys got mighty buffoonish toward the end. ;-)


  14. "Those Watergate guys" were executing the instructions of Nixon's domestic policy advisors. Agnew, Mitchell, Haldemann, Erlichman, et al. They were perversely paranoid (and also not good judges of criminal talent). Watergate is truly tragic because it was totally unnecessary--a pure negative that could only destroy Nixon--and none of these "bright" bulbs had a clue.

  15. Your extensive experience and abilities give me hope. I am a social liberal believing in fiscal conservatism. The grossly misguided group in the WH and elsewhere in corporatedom is destroying the values of the Constitution ~ what is the appropriate and effective way to deal with people who inspire new terminology beyond mere traitor? I used to be against the death penalty, as an idealistic young liberal. For all of Nixon's faults, he was not in the league of the Ultra Republican operatives in power ~ Lord help this nation if the popular phrase "what goes around comes around." It's going to take a lot more than prayer to unpave the Superhighway to hell we're building

  16. JPL,

    I too fear the pay back bill the Bush administration has run up.


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