Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Iran: More Persian Fire Drill

Also at DKos.

The flip flop on Iran continues.

Over the weekend, Vice President Dick Cheney made boo noise about the possibility of military strikes on Iran by saying that "all options are still on the table."

But on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace declared "categorically" before the U.S. Senate that the U.S. is not planning air strikes in Iran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has repeatedly said much the same thing.

And yet, as Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story have been telling us for quite some time, Pentagon plans for an Iran strike are well into their advanced stages, and continue to be reevaluated and updated.

Certain outlets in the international press, quite plausibly influenced by propaganda cells within the Bush administration, continue to run headlines like "American Armada Prepares To Take On Iran."

So who's zooming whom here?

Iran Contra-diction

Despite the Bush administration's long-standing claims that Iran seeks the capability to develop nuclear weapons, it has failed to produce one stick of credible evidence to prove it. And the only "senior official" making claims that Iran is providing weapons to Iraqi militant groups who's willing to be identified in the press is some Army major who is a "weapons expert." Please note that being a weapons expert is not step on the fast track to becoming a U.S. Army general. But playing ball with the neocon agenda, well hell; that can land you a pretty cushy retirement job at a place like the American Enterprise Institute.

It's relatively clear that the rift between Dick Cheney's hapless hooligans and the competent professionals in the administration is about to come to an OK Corral-class showdown.

There's some indication that General Pace, the U.S. military's top officer, has undergone a second puberty. He slapped down claims by "senior defense officials" in Baghdad that the Iranian government was behind arming Shiite militants in Iraq. Some observers have suggested that Pace might be one of the generals who would resign if Mr. Bush launches an attack on Iran, but at present that's all "inside baseball" speculation.

Nonetheless, as I've said before, if Mr. Bush really wants to go big on Iran, Congress and the courts won't be able to stop him because they can't move as fast as the executive department can, especially when, as Sy Hersh warns, elements within the Pentagon (which I guess to be an Air Force planning cell) are putting together an Iran air strike package that can be popped off within 24 hours of Bush's say so.

So it just might be that the only thing staying Mr. Bush's hand is the possibility that if he decides to get froggy with Iran, his top military officer will pull a Pontius Pilate on him.

And it's a profoundly sad commentary on the state of our cherished constitutional process that the only person who can exercise checks on the powers of our commander in chief may turn out to be our top general.

Condi Candy

The New York Times tells us that the diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Iran and Syria may be at an end. Here's the good news:
American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.

Here's the bad news:
The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.

Throwing Dubya's office wife Condi at negotiations with Iran and Syrian is the equivalent of putting a pedophile priest in charge of Boys' Town. If young Mr. Bush is the Alfred E. Neuman of U.S. presidencies (and he is), Condi Rice is the Britney Spears of American diplomacy.

Ms. Rice hasn't announced any plans to hold separate one-on-one talks with her Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki--which is probably good news. I'd hate to see what little good this "diplomatic" effort might produce get side railed by direct participation on Condi's part.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More Fuzzy Evidence On Iran

Also at DKos.

The military is trying to recover from the embarrassment of the secret briefing two weeks ago in which unnamed senior military officials in Baghdad tried to "prove" Iran was providing weapons to militant Shiite groups in Iraq. From Monday's New York Times:
A raid on a Shiite weapons cache in the southern city of Hilla one week ago is providing what American officials call the best evidence yet that the deadliest roadside bombs in Iraq are manufactured in Iran, but critics contend that the forensic case remains circumstantial and inferential.

"Circumstantial and inferential" indeed. It sounds to me like the spinsters are still trying to blow bull feathers up our collective skirt.

The "new evidence," according to the Times, "includes infrared sensors, electronic triggering devices and information about plastic explosives used in bombs that the Americans say lead back to Iran." But it's closer to the truth to say that these sensors, devices and explosives could have come from anywhere. As the Times notes…
The most specialized part of the E.F.P.s [explosively formed projectiles] that were found is the concave copper disc, called a liner, that rolls into a deadly armor-piercing ball when the device explodes. Although American explosives experts say that the liner is deceptively difficult to make properly, the discs in Hilla look like a thick little alms plate or even a souvenir ashtray minus the indentations for holding cigarettes.

The electronics package is built around everyday items like the motion sensors used in garage-door openers and outdoor security systems; in fact, at the heart of some of the bombs found in Iraq is a type of infrared sensor commonly sold at electronic stores like Radio Shack.

Ashtray hardware and Radio Shack electronics. Yeah. This stuff had to come from Iran, all right.

In apparent reaction to the skepticism expressed by darn near everyone about the fact that the original "proof" of Iran's involvement with supplying weapons to Iraqi militants was presented by anonymous sources, the military has now allowed the press to publish a real name--Major Marty Weber, an "explosives expert." I’m halfway surprised Major Weber agreed to go along with being set up as the fall guy in this. It's the sort of thing Private Pyle would have enough sense to walk away from.

According to the Times the military promises that there's more "proof" to come "about materials found in a raid in Diyala Province, the mixed Sunni-Shiite battleground north of Baghdad, that, according to one military official, included enough components to make more than 100 E.F.P.s. The official asked not to be identified because the matter is so sensitive."

If the matter is so damn sensitive, why is yet another "unidentified official" talking about it at all? What, they couldn't find a Gomer dumb enough to attach his name to the to the latest wild assertion?

Higher and Deeper

As the Los Angeles Times reported a few days ago, four years and change of U.S. attempts to back up its claims of Iran's intention to produce a nuclear weapon have run into a dead end.
Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

Hence the administration's shift from mushroom cloud rhetoric to accusations that Iran is providing Iraqi militants with weapons to use against U.S. troops. If such a connection could be made convincingly, it could be used as a justification for war under provisions of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Proof that Iran's government is directly involved in attacks of U.S. armed forces in Iraq could give Mr. Bush all the ammunition he needs to seek war authorization from Congress--if, that is, he bothers to consult Congress. The Resolution also states:
The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.

If Mr. Bush had evidence--compelling, manufactured or otherwise--that the Quds force had participated in an attack on U.S. troops, would he then claim that he had no time to confer with Congress before ordering a counterattack?

Given this administration's track record for playing fast and loose with the law, he just might.

What if there's an incident at sea between U.S. and Iranian naval forces? Would Bush bother with Congress before he struck back?

And along comes the March 5 issue of Newsweek with a tale of concerns that Iran may have already targeted New York City for a series of terror attacks. What timely news. These attacks would supposedly be aimed at bridges, tunnels, Jewish organizations and Wall Street. That would constitute an "attack upon the United States" wouldn't it?

Where did Newsweek get this information? From "a person with access to the briefing materials who asked for anonymity because of the sensitive subject matter."

From "a person." Not from a "senior official" or even an "official person."

How much longer will the mainstream media allow the government to plant propaganda via anonymous sources?

Joltin' Joe Cola

Tuesday morning at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Joe Lieberman tried to bully witnesses into agreeing with him that the Quds' involvement in Iran had to be sanctioned by Iran's Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei because, well, it just had to be.

Lieberman has turned into a one man Katrina.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Will Generals Stop Iran War?

I've been saying for some time that the only way the Pentagon might block a strike on Iran would be through key four-star officers resigning in protest. Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter of the Sunday Times reported this week that something like that might be afoot.
Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources…

…“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

As you might expect, Smith and Baxter don't mention any names--either of their sources or of what generals or admirals might be involved. "Four or five generals and admirals" could be the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff or it could be a handful of one and two-stars who whose careers are at a dead end anyway. It's very unlikely that Admiral William Fallon or General David Petraeus would resign over a strike on Iran having just taken over the top two slots in Central Command.

From the sound of things, a majority of the top Pentagon brass thinks a strike on Iran would be a disastrous failure, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seems to agree with that view. Mr. Bush's chief ally overseas, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is on record as saying it would not "be right to take military action against Iran."

Yet, not surprisingly, Vice President Dick Cheney insists that the military option remains on the table. If this were coming from anyone but Cheney, I'd be willing to accept it as mere gamesmanship. But Cheney and his neo-confederates have been pushing for war with Iran for a long time.


Seymour Hersh appeared on CNN's Late Edition Sunday afternoon and talked about his upcoming story in the March 4 issue of The New Yorker. In "The Redirection" Hersh describes, among other things, how a planning cell in the Pentagon continues to rework the Iran target set.
…the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

This week, Senate Democrats will attempt to pass legislation that puts an expiration date on the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. How they'll get that past a Republican filibuster is anybody's guess.

If Congress really wants to keep Mr. Bush from moving against Iran without legislative approval, however, the bill they really need to revise is the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The Resolution, in effect, allows a president to commit troops to combat for up to 60 days before he needs to come to Congress for a declaration of war or "specific statutory authorization." If Mr. Bush can order an air operation against Iran on a 24-hour notice, he can blow up a significant portion of the country in 60 days.

The tricky part for Bush is finding a good enough excuse to pull a stunt of this magnitude.

From the Los Angeles Times we learn that the U.N. deems U.S. intelligence on Iran's nuclear intentions to be unreliable.
VIENNA — Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

The clumsy attempt two weeks ago by unnamed senior defense officials to "prove" Iran is supplying weapons to militant groups in Iraq virtually blew up in their faces. So Mr. Bush's best hope for a justification to bomb Iran is an incident at sea between U.S. and Iranian naval forces.

As the U.S. increases the number of ships deployed to the region, the greater the odds become of such an incident occurring. We can take some comfort in the fact that American and Iranian naval ships have operated in the vicinity of each other in the Gulf and the North Arabian Sea for decades and have learned to avoid "mistakes" that could lead to unintentional weapons exchanges. Nonetheless, the present situation between the two countries is more tense that it has been since the Tanker War in the 80s.

If a U.S. ship is attacked--or perceived to have been attacked--by an Iranian vessel, or hits a mine, would American generals and admirals follow through on the threat to resign rather than participate in a strike on Iran?

If they do, the times we live in will become interesting indeed.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

UK Telegraph Telegraphing U.S. Propaganda?

Also at DKos.

With objective reporting like this, who needs Fox News? The UK Telegraph appears to be a willing participant in the Bush administration's propaganda campaign targeting Iran. A recent Telegraph article, written by Damien McElroy, seems specifically crafted to send a message to somebody.
American Armada Prepares To Take On Iran

It is four and a half acres of US power in the middle of the Arabian Sea but the influence of USS Dwight D Eisenhower stretches hundreds of miles.

The aircraft carrier, backed by its sister vessel, a handful of destroyers and a shoal of support ships, has placed a ring of steel around an increasingly unstable region.

While the Eisenhower is ostensibly assisting US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is increasingly occupied by the looming threat of Iran.

Recent tensions between the US and Iran over Teheran's meddling in Iraq and attempts to build a nuclear bomb have raised the prospect of its third regional war in a decade.

Jehova! Could you bang the war drum any louder, Telegraph? Armada vs. Iran. Ring of steel. Looming threat. Meddling in Iraq and attempts to build a nuclear bomb.

We have, of course, seen no tangible evidence of Iran providing Iraqi militants with weapons or of any attempt by Iran to turn its fledgling nuclear energy industry into a weapon-building program. But that makes no never mind to the Rovewellian random noise generator. All they have to do is bounce the message off of as many walls as possible. If they can keep people scared enough, no one will ask for proof that supports their claims.

Reporter McElroy is embedded onboard the Eisenhower. I have up close and personal experience with this kind of wartime information operation. You get members of the international press onboard an aircraft carrier, get them all gee whiz and golly with a prescription dose of carrier operations (a powerful narcotic, believe me), and then feed them your message.

In the article, The Eisenhower's commander, Captain Dan Cloyd, likened the showdown with Iran to the Cold War. "There was a time when we had two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean," he told McElroy. "The world changes and we adapt."

The cognizant among us can see the flaws in the analogy of Iran with the old Soviet Union. The problem is that the target audience of this kind of disingenuous persuasion isn't cognizant.

Captain Cloyd also told McElroy that, "Our maritime security mission is about denying the use of the seas to any potential spread of weapons of mass destruction."

This is yet another attempt to make visions of mushroom clouds dance in our heads. Weapons of mass destruction are being transported back and forth across the Persian Gulf? No.

McElroy describes Captain Cloyd as "quietly spoken." I'd like to think that's because the good captain knows he's being used to feed horse feathers into the bullhorn, and doesn't want the phony-baloney message transmitted any more loudly than necessary.

Planting the Demon Seed

The Pentagon's Information Operations directorate has become a loose cannon skittering across the gun decks. It's 2003 document Information Operations Roadmap, approved by Donald Rumsfeld, states that:
…information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa

But it also argues…
…the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than information dissemination practices.

What sublime bollocks. "I wasn't lying to the whole class, I was just lying to that foreign exchange kid, and the rest of the class just happened to hear me because I said it in front of the whole class."

I've said it before, I'll say it again: we continue to tolerate behavior from our administration that we wouldn't tolerate from our children.

And speaking of children: you may not be surprised to learn that I ran across the link to the Telegraph article on the front page of Free Republic.

Geepers, Freepers. How'd you get so creepers?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cheney: Just How Thick Is This Dick?

General Tommy Franks, head of Central Command during the "combat phase" of Operation Iraqi Freedom, thought Doug Feith was the dumbest (expletive deleted) guy on the planet. Feith may be a dolt, but he has nothing in the effing dumb department on his political mentor Dick Cheney. Old "Last Throes" was in classic form this week in Guam, where he met with U.S. troops and local officials.

Here are some excerpts from the Associated Press coverage of his visit.
US Vice-President Dick Cheney says the American people will not back a policy of retreat in Iraq, a day after Britain announced a large-scale troop pullout.

Never mind Cheney's use of the distracting but emotionally charged term "retreat." Given his standing in the polls and the results of our November election, what in the name of science and sanity makes him think he can speak for the "American people?"
In Guam he met with American troops and local officials who support a buildup of forces on the isolated island. His brief stopover attracted 2,000 troops and residents to hear his speech.

If you've ever been to Guam, you know there's not a heck of a lot to do there. That all a speech by the vice president of the United States could draw was 2,000 people--mostly Navy and Air Force personnel who had no choice other than to attend--tells you that Cheney is as popular in Guam as he is everywhere else.

But here's where Cheney really flashed his Bozo badge (from the official White House Transcript):
By positioning forces on Guam, the United States can move quickly and effectively to protect our friends, to defend our interests, to bring relief in times of emergency, and to keep the sea lanes open to commerce and closed to terrorists.

Keep the sea lanes closed to terrorists? For God's sake, Cheney, the "terrorists" don't have a navy and they never will. Do you actually believe they'll ever be able to control sea lanes in the Northern Pacific Ocean? Or do you just think the rest of us are dumb enough to believe that on your say so?

Dumb Like a Fox

By now, nearly everyone knows how Dick Cheney has funneled untold billions of war profits to his pals at Halliburton and its subsidiary, KBR. Not so well known is KBR's history for securing naval support contracts. If America starts a mother loving naval war with Iran, hey boy--who is going to profit from that?

Dick Cheney isn't just one of the worst things that ever happened to America. He's one of the worst things that happened to humanity. This man, one of history's greatest warmongers and war profiteers, is the same guy who had ten years worth of "other priorities" when it was time to fight the war of his generation. And to think: many veterans who fought in the Vietnam War that Cheney opted out of still support Cheney's militaristic worldview.

One hears that in social situations, Cheney is a charming guy. I'm sure that's true, but here's some advice. If you ever find yourself in an intimate setting with him, and he offers you an apple, don't take it.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Iran and the Energizer War Bunnies

Also at DKos.

Launching an air and naval war against Iran to compensate for failures in Iraq and Afghanistan would be like setting the barn on fire to keep the horses from freezing to death: counterintuitive, counterproductive and downright insane. Unfortunately for us, counterproductive insanity is standard operating procedure for our commander in chief and his key advisers.

The Energizer War Bunnies--Still Going

Like the Energizer Bunny, Dick Cheney and his neocon cabal never stop banging their war drum. They keep going, and going, and going, and going…

As Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane of Raw Story have noted, "The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran." A group within the Department of Defense known as the Iranian Directorate is doing the same kind of intelligence scrubbing that the Office of Special Plans did during the run up to the Iraq invasion.

Two Sundays ago, a trio of "unnamed senior defense officials" at a secret briefing in Baghdad produced "proof" that the Quds force was supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq at the order of "the highest levels" of the Iranian government. Well, things got all unraveled when people started asking why this information was coming from "unnamed" sources, and why these sources gave no evidence to support the assertions about "the highest levels" statement.

Now, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek tell us that the unnamed briefer was "straying from the script." But who told Isikoff and Hosenball that? "Several Washington intelligence officials involved in monitoring fallout from the presentation."

In other words, unnamed administration spin-doctors.

An unnamed Defense official in Washington who is "familiar" with intelligence reporting and analysis told Isikoff and Hosenball that "The Quds Force is like a special unit that reports to the leadership. They take direction from the leadership." But, said the Defense official, "Who gives the order, we don't know."

Yet another unnamed official who "has monitored relevant intelligence reporting" (what in the wide world of sports is that supposed to mean?) that said that evidence of top Iranian officials sanctioning Quds Force activity in Iraq is at best "circumstantial."

Isikoff and Hosenball don't get around to actually naming a single one of their sources until the last several paragraphs of the article, and those sources made their comments publicly.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace told journalists traveling with him in Asia that even though bombmaking materials found in Iraq appear to have come from Iran, "That does not translate that the Iranian government, per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this."

Appear to have come from Iran, General? What's your definition of "appear?"
Adm. William Fallon, the new top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, told CNN: "I have no idea who may be actually hands-on in this stuff, but I do know that this is not helpful to the situation in Iraq."

If the top commander in the Middle East has no idea who's "hands on" in this stuff, why is anybody claiming that they have clue one where the stuff is coming from?

And why did our commander in chief say this at his press conference last Wednesday?
What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did.

Shades of Donald Rumsfeld: known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns.

Mr. Bush has done his old Secretary of Defense one better. He's talking about "unknown knowns." We can't know if the Quds are involved in Iraq at all. And those PowerPoint pictures of weapons supposedly supplied by the Quds that you've seen on television and the web (like the mortar rounds marked in English)--hell, they could have come from anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to find out they were lifted from a U.S. Army Field Manual.

Gunship Diplomats

We really don't have anything on the Iranians that would justify a preemptive strike against them. That could change in a heartbeat if an incident occurs in the Persian Gulf between U.S. and Iranian naval forces.

Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf, recently stated that Iran may pose a greater threat to Persian Gulf security that al-Qaeda. Well, that makes sense, seeing how Iran has a navy and al-Qaeda doesn't.

But Walsh's rhetoric is in line with the Bush administration's propaganda strategy that seeks to make Iran the cause of all things wrong in the Middle East. The U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf is, supposedly, a response to Iranian naval activity. "When you look at the recent Iranian exercises, in the last nine months, you see the open display and the implication of the use of mines," Walsh says. "You also see and hear concerns and threats about the closure of the Strait of Hormuz."

This is scary sounding, but it's not news. Mining shipping lanes and closing the Strait have been the crux of Iranian naval operations for decades.

Walsh acknowledges that many of our Arab allies are concerned about the U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf.
Having lived in the region since 2005, I can understand the concerns and the skepticism of those who live here. I think what they want is long-term assurances. What they don't want is offensive action meant to inflict some sort of damage to Iran and then a retreat because they will live with the consequences of any actions that we take.

So if we strike Iran, look forward to a long-term commitment of enhanced U.S. naval presence in the Gulf.

There's a fine line between deterrence and provocation, especially when you're dealing with naval forces. And it's difficult to say whether we're reacting to Iran or Iran is reacting to us. Keep in mind, though, that an increased military footprint in the Gulf region was the neocons' original intent, and so far, things are still going according to the plan.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Iran: Three Stories, No Surprises but Still Scary

Also at DKos.

Here are three recent stories on Iran that I found noteworthy.

From Bloomberg and other sources we learn that Iran has ignored the UN imposed deadline to stop its uranium enrichment program. At a rally in Iran's Gilan province, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told supporters that acquiring nuclear energy is "very important for the progress and honor of the country,'' and that "If we shut down other activities for 10 years and the country only focuses on nuclear energy it will be worth it because if we obtain this energy our people will advance as much as 50 years."

This doesn't surprise me. Ahmadinejad has consistently said he will not give up Iran's efforts to develop an independent nuclear energy program, citing the UN Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty's guarantee that pursuing the technology is an "inalienable right."

The BBC "reveals" the U.S. attack plan for Iran.
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

I'd be surprised to learn differently. If you're going to strike a country like Iran, you need to hit it hard enough that it can't hit back.

Last but certainly not least, the Associated Press brings us news of recent Iranian naval maneuvers.
MANAMA, Bahrain — Iran has brought its war games maneuvers over the past year into busy shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass, the top U.S. Navy commander in the Mideast said.

The moves have alarmed U.S. officials about possible accidental confrontations that could boil over into war, and led to a recent build-up of Navy forces in the Gulf, Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh said in an interview with The Associated Press and other reporters.

Again, I’m not surprised that Iran would conduct naval exercises near shipping lanes and in the Straits of Hormuz. That's what their navy is designed to do--interdict shipping and close down the Straits. And Iran has as much right to operate in those waters as we do. But like Admiral Walsh, I'm somewhat alarmed about "possible accidental confrontation that could boil over into war."

Three or more things could trigger an all out war with Iran. One would be conclusive evidence that the country is developing nuclear weapons. I doubt we'll discover such evidence because I doubt it exists--not yet anyway.

Another trigger would be positive "proof" that Iran is directly involved with arming Shiite militias in Iraq and helping them attack U.S. troops. After the secret briefing fiasco in Baghdad two Sundays ago, it seems unlikely that credible proof will emerge.

Iran could preemptively toss a Shahab 3 ballistic missile into Baghdad, but that's just not going to happen.

But with tensions mounting and Iranian and U.S. naval forces careening around the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz, the possibility of a Tonkin Gulf or Vincennes style incident occurring is entirely too real.

A provocation or even a mere misunderstanding at sea could lead to the U.S. unloading the whole can of smack on Iran, at which point Iran would be justified in fighting back. Iran couldn't "defeat" us in an air and naval war, per se, but it would likely do enough damage to embarrass us.

And the rest of the world will look on as America once again shines its heinie in a war that didn't have to be.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Our National Embarrassment: Young Mr. Bush and the Neocons

Also at DKos.

I'm still recovering from young Mr. Bush's Presidents' Day speech at Mount Vernon.
Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are honored to be with you in this historic place, on this special anniversary. I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W. (Laughter.) I thank President Washington for welcoming us today. He doesn't look a day over 275 years old. (Laughter.)

The bad jokes at the opening were bad enough. The following allusive comparisons Mr. Bush made between himself and George Washington were, in my estimation, a national embarrassment. The more Bush referred to Washington's vision and accomplishments, the more obvious everyone could see that this president doesn’t amount to a speck of mud on that president's boot.

Comparing himself to great leaders of the past is nothing new for Mr. Bush. He and/or his echo chamberlains have likened him to Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. We hear that as of late Mr. Bush has been reading about Harry Truman. You have to wonder: is he actually reading, or is he listening to audio books while he works out?

If Mr. Bush really wants a preview of what his legacy will be, he should start reading up on U.S. Grant and Warren G. Harding. And if the Republican Party ever hopes to recover from its November spanking, it needs to repudiate George W. Bush.

GOPers and Neocons

Majority leader Harry Reid's Saturday Senate show may have been a piece of political theater, but it served its purpose. The House's version of a non-binding resolution was never going to come up for a vote, but it didn’t need to. The debate on whether to debate the bill was, in fact, the debate on the bill. And the vote rejecting debate on the bill was indeed a vote in which an overwhelming majority of the Senators who voted (56 to 34) rebuked Mr. Bush's proposed Iraq escalation strategy.

The vote also revealed which 34 Republicans in the Senate are still in lockstep with the Bush administration's neoconservative agenda.

Make no mistake, polls or no polls, elections or no elections, and through failure after failure after failure, the agenda is the same as it was from the moment the neoconservative cabal chose Bush as its figurehead: global domination through military force, turning the presidency into a Republican monarchy, crushing Congress and the courts, subjugating the middle class, polluting the information environment, erasing history and shredding the Constitution.

I don't want to see the GOP collapse. Prior to November, we saw six years of what one-party rule is like. We don't want to see it again. But as long as the Republican Party is still dominated by the neoconservatives, it cannot be trusted.

It's a good sign that senior Senate Republicans like John Warner and Arlen Specter broke with the White House on the non-binding resolution vote. But that 34 Senators voted with the administration bodes ill for hopes that the GOP can shed itself of its neoconservative parasites any time soon. That's a shame. This is a perfect moment for rank and file Republicans to stand up to Dick Cheney and his leg breakers. It's too bad they can't muster the gumption to do it.

And then there's the "maverick" John McCain. He decided not to show up for the vote, opting instead to campaign in Iowa. Go ahead, GOP. Nominate McCain. Make my day.

I was never much into party politics until the present administration came into power. The first Democrat I ever voted for was John Kerry, and that was mostly a vote against Bush. The first Democratic Senate candidate I ever voted for was Jim Webb, and that was for the sake of driving the final nail into the political coffin of Bush's potty room pal George Allen. I don't like the idea of voting "against" candidates, or voting for candidates based solely on their party affiliations. But I won't vote for a Republican again until I'm convinced the party has purged itself of the neoconservative movement, and no longer supports party leaders like that natural disaster Dick Cheney and our national disgrace, George W. Bush.

I don't know how the Democrats will undo the damage wrought over the past six years of Republican rule, and I'm apprehensive of how much further mayhem Uncle Dick and Dubya will perpetrate over the next two years. But I'm willing to give the Dems a long time and a lot of rope to do the best they can.

And I'd actively campaign for Brittney Spears if I thought it would keep John McCain out of the White House.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Unreliable Sources, Bad Planning and a Tale of Two Presidents

Steve Roberts and other journalists made an important point on Sunday's Reliable Sources with Howard Kurz. There's a huge difference between protecting the identity of a whistle blower and protecting the identity of a government official who's trying to inject "the message" into the media.

Even as the Scooter Libby trial reminds us how the Bush administration used Judith Miller of the New York Times and other reporters to spread propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war, the media allowed unnamed "senior defense officials" to broadcast unsubstantiated claims that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government were behind efforts to provide militants in Iraq with weapons used against U.S. Troops. A week after the now infamous "secret briefing" in Iraq, most of the media have rejected the anonymous officials' main assertions about Iran's government, but other unproven accusations remain in the infosphere.

During his Wednesday press conference, Mr. Bush allowed as how, no, he wasn't for sure if Iran's highest officials were behind attacks on American troops in Iraq, but by golly he knows for certain that the Quds force has provided them there improvised explosive devices that have hurt our troops.

But what evidence have Mr. Bush or any of his echo chamberlains offered on that score?

As Scott Shane discussed in a Saturday NYT article, nobody really seems sure what or who the Quds are.
Like so much else about the Iranian state, the Quds Force, which conducts overseas operations for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, remains remarkably mysterious even to those who closely study the country.

The Quds Force is under intense scrutiny by American intelligence agencies because it is suspected of supplying sophisticated explosives to Iraqi militants. Among those detained in recent American raids on Iranian offices in Iraq were several Iranians identified by the United States military as Quds operatives, including a diplomat said to be the No. 2 official in the Quds Force.

Another "number two" bad guy captured. Mission accomplished again, huh?

We aren't even sure who or what the Quds are. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates describes them as a paramilitary arm of the I.R.G.C. [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].”

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, says the Quds are “the handpicked elite of an already elite ideological army.”

But Milani and other experts aren't sure how many Quds there actually are. Estimates range from 3,000 to 50,000. That's quite a range. They're not even sure if the Quds are a "formal unit" within the Revolutionary Guard. Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says, “I just don’t think we have a very acute understanding of the internal workings of the regime in Iran.”

It doesn't look to me like anyone in the Bush administration has an accurate understanding of anything regarding Iran, but that doesn't stop them from talking like they know exactly what's going on. But then again, facts have always taken a back seat to beliefs with this crowd. If Dick Cheney can convince young Mr. Bush that the moon is made of green cheese, then it must be so.

"We're Definitely Winning"

Tony Snow made the round of political gabfests on Sunday. On Meet the Press, Tim Russert took Snow to task for remarks he'd made earlier in the week.
MR. RUSSERT: The other day you were asked about pre-war planning, and how it had been overly optimistic, and then you said this. “I’m not sure anything went wrong.”

MR. SNOW: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: Is that your view of the war in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, no. I’m putting it this way. When you say not sure anything went wrong, what I was referring to is the notion that somehow somebody’s going to have perfect foresight of what’s going to happen in a time of war. The old cliche is that battle plans never survive first contact with the enemy.

I'm glad to see Tony has become such an expert on warfare.

The old cliché about plans not surviving first contact with the enemy is a load of wheeze. Superior plans succeed because they anticipate likely crises. The plan for the post-hostilities phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom failed because it did not exist.

General David Petreaus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is about to execute an escalation plan with fewer troops than he theoretically needs to accomplish his objectives. He'll count on Iraqi forces to pick up the slack, which is a long odds crapshoot. Worse, U.S. and Iraqi troops will fight side by side under separate chains of command.

I'm not saying Petraeus can't succeed. Accidents can happen. But hoping for an accident to happen isn't "planning." It's praying.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Monday that five years and change into our Global War on Terror, senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have regained control of their global terror network.

And, of course, the tallest Arab ever wanted "dead or alive" by a U.S. president is still on the loose.

If our current Commander in Chief and his key advisers had set out to purposely lose their war in the worst possible way, they couldn't have planned it any better.

George W. Bush was in Mount Vernon, Virginia Monday morning for a President's Day address, making the expected allusive comparisons between himself and George Washington. Heh. Who do you think you're kidding, Mr. Bush? That George could not tell a lie.

And he was competent.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Bush Administration: Oh, What a Tangled Web

It looks more every day like White House Press Secretary Tony Snow doesn't have a cognizant bone in his head.

When asked at a press conference on Thursday what went wrong in Iraq, Snow replied "I'm not sure anything went wrong."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates continues to insist that the White House is not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran. What a load of road apples. The White House has been looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran for years.

Mr. Bush still refers to Iran's nuclear weapons program, although he has yet to produce a shred of evidence that Iran intends to develop anything but an independent means of producing nuclear energy, an "inalienable right" guaranteed to it by the U.N. Non-proliferation Treaty.

At the now infamous secret briefing in Baghdad on Sunday, unnamed senior military officials claimed that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government were responsible for the funneling of weapons to Shiite militant groups in Iraq without providing any evidence to back the allegation. Shortly after that, both Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace and Mr. Bush allowed as how, well, no, they didn't know for sure if the "highest levels" of Iran's government were involved, but by golly, somebody from Iran was, especially that there Quds group.

But they offered no evidence that the Quds are involved in Iraq either.

When asked to comment on the apparent disparity between remarks made by the "senior officials," General Pace and Mr. Bush, Tony Snow said, "We're not on separate pages."

They're not on separate pages. They're in a separate solar system.

The Echo Chamberlains

In an attempt to discredit critics of Mr. Bush's war, Frank Gaffney, Jr. of the Washington Times recently opened his column with this gem of vituperation:
Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

--President Abraham Lincoln

But guess what. Lincoln never said that. As Editor and Publisher notes, the quote was penned by conservative author J. Michael Waller. The misquote originally appeared in a 2003 issue of Insight, a conservative current events magazine published by the Washington Times. Waller, according to Editor and Publisher, admits that he never intended to put quotation marks around the sentence, and blames his Insight editor for the mistake and the failure to correct it.


The misquote has been used many times by right wing pundits and politicians, and was exposed as a fabrication last August by Brooks Jackson at, but that didn't stop the right wing echo chamber from repeating it. And as of Friday, February 16, the Washington Times had not retracted or corrected the false statement in Gaffney's column.

Information Quagmire

As I've noted before, the greatest casualty of the Bush administration's tenure has been the abject pollution of America's information environment. In an effort to maintain some semblance of journalistic integrity, the mainstream (or so called "liberal") media allow the right equal opportunity to air its propaganda. The Big Brother Broadcast--A.M. talk radio, Fox News, Tony Snow, the Washington Times, etc.--follow no journalistic standards whatsoever. Facts are as fungible as fairy tales and childish insult contests pass for honest debate. Volume and nastiness substitute for reason. Out and out flatulence is sold as the perfume of enlightenment.

And yet, lamentably, entirely too many Americans still fall for this Orwellian line of tripe. Living in Virginia, I regularly encounter people who consider themselves informed and witty because they can quote whatever Rush or Bill or Sean said that day. And if a right wing luminary is quoted in the New York Times or the Washington Post, well, shoot, it has to be true if it was run in one of them libruhl papers.

The greatest threat America faces is not Iran or the terrorists or weapons of mass destruction or Russia or China. It is the purposeful and focused internal campaign, being conducted by right wing ideologues, to destroy the citizenry's capacity for critical thinking.

To make us so confused and so afraid that at the end of the day, we have no choice but to believe what Big Brother tells us, even if we know he's contradicting himself and making no sense whatsoever.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Iran Contradiction Affair

The story on Iranian involvement in Iraq is still spinning like a cartoon Tasmanian Devil.

On Sunday, during a secret briefing in Baghdad, a trio of unnamed "senior defense officials" presented the long awaited "proof" that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi extremists. By Sunday afternoon in the United States, the Washington Post had posted a story on the briefing.
Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq, Officials Say

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 11, 2007; 1:54 PM

BAGHDAD Feb 11 -- Iranian security forces, taking orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad.

By Sunday evening, the story was being echoed through electronic media outlets.

On Monday morning, the Post released another version of Partlow's story that contained an important codicil.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Interestingly enough, Partlow's original article disappeared from the Post's web site, and hyperlinks to the original led web surfers to the rewritten version.

As Monday wore on, the rest of the media began questioning the validity of the intelligence presented at the brief, although White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said he was confident the Iranian government had approved delivery of the weapons to Iraq.

On Tuesday, in Indonesia, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said he was not certain that "the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this."

Later on Tuesday, Snow said that Pace's comments did not contradict those of the White House or of the "senior officials" in Baghdad. "We're not on separate pages," Snow said.

Not on separate pages? Hell, they were on separate planets.

Iran Contradictions

At his press conference in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Bush said he was certain that certain factions in the Iranian government had supplied arms to Shiite militias in Iraq, but wasn't sure if Iran's highest officials had directed the attacks.
I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.’s that have harmed our troops… And I’d like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?

My point is, what's worse, sounding like you know what you're talking about or sounding like you're pulling the same shell game with Iran that you pulled with Iraq?

Mr. Bush also said "The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs [improvised explosive devices] is preposterous."

Yet that idea is no more preposterous than anything else we've seen the Bush administration manufacture.

Mr. Bush said he still refuses to have direct talks with Iran because "I believe that's a more effective way of convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions."

Iran has consistently avowed that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has offered no proof that the Iranians are lying on that score. Iran also vehemently denies that it is providing weapons to militants in Iraq.

The really preposterous aspects of this situation are that we have less reason to believe Bush than we have to believe the Iranians, and that Mr. Bush would assert that the best way to pursuade someone to do something is to not talk to them.

Even more preposterous is that with the fates of nations at stake, cable news channels devoted most of their Thursday programming to the three-way struggle over possession of Anna Nicole Smith's body. And more preposterous than that is the notion that anyone would fight over possession of her body. She is, after all, past her prime.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Iraq: The Non-binding Hinder Binder

The debate kicked off in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon on the non-binding measure on Iraq. In one regard, the measure, if passed, will be little more than a wedgie on young Mr. Bush: embarrassing and uncomfortable, but something he can ignore if he chooses to. So is it worth even bothering to debate?

I think it is. But I also think the process needs to start moving along.

Let's Talk

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says the Iraq war isn't about winning or losing anymore. Even retired General Wayne Downing says, "We're not going to win this thing." (Tuesday on MSNBC.) Kucinich and Downing both think the debate on a non-binding resolution is a waste of time, but I disagree for a number of reasons.

For starters, it's an opportunity to allow an open debate on the war and its strategy. Since it doesn't directly address how Congress might stop the "surge," it won't put its members in the awkward situation of having to grapple with the nuts and bolts of how to shut the escalation off at the purse.

So let the Bush administration echo chamberlains like Duncan Hunter (R-CA) get on the floor and ape the standard Rovewellian line of claptrap about how such a resolution will send the wrong message to America's friends, America's enemies and America's troops. I watched Hunter's pitch on CSPAN. He kept his hands on the podium throughout his speech. I suppose that was to ensure that his knuckles didn't drag against the carpet. Glittering generalities, appeals to emotion, flawed analogies--the whole nine yards of chicken hawk tripe.

Let everybody hear Peter King (R-NY) hide behind the "support the troops" canard. King's comments on the floor indicated, once again, that he doesn’t understand the difference between warfare and a rousing game of canasta.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) pulled the "our enemies are hearing us debate" card designed to shut down debate. I wonder how she managed to draw that one from the Karl Rove deck.

The likes of King and Hunter and Ros-Lehtinen know how to appeal to the autistic right, but as the recent election proved, most Americans have finally figured out the difference between horse manure and chocolate ice cream.

Let's Balk

Wednesday morning, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said that it's time to stop using the troops as pawns in the rhetorical effort to escalate and continue the war. Thank you Mr. Kucinich.

As I have stated many times, this business of justifying policy because it makes the troops happy is the worst kind of disingenuous bunker bunk. America does not exist to support its military--it's the other way around. And the troops exist to execute policy, not to dictate it.

Let's Walk a Little Faster

Congratulations to the House for actually bringing a war resolution to the floor for debate. They've made a heck of a lot more progress in this regard than the Senate has. I'm concerned, however, that even the House is not moving fast enough to stay the inevitable escalation.

The latest Battle of Baghdad, the cornerstone of the escalation strategy, is already underway. From Wednesday's New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 — The Iraqi government on Tuesday ordered tens of thousands of Baghdad residents to leave homes they are occupying illegally, in a surprising and highly challenging effort to reverse the tide of sectarian cleansing that has left the capital bloodied and Balkanized.

In a televised speech, Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, who is leading the new crackdown, also announced the closing of Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria, an extension of the curfew in Baghdad by an hour, and the setup of new checkpoints run by the Defense and Interior Ministries, both of which General Qanbar said he now controlled.

In a very short time, the administration will argue that any real attempt by Congress to block additional troops in Iraq is a deliberate move to ensure defeat, and an irresponsible abandonment of the Iraqi government.

Dubya Talk

At his Wednesday morning press conference, Mr. Bush said that the Iraqis are following through on their promise to commit more troops to Baghdad. Coalition troops (whoever they are) will arrive in Baghdad on time. There's good coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces. The terrorists are trying to discourage the U.S. from backing up the operation.

The Senate approved the nomination of General Petraeus as U.S. commander in Iraq, now the House is debating Petraeus's strategy. (I thought it was Fred Kagan's strategy. Or was it Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Makili's strategy?)

If we fail "there," the enemy will follow us here, Bush said. I have yet to hear any of these "follow us here" parrots explain how "they" are going to get "here."

Our troops are counting on our elected leaders in D.C. to support them by approving the administration's request for emergency war funding, Bush said.

Like I said, if Congress wants to stop the escalation, it's going to have to get a move on.

When the Decider Decided

Several colleagues have noted that Congress is already behind the eight ball, largely because the escalation strategy wasn't made public until after the election changed the balance of power in the legislature. I agree with that, and I also think the escalation was decided upon well before the election was held. Delaying the announcement of the escalation not only put a drogue chute on Congress's response; it also ensured that no one could point to the election results as a referendum condemning the escalation.

Four years into this Iraq fiasco, we're still in the same place. The administration still spends more effort spinning the war than on winning it, and it continues to succeed at outmaneuvering the other branches of government because the executive can move faster than the legislature or the judicial system can.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Next World Order and Cold War II

Also at DKos.

Neoconservative pundits have described our present war on terror as World War III, but they are wrong. What we've actually entered is a second Cold War.

A new world order emerged when the Berlin Wall came down. At that point, after a half century of a bi-polar balance of global power, the United States became the world's sole superpower, and remained so for a little over a decade.

The next world order began about the time of the staged toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue. America became embroiled in a Hobbesian internal conflict in Iraq. The cats broke out of the corral, and the real world game of RISK resumed.

The mid-2003 board position contained a multi-layered hierarchy of nations and other political entities. At the top were the "major powers," the worlds three largest economies: the U.S., the European Union, and China. Next came the "balance powers," Russia, Japan and England. Because of their geographic positions and former experience with rule of empires, these nations, through alliances of various kinds, had the greatest influence on the ranking equation among the major powers. "Regional powers" like India and Brazil had the dominant economies in their geographic areas. "Wild cards," who could move in almost any direction, included most of the Middle East and Africa (and to some extent Central and South America) and non-state players like Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. "Others" were stable and prosperous countries like Australia and Canada whose relative status in the world order is unlikely to change significantly.

The game has evolved rapidly since the fall of Saddam. Our Cold War I adversaries, Russia and China, have strengthened partnerships with Iran and Venezuela, two wild cards that are growing toward regional power status. Non-state wild cards--most notably Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Union--have become political parties, and part of the formal governing and diplomatic processes of their respective states. The United States continues to squander resources into a seemingly endless conflict, and doesn't have any real allies. The European Union has largely remained neutral in the competition between the U.S. and the rest of the world, and even our bulldog Britain is reluctant to play with us anymore.

Cold War II is shaping up as a tri-polar enterprise, with an "axis of energy" (China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela etc.) in one corner, the U.S. in another, and Europe sitting on the sidelines.

The Bear's Next Springtime

Russia is coming back out of its cave.

At a conference of the world's top security officials last week, Russia's President Vladimir Putin asserted that America's "almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations" is creating a new arms race.

He's right in a way. In another way, he isn't. The Bush administration's warfare-centric approach to foreign policy has, in fact, destabilized the world. And as we have seen in North Korea, wild card nations have pursued development of nuclear weapons. But the arms race of Cold War II isn't anything like the arms race of Cold War I.

Unlike the arms race of the Soviet era, nobody now is trying to go toe-to-to with America in terms of military power. America now spends as much or more on defense as the rest of the world combined. Even the defense budget of China, the supposed "rising dragon," is less than 20 percent of America's, and China is trying to update some very old systems and hardware, so it's hardly trying to present a symmetrical threat to U.S. military dominance.

The rest of the world has learned from its mistakes. Everybody saw how the Soviet Union spent itself into the dirt trying to keep up with America's military industrial complex. Now they're smirking as they watch us bury ourselves in a sand dune and continue to throw national treasure into a form of power that has proven impotent against adversaries who have no air force, no navy, and nothing that any developed nation would consider a formal army.

In the next world order, the form of national power that counts isn't the kind of power that fights wars. It's the kind of power that that fuels transportation and industry, and keeps the lights on. That's why the game's being played in the Middle East right now. The second Cold Warriors are vying to see who can control the transition from fossil fuel to nuclear energy.

In the history of Cold War II, the nuclear weapons issue will have been, to quote young Mr. Bush, a "semi-colon."


From the Associated Press:
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Putin's charge that the U.S. ''aspired to get uni-polar power or acted unilaterally is just not borne out by the facts.''

What in the wide world of sports, arts and sciences, Joe? If there was any doubt before that Lieberman has become a Bush administration sex doll, it's vanished like a pie on Aunt Polly's kitchen windowsill.

The facts are that we had uni-polar power and acted unilaterally against Iraq in an effort to gain more power. And we blew it. With "leaders" like Joe Lieberman rolling loose around the gun decks, we're likely to blow it even worse.

It's still possible that we may land in the next world order as a "first among nations," what Big Daddy Bush referred to as "A kinder, gentler nation," and Ronald Reagan described as the "shining city on the hill."

But if we hope to ever climb back to the top of that hill, we'll need to pump the likes of Joe Lieberman over the side with the rest of our bilge.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, responding to Putin's remarks, said, "One Cold War was quite enough."

Not quite, Mr. Secretary. Not quite.


The Next World Order Series

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Iran: NYT Repeats History, WaPo Rewrites It

Also at DKos.

The echo chamber has kicked into high gear on the "proof" that Iran has been sending weapons into Iraq. Here's how this latest propaganda campaign evolved, and how two of our most "trusted" news sources enabled it.

On Saturday, February 10, the New York Times ran a story by Michael R. Gordon titled "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says."
The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

That's some assertion, especially considering that it's sourced to the nameless, faceless "United States Intelligence." Gordon also wrote that, "The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete."

No, it's not entirely complete. And it doesn't look entirely on the up-and-up either. Gordon also said that "The Bush administration is expected to make public this weekend some of what intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link, including information gleaned from Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids on an Iranian office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad."

Lo and behold, this story by Joshua Partlow appeared on Sunday at the Washington Post web site.
Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq, Officials Say

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 11, 2007; 1:54 PM

BAGHDAD Feb 11 -- Iranian security forces, taking orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad.

Once again, we had allegations being made by unnamed "senior defense officials" who included an "unnamed" weapons expert. But there's even more monkey business involved in this WaPo story.

Sunday afternoon, I raised holy Hamas about Partlow's story at Pen and Sword and elsewhere, and included a link to the Partlow article. Monday, in the process of preparing this article, I clicked on the hyperlink, and to my shock and awe I found this:
Military Ties Iran To Arms In Iraq
Explosives Supplied To Shiite Militias, U.S. Officials Say
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 12, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 -- Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq sought Sunday to link Iran to deadly armor-piercing explosives and other weapons that they said are being used to kill U.S. and Iraqi troops with increasing regularity.

Thinking I may have somehow made a mistake, I went to the WaPo site and searched Joshua Partlow." The search results included one link to Partlow's February 12 story and two links to his February 11 story. Funny thing--both links to the February 11 story led to the February 12 story.

It looks like the grownups came in on Monday morning, saw the February 11 story, and said, "What the hell have we done?" So they had Partlow or someone else (Danfa Linzer, it looks like) rewrite the Feb 11 story to include the responsible disclaimers and skepticism that should have been in the article in the first place.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

And they "disappeared" Partlow's original version of the article. This stuff's straight out of George Orwell and Joseph Heller.
I'm almost willing to give Partlow a pass on his journalistic incompetence. What the heck, he was just a WaPo intern as recently as 2003. But who in the hell at WaPo was giving him editorial guidance over the weekend? A graduate from the intern class of 2002?

Michael R. Gordon of the Times, though, doesn't have an excuse. He has a long history as his paper's chief military correspondent, as well as a history for helping the Bush administration "spread the word." As Editor and Publisher noted about his Saturday article:
Michael R. Gordon, [is] the same Times reporter who, on his own or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
The same neo-conmen who duped us into the Iraq misadventure are pushing us into another woebegone war with Iran, and the same media outlets who aided and abetted them the last time are doing it again. With "free press" sources like the Washington Post and the New York Times, who needs Fox News?

And by the way--those pictures of mortar rounds and such you're seeing on television? They're out of an Army Field Manual. No cameras were allowed at the "briefing" Partlow and the other stooges attended in Baghdad.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

WaPo Enables U.S. Government Propaganda on Iran

With mainstream media patsies like these, who needs Judith Miller?

Wittingly or unwittingly, the mainstream media continues to aid and abet the Bush administration's propaganda campaign on Iran. Shortly after Sunday's round of political gabfests, the Washington Post posted a story online (by Joshua Partlow) that supported the claims of the right's talking cable heads about Iran's actions in Iraq.
Iran Sending Explosives to Extremist Groups in Iraq, Officials Say

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 11, 2007; 1:54 PM

BAGHDAD Feb 11 -- Iranian security forces, taking orders from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, are funneling sophisticated explosives to extremist groups in Iraq, and the weapons have grown increasingly deadly for U.S.-led troops over the past two years, senior defense officials said Sunday in Baghdad.

Nice timing, huh? Nice lack of attribution too.

The "defense officials," according to Partlow…
…said they decided to talk about the Iranian-made weapons and the detention of Iranian operatives in Iraq because they are increasingly concerned about the number of casualties caused by these weapons.

But the defense officials didn't decide to be identified, because, well…
The officials said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so the trio's explosives expert and analyst, who would normally not speak to reporters, could provide more information. The analyst's exact job description was not revealed to reporters. Reporters' cell phones were taken before the briefing, and the officials did not allow reporters to record or videotape the proceedings.

This is raw sewage. Three "unnamed Defense officials" got a perfectly timed message out, one based on the opinion of an analyst whose credentials are uncertified and unchallenged, and echoed by media "professionals" who have no idea whether the analyst knows what he's talking about because they don't know what the hell he's talking about themselves.

If the "defense officials" in Baghdad had real "proof" of the allegations against Iran, why would they wish to remain anonymous? These guys aren't whistle blowers. They're part of the Rovewellian bull feather generator, trying to pretend like they're not.

The likes of Joshua Partlow and the Washington Post need to start standing up to these Machiavellian manipulators. No more "unnamed officials" get to toss the company line into the echo chamber.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Tire Smoke and Sooty Mirrors: The OSP Report on Iraq Intelligence

The recently released report of the Department of Defense Inspector General (I.G.) on the manipulation of pre-Iraq invasion intelligence stinks like a junkyard's worth of burning tires.

Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story published the two page executive summary of the report on Friday morning. The summary condemns the now infamous Office of Special Plans (OSP), the neoconservative cabal within the Pentagon that shaped intelligence on Iraq to suit the Bush administration's policy. But it also lets the OSP off the hook, and tells everybody to look the other way.

All's Well

The I.G. report states that the OSP's intelligence assessments were "inappropriate" because "a policy office was producing intelligence products and was not clearly conveying to senior decision makers the variance with the consensus of the Intelligence Community."

In other words, the OSP ideologues cooked the intelligence to support the Iraq invasion but didn't bother to say that their conclusions were not supported by the analyses of actual intelligence professionals.

But the I.G. report also says that the OSP's actions were not "illegal or unauthorized," which means that nobody involved with the intelligence manipulation should be impeached or go to jail, at least not on the basis of the I.G.'s investigation.

The I.G. report also states:
The circumstances prevalent in 2002 are no longer present today. We believe that the continuing collaboration between the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will significantly reduce the opportunity for the inappropriate conduct of intelligence activities outside of intelligence channels. As a result, we are not making any recommendations.

No recommendations. Brother. These guys make Pontius Pilate look like a piker.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

The opportunity for inappropriate intelligence activities has been reduced?

In June 0f 2006, Alexandrovna revealed the existence of the Iran Directorate (ID). Like the OSP, the ID is another "special" intelligence analysis group, buried, like the OSP was, under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. In August 2006, Alexendrovna reported that Dick Cheney was receiving private briefings on Iran from Abram Shulsky, former director of the OSP.
Several foreign policy experts, who wish to remain anonymous, have expressed serious concern that much like the OSP, the ID is manipulating, cherry picking, and perhaps even -- as some suspect -- cooking intelligence to lead the U.S. into another conflict, this time with Iran.

"Cheney distrusts the information being disseminated by CIA on Iran," said one former senior intelligence official. "The reports assembled by the Iranian Directorate at the Pentagon differ significantly from the analysis produced by the Intelligence Community. The Pentagon Iranian Directorate relies on thin and unsupported reporting from foreign sources."

Foxes Inspecting the Henhouse

Why would the I.G. report say that all the OSP problems have gone away when the ID--essentially that same old gang of Cheney's--is still running loose in the Pentagon? Is it because the ID went away when Donald Rumsfeld got the boot? I doubt that's the case, and I certainly wouldn't believe it is the case on the basis of the I.G.'s say so. In fact, lack of mention of the ID in the I.G.'s report is so conspicuous as to strongly suggest that the I.G. was specifically ordered not to mention it in his findings.

The Inspector General program within the executive department is so corrupted that it should be disbanded, at least for the duration of the Bush/Cheney tenure.

This "unitary powers" executive branch has made it clear that its idea of separation of powers and oversight is to write its own legislation, to make its own judicial decisions, and to have its actions judged by its peers--which in the Bush administration's case is a jury of fellow criminals.

Criminal Negligence

Spencer Ackerman of TPM Muckraker informs us that Iran offered to recognize Israel back in spring of 2003. The offer came in by fax. Along with a promise to recognize Israel, the missive suggested that everything was on the table, including full cooperation on its nuclear program and termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

Condi Rice, who was National Security Adviser at the time, doesn't recall seeing that fax.

She must have been pumping iron with young Mr. Bush when it came across her desk, huh?

Elliot Abrams, a neoconservative luminary who was the NSC's senior director for Middle East affairs then, doesn’t recall seeing the fax either.

Seems to me we need to award somebody a no-bid contract to calk those cracks between the floorboards in that there White House. I'll bet you a shiny penny Halliburton could do the job just dandy, and then file a report on what good work they did.

Late Friday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, while visiting Germany, said that serial numbers and other markings on bombs used by Iraqi militants can be traced to Iran. Well, he sort of said that.

What he actually said was that the evidence was "pretty good" that the bombs came from Iran. "I think there's some serial numbers," he said. "There may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found'' that point to Iran.

Gates didn't make clear how he thinks the serial numbers may be traceable to Iran, or why he even mentioned the issue based on what he maybe thinks.

Last week, Gates said that military officers in Baghdad had been planning to reveal what they know about Iranian involvement in Iraq, but that he and other senior officials decided to hold off on all that revealing until they were sure all that revealing was accurate.

I can't wait to hear what the administration thinks may be happening but can't prove next week as they try to make visions of mushroom clouds dance in our heads.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Iraq: Expect the Worst

Hope for the best, expect the worst
You could be Tolstoy, or Fanny Hurst
Prepare to get your bubble burst
Hope for the best--expect the worst!

--Theme song from the 1970 Mel Brooks movie The Twelve Chairs

Pentagon planners are so confident in the Iraq "surge" strategy that they're planning on what to do when it fails.

From Sidney Blumenthal of Salon:
Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush's escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.

I don't know who Blumenthal's sources inside the bowels of the Pentagon are, but my gut instincts tell me they're right. My instincts also tell me they're right to keep their planning initiatives under wraps, because as Blumenthal also says:
The profoundly pessimistic thinking that permeates the senior military and the intelligence community, however, is forbidden in the sanitized atmosphere of mind-cure boosterism that surrounds Bush. "He's tried this two times -- it's failed twice," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Jan. 24 about the "surge" tactic. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.'" She repeated his words: "'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

Holy Hannah. I'm a subscriber of Mark Twain's assertion that history doesn't repeat itself but it sometimes rhymes. Young Mr. Bush is starting to "sound like" another lunatic who sat in a bunker and only listened to generals who told him what he wanted to hear.

Dog Pile on Pelosi

I can't claim to be a big fan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Heck, I can't even claim to be a Democrat. I've never been a registered member of any political party, and the first Democrat I ever voted for was John Kerry. The latest one I voted for was Jim Webb, who isn't exactly a life-long card carrier either.)

But this latest business of how big of a military transport plane she gets to have to fly back and forth from Washington to San Francisco is standard Rovewellian distraction designed to take attention away from the Iraq debate. I wish Pelosi hadn't gone into that blab about how Donald Rumsfeld's old buddies were trying to get back at her for being a war critic and how she deserved the same kind of considerations the former male Speaker of the House deserved, and yada-yada, glub-glub-glub. If she's going to survive as a big fish in the big pond, she needs to learn not to rise to the bait. If she snaps at every fly they cast on the surface, she'll be too busy trying to wriggle off the hooks to get anything serious done in Congress.

And make no mistake: the Bush/Cheney liegemen in both houses of Congress will use every worm, slug and lure they can get their hands on to prevent the legislature from conducting an open debate on Mr. Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq.

The mainstream media's present fascination with astronauts gone wacky and wacky actresses gone to the next plane of reality programming certainly aids the efforts of the Bush administration's spin masters. But it doesn't aid the likelihood of the Iraq escalation strategy producing anything that even Dick Cheney can describe as "success."

Not a day goes by that I don't thank my maker I got off the crazy train when I did, and don't have to be a senior member in charge of the cascading pile-up this administration and its G.I. Joe bobble heads have created with its militaristic misadventures.

But if I were still on active duty, I'd want to be in the basement of the five-sided echo chamber with the guys who are--in secret--trying to figure out how to unscrew the screw ups of the screw ups who've screwed up things so far and are about to screw them up even worse.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Mad Dogs and Astronauts

It's exciting day two of the crazy lady astronaut story. Hey boy!

Here's another picture of her looking crazy after her arrest. Here's a picture of here in better days. Was she having an affair with the other astronaut? Is that what broke up her marriage? Boy, what was up with the diapers and wig and the other weird stuff?

Here's a discussion of what her defense might be. Can she get a fair trial if everyone thinks she's crazy?

Gosh, how could an astronaut have gone wacky like that? An astronaut, for Pete's sake!

Two words: mute button.

Dead Skunk Story

I spent a career in military aviation, so don't get me started about astronauts. They're people with relatively glamorous jobs that require a reasonably high level of competence, energy, dedication and so on. Some of them are exemplary people and some of them aren't. But they're just people. Not gods.

From what I can tell, this woman was a successful overachiever who literally "had it all." Then her life started to unravel, her compartments buckled, and she cracked. That's happened before. I guarantee you that right now men and women are deployed in war zones whose lives back home are falling apart. Most of them will find a way to keep a grasp on their sanity. Some won't. Every day you encounter people who have the kinds of personal problems this astronaut had. Some manage to keep it together, some don't.

This astronaut woman didn't. I don't know why. But I do know that she wasn't some sort of super-being, as some people seem to believe astronauts or professional athletes or politicians or other celebrities are.

I'm not condemning or condoning what this woman has done. Nor am I concerned about NASA's "image." What concerns me is that people are just now figuring out someone like an astronaut has flaws. Or that someone like an astronaut might have had deep underlying emotional problems that finally worked their way to the surface. Hell, nearly everybody has underlying emotional problems.

We're a supposedly sophisticated, developed society. We need to stop idolizing and idealizing our public figures. Babe Ruth was a drunk and a philanderer. A former congressman--who was the Navy's only Vietnam era fighter ace--went to jail for taking bribes. What we know now about John F. Kennedy makes Bill Clinton look like a choirboy. Paragons of virtue have been caught engaging in the very behaviors they condemn. And let's not even talk about O.J.

It's the 21st century, and we still cling to the myth that our political leaders and cultural icons are somehow superior to the "common man," and look what that's gotten us: 9/11 Iraq, Afghanistan, erosion of the Constitution, abuse of power, failure of our trusted institutions and on and on and on and on.

It's time to grow up as a society, to stop worshiping idols and believing in fairy tales. And to outgrow our childish fascination with dead skunk stories like the tale of the wacky astronaut.

If you're hooked on stories about larger than life kooks, read Homer or Shakespeare or the Bible.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.