Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hersh Blows Lid Off Bush Plan to Nuke Iran

Writing a copyrighted story in the issue of the New Yorker that hits the stands Monday but is already online, Seymour M. Hersh shows the inner workings of the Bush/Cheney/Rove Maladministration's ripening scheme to drop nukes on Iran. But his reporting also shows how the Administration's orchestrated drumbeat for a preventive Iranian war has grown so persistent and dissonant that it has scared the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hersh does not explicitly connect the plans to nuke Iran with the desperate Republican political situation in the run-up to the mid-term Congressional elections in November. Republicans clearly need a distraction from news of their policies of lying, spying, torture, corruption and incompetence. But long-time observers of the Rove/Bush campaign style know that perversion of the US's (formerly ironclad) no-first-nuke-use policy for political gain is no wise beneath them.

Why does the US bombing plan inevitably turn nuclear? Because bunker-busting bombs are nukes, and the principal Iranian installations targeted are hardened in the Russian manner to withstand conventional explosives. There will doubtless be a PR offensive to claim that `tactical' nukes are different from `strategic' or city-killing nukes, but this is unlikely to matter to 1.2 billion Muslims or, indeed, to Americans who can feel the breath of history upon their necks.

Citing "intensified planning for a possible major air attack," Hersh's sources say the bombing is scheduled for spring, which gives it another seventy days to happen (if the petroholics have considerably more regard for the integrity of the calendar than they have for the Constitution.) One source notes the appalling truth that, in his rageoholic, grandiose way,

"...the President believes that he must do `what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,' and `that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.'"
As a Democratic House member told Hersh,
"The most worrisome thing is that this guy [Bush] has a messianic vision."

It is difficult to understand the Administration fixation with regime change in Iran without remembering that Winston Churchill tried controlling the tribes by a policy of air bombing after WWI in order to secure Middle Eastern oilfields for the West. As a diplomat told Hersh,

"...the Administration believes [the problems of the Middle East] cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years."

Despite the Administration's rigidity, cooler heads may yet prevail. Many of these wear hats with gold braid. Stunningly, one of Hersh's sources

"...confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. `There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,' the adviser told me. `This goes to high levels.' The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. `The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,' the adviser said. `And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.'

The Pentagon appears to have better political heads than those upholding civilian hats. One military source told Hersh,

"...bombing Iran could provoke `a chain reaction' of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world."

Failure to grasp this elementary principle sent us into Iraq where, according to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, it worked so well they want to try it again in Iran.

There is, just as in pre-war Iraq, real doubt as to whether Iran's activities are capable of supporting its indisputable hostile intentions.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency [is] inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. `All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases--one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,' the diplomat said. He added that [I.A.E.A. chairman] ElBaradei's overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders `want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side'--in Washington."

Even so, diplomacy is fighting a rearguard action against politically-driven militarism. But a diplomat reminded Hersh,

"'It's too early to give up on the U.N. route.' He added, `If the diplomatic process doesn't work, there is no military "solution." There may be a military option, but the impact could be catastrophic.'"
For instance, recent oil price spikes consequent upon Nigerian guerrilla activity might look like raindrops in a tsunami compared to the aftermath of Christians nuking Muslims. Hersh notes four ugly probabilities:
  • "... the price per barrel would immediately spike, to anywhere from ninety to a hundred dollars per barrel, and could go higher, depending on the duration and scope of the conflict."
  • "Iranian retaliation might be focussed on exposed oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. They would be at risk, and this could begin the real jihad of Iran versus the West."
  • "'The best terror network in the world has remained neutral in the terror war for the past several years,' [a] Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said of Hezbollah. `This will mobilize them and put us up against the group that drove Israel out of southern Lebanon. If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us.'
  • "[A source said,] 'If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle.' The American, British, and other coalition forces in Iraq would be at greater risk of attack from Iranian troops or from Shiite militias operating on instructions from Iran. [A retired general predicted that] '...the Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck.'"

Hersh's diplomatic source sadly noted,

"'There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution. They are still banking on isolation and regime change. This is wishful thinking.'"

The only thing standing between us and another neoconservative-fuelled messianically-deluded oil war may be our military, not our political leadership. We may indeed have reached the point forecast in the 19th century by a British general, Sir William Francis Butler:

"A nation that draws a demarcation between its thinking men and its fighting men will soon have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."
Except our fighting leadership may prove a lot less foolish than the cowards in the White House.


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