As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Onward To Iran

The torture debate and the immigration debate and the Huge Chavez debate and all the rest are designed to distract from the disastrous circumstances in Iraq, where 6,600 civilians have died in the last two months, and torture is now worse than it was under Saddam.

Bush: Oh yeah, you want torture, I'll show you some torture!

But the greatest opportunity for the Administration to really make everyone forget the war in Iraq is by starting another war, in Iran:

The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.

As Time writes in its cover story, "What Would War Look Like?," evidence of the forward deployment of minesweepers and word that the chief of naval operations had asked for a reworking of old plans for mining Iranian harbors "suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran."

This has all the making of a blockade, much like Kennedy did to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Of course, Cuba is 90 miles off the coast of Florida, whereas Iran is 10,000 miles away and doesn't have enough enriched uranium to light a small room. Up until now the international community has been very united on Iran, but the fact that there's an election to win could be a powerful pull on the US to get this military strike started already. Seymour Hersh has been saying for months that tactical nukes could be involved in such a strike. Now Matthew Yglesias brings us an anonymously sourced bit of gossip he calls "The Craziest Goddamn Thing I've Heard In a Long Time."

According to this person, the DOD has (naturally) been doing some analysis on airstrikes against Iran. The upshot of the analysis was that conventional bombardment would degrade the Iranian nuclear program by about 50 percent. By contrast, if the arsenal included small nuclear weapons, we could get up to about 80 percent destroying. In response to this, persons inside the Office of the Vice President took the view that we could use the nukes -- in other words, launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike against Iran -- and then simply deny that we'd done so. Detectable radiation in the area of the bombed sites would be attributed to the fact that they were, after all, nuclear facilities we'd just hit.

Now I rather doubt that's going to happen. Typically, Bush dials down the crazy factor a notch or two relative to what comes out of the OVP. Nevertheless, it's a sobering reminder that we have genuine lunatics operating in the highest councils of government at the moment. It's an extremely dangerous situation.

I don't know that anything is "too crazy" for the neocons to attempt, though the idea that you could hide a nuclear strike is kind of impractical. What's more likely are bunker-buster strikes, which may end up having the same effect if they cause a meltdown of the centrifuges. But when Gary Hart seems to believe anything is possible, well, it's time to take notice:

The steps will be these: Air Force tankers will be deployed to fuel B-2 bombers, Navy cruise missile ships will be positioned at strategic points in the northern Indian Ocean and perhaps the Persian Gulf, unmanned drones will collect target data, and commando teams will refine those data. The latter two steps are already being taken.

Then the president will speak on national television. He will say this: Iran is determined to develop nuclear weapons; if this happens, the entire region will go nuclear; our diplomatic efforts to prevent this have failed; Iran is offering a haven to known al Qaeda leaders; the fate of our ally Israel is at stake; Iran persists in supporting terrorism, including in Iraq; and sanctions will have no affect (and besides they are for sissies). He will not say: ...and besides, we need the oil.

Therefore, he will announce, our own national security and the security of the region requires us to act. "Tonight, I have ordered the elimination of all facilities in Iran that are dedicated to the production of weapons of mass destruction....." In the narrowest terms this includes perhaps two dozen targets.

This would be absolutely insane, could spark global economic chaos, would put 140,000 troops in Iraq, a country that would probably take Iran's side in the event of conflict, at risk, and would increase the possibility of terrorist attack. There are so many options to be tough and smart and to defuse this so-called crisis. Iran won't have a nuclear weapon if we don't want them to get it. But a military strike would be beyond crazy. Hart:

In more rational times, including at the height of the Cold War, bizarre actions such as unilateral, unprovoked, preventive war are dismissed by thoughtful, seasoned, experienced men and women as mad. But those qualities do not characterize our current leadership.

For a divinely guided president who imagines himself to be a latter day Winston Churchill (albeit lacking the ability to formulate intelligent sentences), and who professedly does not care about public opinion at home or abroad, anything is possible, and dwindling days in power may be seen as making the most apocalyptic actions necessary.

This is nothing short of desperation, the proverbial caged animal who is running out of options and simply decides to lash out. I really hope the Democrats won't sit in their offices with the door locked and pay attention.