[Yesterday's post in this series was updated; if you didn't see the updates, go here.]
Well, the great day is here. Zero hour. x minus zero. Whatever. No war. What happened? Was I a Chicken Little? Perhaps. Should we engage in cognitive dissonance and just set back the date a few weeks or months? Let’s backtrack to how I got into this….
When I first started paying attention to this issue of an attack on Iran, Sy Hersh had written about it, and Scott Ritter was on board as well. I actually believe that there was a time last summer when this attack was being planned as a real deal. But, as they say, elections have consequences.
There is no way to justify a US attack on Iran. In the case of Iraq in 2003, that didn’t matter. But since then, even with tight secretive control of the White House and the Congress, even with a popular cable “news” channel pumping the propaganda 24/7, the lies have been exposed, the paranoid fantasies of Dick Cheney have been published for the world to see, and the utter destruction of Iraq has become plain for all but the looniest denier. Then we had an election, and the American people took back the House and Senate.
Even the early congressional investigations of malfeasance during the last six years have exposed even more partisanship, scandal and incompetence than were previously apparent. The Republican Party’s standing in the eyes of Americans is plummeting. The idea of successfully stringing together a bunch of lies today, to justify an attack, is ludicrous.
More importantly, though, Bush lost the raw power to declare war.
Yes, he has the power to bomb Iran on some “defense of troops under attack” excuse, but he should fear for his office and his liberty if he does so on some manufactured crisis, or if he extends such an attack to include, for example, nuclear research facilities.
But he will never again be able to indulge his (or Dick Cheney’s) fantasies of conquest, because the Congress will not only not vote him the power, it will also investigate his every attempt to defraud the public on this issue.
And is not just Congress that Bush has lost. He has lost many military leaders, as well as the crazy Donald Rumsfeld. Robert Gates is a very different and much more responsible person. Bush has also lost a few Congressional Republicans, particularly those up for reelection in 2008. And he has lost the support of the public. Anybody seen a W bumper sticker lately? What would happen if gas went to $5 a gallon as a result of an attack on Iran?
Just as importantly, Bush has lost foreign support. Blair will be leaving, and even he has been flagging a little. The “coalition of the willing” has become a “no more attrition coalition” which is on the way out of Iraq. Condi Rice’s diplomatic “efforts” in the Middle East are a joke at home, but not at all funny in the region; we have lost our influence even with the Saudis, as unbelievable as that seems. The US is viewed as being inseparable from Israel, yet, by successfully setting Arab against Arab, more destructive than Israel.
What else? The Iraq Study Group may well have had an impact. This formidable bipartisan group recommended negotiations with Iran, not war. Further, the NY Times published an account of how the US had refused a very promising offer from Iran in 2003.
Whatever the mix, I think that Bush had never really committed to an attack on Iran, and permanently lost his enthusiasm for an attack on Iran back in November and December. Nonetheless, the ISOG began pumping out warmongering propaganda. This was confusing; but it was a substitution of the war of words for actual war. The goal was either regime change or more sanctions, or both.
The group responsible for propaganda, as we have shown, is the ISOG. This is where we get to what prompted this series. The ISOG really went overboard, to the point where not only did I get concerned, but so did the Congress, and a lot of other people….to the point that there were rumors of a revolt among the military, and Sec. Gates had to actually deny that war was being planned. As Gates’ credibility later climbed over the Walter Reed scandal, his statements have become an even more meaningful denial of the chance of an attack on Iran.
In summary, the actual crisis was over by the time everybody got worried about it.
So it is only right that the “countdown” is over as well. Following the propaganda effort closely has been a fascinating learning experience. I think I could give a class in how to read a news story. A couple of points:
- Most news stories are commercials for somebody’s point of view.
- Most news stories have a small germ of “news.” Often it’s just one sentence out of a whole story.
- The identity of the reporter and the source are of paramount importance.
- You can’t understand what’s going in the world from news stories or from your government, and help (history, analysis, etc) is easy to find on the internet.
So I will continue to post on US-Iran relations. And the ISOG will continue to pump out the stories. Every day. Like this feeble TIME story of some ancient border encounter. But I don’t think Bush is gonna bomb.
The big story continues to be the British hostages. Iran is threatening to put them on trial, a real no no.
“The legal phase concerning these British soldiers has started and if charges against them are proven, they will be punished,” said Ansari. IRNA said he spoke on Friday evening.
And, of course, a second sailor has been shown on television giving an apology. Also a no no.
Yet there is some evidence that diplomatic exchanges are not as strident:
Iran’s Foreign Ministry delivered a letter to Britain’s embassy in Teheran on Thursday, the first written communication between the two capitals since the crisis erupted March 23.
Iran’s IRNA news agency said the Iranian message asked for ”necessary guarantees that violations against Iranian waters would not be repeated”. But it did not appear to demand an apology from Britain as several officials have called for.
The UN Security Council did not give the UK all that it wanted:
the UN Security Council agreed a statement voicing “grave concern” at Iran’s actions.
The statement also calls on Tehran to allow the UK consular access to the personnel and urges an “early resolution”, including release of the crew, but stops short of “deploring” Iran’s action, as requested by the UK.
Iran’s UN mission said Britain’s attempt to involve other nations in the crisis was “not helpful”
The Independent suggests that the UK has little credibility over legal issues in the region, after violating the UN resolution in its invasion (with the US) of Iraq.
The US has acknowledged what has been apparent:
The State Department repeated Washington’s position on Friday that the Britons were seized in violation of international law and should be freed immediately. But officials declined to discuss diplomatic or other options for what might be done if Iran does not comply.
“This is an issue between the U.K. and Iran,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, adding that the United States had been “outspoken” in urging Iran to free the sailors.
The United States, along with Britain, has come to the conclusion that Washington should remain an uninvolved third party in the current crisis, officials said.
Until Thursday, U.S. officials had refrained from uttering the word “hostage” in connection to the sailors and then it was only when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice picked up on an interviewer’s reference that it was used.
Hardly the talk of an administration looking to go to war. Rather, I’d say, the Bush bluff has been called. To be trapped like the inept Jimmie Carter in a hostage situation with Iran would be the ultimate humiliation for Bush.
[to view the 41 installments in this series, click on "countdown..." in the list of categories in the far right hand column.]