Who’s Killing American Soldiers in Iraq?

Anyone who doubts that the war party is firmly focused on Iran need only take note of the Aug. 21 lead editorial in the Washington Post, which had the heading "Tougher on Iran: The Revolutionary Guard is at war with the United States. Why not fight back?" The Post, which regularly features neocons like Charles Krauthammer on its editorial page, was a principal cheerleader for the Iraq war. Its editorial accepts at face value Pentagon claims that advanced munitions provided by Iran killed one third of the U.S. troops who died in Iraq last month and that 50 members of the Guard operating south of Baghdad are "facilitating training of Shi’ite extremists." The Post concludes that the Revolutionary Guard is "trying to kill as many American soldiers as possible" and coyly recommends increasing military pressure while labeling the Iranian group as a terrorist organization to facilitate subjecting it to more economic pressure.

The Post‘s assertion that Iran is already at war with the U.S. has a familiar ring to it. It has already been used by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and was originally coined by the Israel lobby. The big problem with the Washington Post is that it, in knee-jerk fashion, is accepting any Pentagon attempt to implicate Iran in Iraq as fact. It is also advancing the premise that any time an improvised explosive device is used to kill an American Iran must be behind the attempt. The Washington Post then uses its extremely unreliable "fact" from the Pentagon to make a leap to the premise that the Iranians are "trying to kill as many Americans" as possible. This is dangerous language and may be total fiction, as one might readily assume that if the Iranians and their allies were really in earnest about wanting to kill even larger numbers of American soldiers they most likely could do so.

What passes for thinking at the Post is ridiculous, but it serves the purposes of an administration that appears to be paving the way for a new war before President Bush leaves office. Successful military action against an adversary who has been painted as yet another "new Hitler" could be very useful for the Republicans in 2008 in order to rally the public ’round the flag again. There’s nothing like a war or a terrorist attack to revive red-state fervor. Blaming Iran also provides a convenient explanation why the U.S. military has done so poorly in Iraq – someone else is "interfering."

The Post editorial demonstrates that it’s not just Fox News beating the drum for war with Iran. The belligerent posturing by the Pentagon and its poodles in the media is all too familiar given the U.S. experience in Iraq, and it is often the "liberal media" that takes the lead in disseminating the propaganda. One of the more astonishing claims that has surfaced from Pentagon sources in the past two weeks is that the Iraqis have apparently learned to aim their mortars better when they fire into the Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy is located. That know-how must come from Iran, at least if one believes the logic employed by the Department of Defense, ignoring the fact that Iraq had a large army that included artillery and mortars prior to three years ago. Where are all those mortarmen? They are now unemployed thanks to the U.S. occupation. An independent source in Iraq suggests that the explanation for the more accurate shooting is twofold. First, there are numerous informants inside the Green Zone who are collaborating with the insurgents and militias and who are helping direct the shooting using cell phones, not unlike forward artillery observers. Second, the insurgents are increasingly embedded in formerly secure neighborhoods close to the Green Zone in spite of the "surge," making the triangulation of the rounds a lot less complicated.

One last comment on the gullibility of Washington’s self-styled "newspaper of record" is necessary. If the Iranians are interfering inside Iraq, and it is perfectly possible that they are, where is the evidence? Doesn’t the Washington Post editorial staff wonder what the Pentagonese "facilitating training" actually means before using it in a leading editorial advocating something close to war? If a large group of 50 Guardsmen is operating south of Baghdad and supplying Iraqis with advanced shaped-charge munitions, where is the evidence? Why haven’t the U.S. Army and the Iraqi security services caught one of the Iranians? Where are the weapons?

The New York Times, former home of the redoubtable Judith Miller, is not much better than the Post. Its recent coverage of Pentagon claims that Iran is targeting U.S. troops was similarly accepting of the official line. In response to numerous complaints about the poor journalism, its public editor conceded that there should have been "more context." Maybe he should have said "content." Nearly all of the U.S. mainstream media has bought in to Sen. John McCain’s line that the only thing worse than going to war with Iran is a nuclear-armed Iran. Such thinking, which results in only neither-nor scenarios, eliminates all other options for resolution of the conflict and can only lead to war.

Other evidence is also mounting that an attack on Iran is impending. Former CIA officer Robert Baer, writing in the Aug. 18 issue of Time magazine, notes that the current neocon line of thinking is that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard constitutes the "one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran." This is reminiscent of the assertion that Saddam Hussein was the one obstacle to a friendly and democratic Iraq. Baer regards the assertion as the latest neocon delusion, but he also notes, unfortunately, that it informs the White House thinking. When Baer suggested to his administration source that the opposite might happen and a strike on Iran might unify the country behind the clerical regime, he was told that the Revolutionary Guard’s improvised explosive devices are a "casus belli for this administration. There will be an attack on Iran."

The facts don’t seem to matter at all to the Bush White House and the true believers still clustered around the mainmast as the ship of state goes down. Iran is surely not a model that anyone would seek to emulate, a fact that is confirmed by opinion polls conducted worldwide. The polls, which rank countries based on "favorable impressions," consistently place Iran at the bottom together with the United States and Israel. But Iran’s evident disagreeableness does not mean that it is a threat to the United States or to anyone else that would justify war. There is no actual hard intelligence confirming that Iran has a nuclear weapons program or that it would even use such a weapon if it acquired one. There is no solid evidence that Iran is interfering in Iraq or Afghanistan, just essentially unsourced comments from the Pentagon and the American media. On the contrary, one might easily argue that it is the United States that is interfering in both countries after having invaded them. Both the Afghan and Iraqi governments claim to have good, positive relationships with Iran, contradicting many of the American claims and heightening the impression that the White House is seeking to create a pretext for a new war in the Middle East.

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.