The war drums are again beating. It’s beginning to look like the neocons have cranked up their useful idiots in the Bush administration for a fall offensive, target Iran. And maybe also Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians.
The bad guys’ list, which is remarkably similar to a roll call of Israel’s enemies, seems to have expanded both vertically and horizontally at a time when the U.S. military is using paper clips and chewing gum to hold together its efforts in Iraq. The critique of Iran has sharpened and intensified and new friends of Iran have been discovered in Afghanistan and Gaza. Even Venezuela is accused of being a tad too close to the mullahs, criticized by the State Department for having "deepened relations" with Iran and establishing a weekly flight connecting Caracas with Tehran via Iran Airlines. Lest there be any misunderstanding, doing business or even talking nice with Iran will not be tolerated.
It is not clear where the resources for a new war will come from, particularly if Tehran is audacious enough to resist, but some in the White House and Pentagon seem convinced that unleashing death by means of bombers and cruise missiles is enough to bring the hated mullahs to their knees. It is surely no coincidence that Iran was featured in the annual State Department report on terrorism that came out on Wednesday, which says,
"Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. Elements of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts throughout the region and continued to support a variety of groups in their use of terrorism to advance their common regional goals. Iran provides aid to Palestinian terrorist groups, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraq-based militants, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan."
That summary includes just about everybody that the United States dislikes, and all of them are now conveniently linked to Iran.
Iran was also excoriated last week by the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the director of the CIA, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Everyone was on message: "Iran is killing our troops!" And then there is the supporting chorus from Israel, with Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz claiming that "Iran will have nuclear bomb technology by the end of this year." And from Sen. Hillary Clinton: "I will obliterate Iran." In George Orwell’s 1984 there was an obligatory "Two Minutes Hate" every day in which the enemies of the Oceania state were pilloried. Iran currently endures much more than the required two minutes.
One of the most discouraging aspects of the new wave of Iran bashing is the climbing on board by the so-called realists in the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is frequently cited as a force for reason and restraint, presumably reflecting the misgivings of some flag officers for a broadening conflict in the Middle East. But the more demonstrative of those officers, most particularly in the person of Adm. William Fallon, have been removed and replaced by those more amenable to the wishes of the administration, namely Gen. David Petraeus, whose moral code appears to be limited to whatever the White House tells him to think. Gates said last week that the dispatch of a second aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf would serve as a "reminder" to Iran. His words were echoed by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, who warned Iran that “it would be a mistake to think we are out of combat power.” Sounds a bit like "all options are on the table."
Meanwhile, the chief of operations for the senior U.S. military staff, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, broadened the indictment of Iran, citing Tehran’s support for the Taliban: “There is indication that the Iranian support of the Taliban has continued.” Ham did not provide any details of what Iran sends or how much, a hallmark of accusations directed against the mullahs. Nor does he appear to be aware of the fact that the Sunni Taliban and Shi’ite Iranians are hardly close friends, having a long and bitter history that features massacres on both sides, including the killing of 11 Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998 by the Taliban.
The intelligence community has also been widely considered pragmatic in its approach to the Middle East, but consider CIA Director Michael Hayden’s latest: "It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq." It is worth asking what precisely Hayden means as director of Central Intelligence when he refers to something as "his opinion." Does he have hard evidence that the Iranians have put out an order to kill Americans? Or is he saying that Iran’s leaders, fearful of the presence of 150,000 U.S. troops next door and a naval flotilla on its doorstep, would like to see the enterprise fail so the soldiers and sailors will depart? And what does "to facilitate the killing of Americans" actually mean?
But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tops the field. Known for her inability to articulate a foreign policy based on U.S. national interest, Rice sits on the political fence most of the time, a Gucci boot dangling on either side, but recently it was believed that she was preaching moderation. Not so any more. The worst national security adviser and worst secretary of state in memory has now added to her laurels. Her understanding of what is taking place in the Middle East places her only one notch above the comprehension level exhibited by her boss.
Last Tuesday, Rice spoke in Washington at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee. She said, “But perhaps of deepest concern, the leaders of Hamas are increasingly serving as the proxy warriors of an Iranian regime that is destabilizing the region, seeking a nuclear capability, and proclaiming its desire to destroy Israel.” Rice also described a new “belt of extremism” that includes Hamas, the Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon, militants in Iraq, and “radicals even increasingly in places like Afghanistan." Per Secretary Rice, that it is “supported overwhelmingly by Iran and to a certain extent Syria, but particularly Iran, gives this conflict a regional dimension it has not had before.”
Rice’s problem is that she is spokesman for a worldview that has blinders on. For her, there are no degrees of bad guy, and as they are all terrorists anyway, it is impossible to talk to them. All who oppose U.S. or Israeli policy are subsumed into the same enemy, which conveniently reduces foreign policy to a simple formula that neatly lumps together a whole range of groups with different antecedents and objectives. It is a vision that guarantees failure and that actually makes more terrorists than it succeeds in eliminating, as Rice’s own annual report on terrorism concedes. While Rice’s ignorant message was undoubtedly reassuring to the American Jewish Committee, it should not comfort the vast majority of Americans who are not threatened by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi militants, Syria, or the Taliban. Nor are Americans threatened by Iran unless U.S. policymakers and their neocon drivers make it so by firing the first shot. And there is no hope from the Democrats. Barack will do whatever it takes to make The Lobby like him, and Hillary’s finger is already on the trigger. Eighty million Iranians will be obliterated as soon as that 3 a.m. phone call comes in. One presumes that John McCain will not even wait for the phone call.