CNN reports that George W. Bush, with his disapproval rating shooting past 70 percent, is the most unpopular president in modern American history, or as long as they’ve been polling the question less beloved than Richard Nixon in the weeks prior to his resignation, and, I’d guess, more despised than George III in 1776. Bush II is identified primarily in the public mind with the bane of his presidency, the Iraq war, and support for that, too, has reached a new low at 30 percent. Enthusiasm for our Iraqi misadventure hasn’t cracked 35 percent in many months, in spite of all the malarkey about the "success" of the recent escalation. The domestic accompaniment of the "surge" in Iraq is the rising tide of sheer hatred directed at the War Party and all its works and minions.
Yet they don’t have anything to worry about this election year: the warmongers can continue on their mad course, oblivious to public opinion, or so they seem to believe, because a U.S. strike at Iran is clearly in the cards. The only question is when.
As we count the days to the end of the Bush II era, the likelihood that the worst president in our history will go out with a bang increases on a daily basis. The latest evidence that zero hour approaches is reported by Andrew Cockburn, author, most recently, of Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy, and co-producer of the PBS documentary on Iraq The War We Left Behind. According to Cockburn, Bush has signed a presidential finding that greatly increases both the scope and seriousness of covert attempts to destabilize Iran and pave the way for war.
A presidential finding must be divulged to certain members of the intelligence oversight committees in both houses of Congress. The Democratic leadership is not only aware of all this, but fully complicit: the votes were lined up to pass the needed appropriations without any significant opposition (or any coverage in the "mainstream" media, either). Over $300 million has been appropriated to implement this new, far-reaching campaign of covert aggression.
What this means, in practical terms, is that groups that have previously been beyond the pale as far as the U.S. is concerned are now being welcomed into the anti-Iranian united front, which includes everyone from the neo-Marxist Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) to shadowy Arab Sunni groups whose ideology is not far removed from Osama bin Laden’s.
The former is a fanatical cult of Marxoid Iranian "dissidents," officially classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department after they killed U.S. embassy and military personnel in terrorist attacks. The MEK was driven out of Iran by the mullahs in the wake of a post-revolutionary power struggle, and the group fled to Iraq, where they were given aid, arms, and sanctuary, as they continued to launch terrorist attacks inside Iran. Saddam used them to crush the Shi’ite rebellion of the early 1990s, which was brutally put down.
With the "liberation" of Iraq, the MEK has been holed up in its cult compound known as Camp Ashraf, ruled over by the wife-and-husband team of Maryam and Massoud Rajavi. The former is the self-proclaimed "president" of Iran, while Mr. Rajavi serves as commander in chief of the armed forces. The MEK is a matriarchy: more than half the members are women, as are the majority of top military officers. But these are no ordinary feminists. Escapees from this weird political sect, which combines Marxism, elements of Islam, and the Rajavi cult of personality, describe a harrowing experience, including torture, imprisonment, and enforced brainwashing techniques. Indeed, the victims of the MEK are so numerous that they and their families have formed their own organization, which publicizes the abuse of members and ex-members by the crazed leadership.
The new finding also reportedly authorizes stepped-up aid to militant Arab groups in southwestern Iran, the Pejak Kurdish group, and, as reported by Seymour Hersh last year, radical, al-Qaeda-allied Sunni militants in Lebanon. Syria, too, is in the War Party’s sights. The mysterious explosions that rocked Damascus in February were but a prelude of things to come.
Cockburn also describes authorized tactics in the new finding signed six weeks ago as "up to and including the assassination of targeted officials."
The "war on terrorism" now consists of a large-scale campaign to subsidize, organize, and empower favored terrorist groups the "good" terrorists of the MEK, "former" terrorists of the "Awakening" in Iraq, and a motley assortment of separatists and fanatics whose violent methods are but a reflection of their intrinsic nihilism.
God only knows what kind of blowback we’re going to experience as a direct result of this moral slippage. Maybe it’s just me, but at a time when the authorities are requiring us to run a veritable gauntlet every time we get on a plane, as a precaution against "terrorism," encouraging (let alone subsidizing!) such groups is yet more proof that we’ve slipped into the Bizarro dimension, where up is down and funding terrorism is the same as fighting it.
None of this news is at all surprising to longtime observers of the Middle East scene. Laura Rozen, writing in The American Prospect last year, speculated that a presidential “finding” or perhaps a secret White House directive may have been issued:
“There is evidence that, while Bush probably has not signed such a finding regarding Iran, he has recently done so regarding Iranian-supported Hezbollah in Lebanon; further, there is evidence that he may have signed an executive order or national security presidential directive regarding a new, more aggressive policy on Iran. Such directives are not required to be reported to Congress they are more in the realm of the president communicating to authorized people inside the administration his expectations for a policy.”
The reporting of Rozen and others has drawn attention to U.S. efforts to effect "regime change" in Iran for quite some time, but now it seems more than covert action is in the works. NBC has reported that plans for air strikes against Iran have been drawn up by U.S. military leaders, as Washington steps up its rhetoric denouncing Iranian "interference" in Iraq. Confronted with this stark fact by Tim Russert on Sunday morning, Barack Obama wilted:
"RUSSERT: [T]he administration, we have reported at NBC, are drawing up some plans for potential air strikes in Iran at different missile weapons factories or special force compounds because we have indications, evidence that the Iranians are helping some of their supporters within Iraq to kill U.S. troops.
"RUSSERT: If it could be demonstrated that was a fact, would you be in support of such limited attacks in Iran?
"OBAMA: Well, let, let me not speculate yet. I want to, I want to take a, take a look at the kind of evidence that the administration is putting forward, what these plans are exactly. I’ve always said that, you know, as commander in chief, I don’t take military options off the table and I think it’s appropriate for us to plan for a whole host of contingencies."
He then goes into the familiar "carrots as well as sticks" Democratic Party mantra, but notice how he evades the question. Would he support an attack on Iran? Damned if I know.
In any case, we may soon find out.
Worse, Obama opines that our withdrawal from Iraq would occur in slow motion, two brigades a month: at that rate, he estimates, it would take two years for all the troops to come home. And, in any case, others would arrive to take their place, albeit in limited numbers, to "partner" with the Iraqis and presumably act as the enforcer of last resort. He reckons at that point we’ll have been in Iraq for seven years, and if the Iraqis have still failed to get their act together after all that time then they’re unlikely to do it after 50 years.
True, as far as it goes, but there’s another way to look at it: with two full years to provoke an incident involving U.S. troops and Iranian forces right across the border, if it hasn’t happened at the end of that time it’ll be a miracle.
When it comes to the conduct of American foreign policy, we are ready for a lot more than mere "change." Americans are disgusted, appalled, and depressed by the bloody spectacle, which is bankrupting the country morally as well as fiscally, destroying what was left of our moral capital and eating away at our financial assets as we sink into a quagmire of debt. Americans don’t just want any old namby-pamby "change" in this realm they pine for revolution, i.e., a complete reversal of current U.S. policy from relentless aggression to a policy based on building and preserving peace.
Polls show the yawning gap between the belligerence of the laptop bombardiers and the antiwar sentiments of ordinary Americans is growing wider by the day. Obama makes much of his early opposition to the Iraq war, but why does he wimp out when it comes to the next war, the one they’re planning against Iran?
We know he’s against it: you can hear it in the phrasing of his evasions, in his plea for "direct talks" with the Iranians and his call for a regional settlement. Yet he fails to take an unequivocal stand. He could hit Hillary over the head with her own hawkishness, yet he fails to do so. Whether this is a product of his inherent indecisiveness indicated, in another instance, by his failure to ditch Jeremiah Wright soon enough or some ideological-political glitch in his thinking is hard to say. In any case, neither possibility bodes well for his presidential prospects.
While the assassins of peace prowl the world, intent on stirring up violent passions, they don’t have much opposition on the home front except in the hearts and minds of the American people. Yet this heartfelt revulsion against the horrors of the past eight years finds no clear, unstinting voice, no consistent champion among the contenders for leadership in either party.
Remember the "Silent Majority" of the 1960s, which supposedly supported the War Party and just wanted to sweep the antiwar movement out of the way while instituting a policy of "bombs away" in Southeast Asia? Today we have the Disenfranchised Majority, which wants out of Iraq and no part of a fresh conflict in the Middle East and yet has no power to stop it.
The seething resentment this sense of powerlessness breeds has been boiling beneath the surface for a long time, and sooner or later it will burst through in a geyser of considerable force. Deprived of any other outlet, this eruption could shake and even shatter the very foundations of our constitutional republic. The blame will fall, of course, on allegedly "antisocial" and "radical" elements, who will be smeared as subversives and worse. The real culprits, however, are the political elites who blocked all expressions of the popular will and allowed the pressure to build past the breaking point.