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Tangle in Persia
“Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon's statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.
“Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon's caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way.
Thomas P.M. Barnett, Esquire
One day after these words appeared in Esquire, Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command for only a year since Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed him, resigned suddenly. In other words, he was fired. There’s a case to be made that he was fired for being so free with his opinions, the Esquire piece being the last straw. But if his opinions had jibed with those of George Bush and Dick Cheney, he probably could have been as vocal as he liked. The real crux of the problem with Fallon, as detailed by Barnett, was a stark difference of opinion on the advisability of war with Iran.
A lot of people dismiss out of hand the idea that Bush will do something as dumb as invade Iran in the remaining few months of his seemingly interminable reign. It would, after all, be a colossally stupid move, indicating that the administration has learned nothing from the disaster in Iraq—which Cheney just now called a “success.” That word is all you need to hear to understand just how little they’ve learned.
Fallon wasn’t ousted because of his words—both the Defense Secretary and the president have spoken of a need for diplomacy to avert war with Iran. The difference is that Fallon actually means it. He stood between Bush and another insane invasion, and he was removed. There’s much talk of how it is inappropriate for a military commander to inhibit civilian rule, but history shows there are moments when “I was following orders” just won’t do. And Fallon is only the last in a long list of high level Bush appointees, no angels themselves, who have resigned in protest, or due to protest, many of whom have gone on to publicly criticize the administration, to little avail. Bush’s actions shock the consciences of people who are long-inured to the moral vagaries of modern American empire—Paul O’Neill, Christie Todd Whitman, Colin Powell, even the cowardly Gerald Ford, among many others.
Their plaints go unheeded, though, and the commentariat go right on presuming that Bush and Cheney are not consequence-damning psychopaths. Scandal piles upon scandal, and it seems no one—no one important, anyway—is willing to speak what most can see: The president just doesn’t give a damn about public opinion or expert advice. Iran is next, period, and if they squeeze it in on their way out the door, there will be no consequences, not for them. Congress has endured innumerable impeachable offenses without even threatening censure. They certainly wouldn’t bother to hold Bush accountable after he’s gone.
Will the administration attack Iran before its departure? Why not? What’s to stop them? It’s become obvious over the past year or two that they’d very much like to. A PR campaign as robust as the one we’ve seen launched against Mahmoud Ahmedinejad doesn’t just spring from nowhere. The White House that, only a few years ago, hoodwinked this country into a war of aggression with fake intel and false threats, was clearly in the process of repeating the scam, invoking World War III and the Holocaust. That’s some aggressive marketing. They even managed to cajole congress into calling for the classification of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard—part of that nation’s military—as a terrorist agency, and obvious pretext to attack Iran. It would be easy enough to provoke an Iranian retaliation, prompting legal justification and public support for escalation.
But then the National Intelligence Estimate leaked, despite Bush’s best efforts. The jig was up. Despite their weak protestations about centrifuges, the White House ramped down its rhetoric, lessened its swagger, and what seemed an inevitable Persian blunder appeared to be averted. Surely, after Iran’s supposedly imminent nuclear bombs were collectively judged a mirage by the myriad intelligence organs of America, they would cease and desist.
It’s amazing to me that, after all this time, the Bush administration still enjoys the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their sanity. People believed Saddam was a real threat in part because the administration was so adamant about it. They wouldn’t squander their credibility or incur the public wrath of a mistaken invasion, would they? And even now, after we’ve already seen time and again just how carelessly manipulative, how callously deceitful they can be, people still don’t believe they would do it again. But that’s exactly why they can.
And they will. They will attack Iran, and leave it to the next president to handle the aftermath. Anyone who thinks they’re too election-conscious to do it isn’t seeing the situation clearly. Being thrust into a new frightening international conflict during the election doesn’t help the Democrats; it helps McCain. If people are afraid—and an aggrieved Iran, unlike Iraq, is actually something to be afraid of—they will vote for the war hero in droves. If nothing else, attacking Iran is a great election strategy for the GOP. Sure, when the dust has settled and, once again, it slowly dawns on Americans that they’ve been conned, just like they were so many times before, there’ll be the usual “hell” to pay—vaguely critical punditry, low approval ratings, the occasional lecture from Henry Waxman—but it will be the Republicans in power yet again, planning the next invasion, but waiting to debut the PR campaign in the fall, when the public is most receptive.
Fear of crazy, violent Muslims is the tool Republicans win with now. They can rattle about taxes, but it won’t be enough to make up for the abysmal failures of the past seven years. The only issue they have is terror. And if the nation is tired of Iraq, then it’s time for a sequel. Gulf War III: Holy Shit These Guys Have F-14s! More oil-rich land to privatize, more casualties to piss us off, more nationalism, more flag pins and bumper magnets. And once it’s started, it’s somebody else’s problem.
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