We, of course, have them in abundance and the article tells us that we are drawing up contingency plans to use them in a future attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Admittedly, we have contingency plans for battling extra-terrestrials, so a plan all by itself doesn't mean much. The problem is that an all-too-clear pattern is emerging, and it's beginning to seem like the only real difference between the run up to the war in Iraq and the run up to a potential war in Iran is that one ends in "q" and the other in "n." Let's look at the pattern.
1. Promoting democracy -- Long before the Iraq war, the Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iraq Liberation Act, which authorized the President to spend close to $100 million to "support a transition to democracy in Iraq." The money was to be used to enhance broadcasting into Iraq, help train opposition military forces, and provide humanitarian assistance to those who refused to cooperate with Saddam's regime. It explicitly did not authorize U.S. military action by the U.S., hoping that change would come from within Iraq, with a little boost from us. At the time, CENTCOM commander Anthony Zinni warned in the Washington Post that he saw "no 'viable' opposition to Saddam Hussein." The money didn't accomplish anything other than making Ahmad Chalabi an even richer man.
Never one to learn from history, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress last week for $85 million to "promote democracy" in Iran. The goal was to increase Farsi-language broadcasts of Voice of America and to provide assistance to "Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists." Again, experts are warning that efforts along these lines "could aid the wrong people or backfire on them if the financing becomes public." Hello? Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it's already public. And what are we going to talk about in those 24 hour a day broadcasts? How great everything is in Iraq?
2. The Intelligence -- Remember the good old days of aluminum tubes and those mobile bunkers churning out anthrax and botulinum toxin? The threat level kept changing from imminent to grave to growing and the mushroom cloud could be over the East Coast in 45 minutes. Of course, other members of the intelligence community were bringing up all those tedious caveats and raising those ridiculous red flags, but they were easily ignored. After all, we had a date with destiny and we weren't going to let a little thing like reality get in the way.
Regarding Iran, to raise just one example, there are these blueprints of a large subterranean shaft which "appear designed for an underground atomic test," according to some U.S. officials. However, the Post points out a few problems: The word "nuclear" appears nowhere in the document, there is no evidence of an associated program, and no one knows who the author is. In fact, the evidence of an Iranian nuclear program is "often circumstantial, usually ambiguous and always incomplete." At any rate, experts see three possibilities to explain Iran's move toward uranium enrichment -- "that Iran's program is peaceful, that it aims for a weapon, or that the Tehran government is still keeping its options open." Recent pronouncements from Dubya and friends suggest that they've already decided on Door Number Two.
3. Oil and Euros -- Without getting into too much detail in this article (I'll leave the fuller subject for a future piece), there are certain economists who have suggested that an underlying reason for the Iraq war had to do with the fact that Iraq had recently begun selling its oil for euros instead of dollars. That event weakened the dollar, strengthened the euro, and had some measurable economic impact here in the States. The new regime in Iran has announced its intention to do the same as of this March, opening up a "bourse" or oil exchange to compete with the major British and American petroleum exchanges. While some energy experts believe that this is little more than a "poke in the eye" of America, others believe the economic implications could be significant. For one thing, we may not be able to continue to fund our standard of living with cheap imports. More importantly, there could be a domino effect. If Iran makes the switch, does OPEC follow? Then Russia and China?" We've been known to act preemptively before to keep the dominos from falling. I think it was called the Vietnam War.
So as we listen to the rhetoric, we can't help but hear an echo from only a few years back. Of course, maybe this time it will be different. Maybe we won't go to war, or maybe we'll actually find the smoking gun before we act. But it sounds far too much like the same old wine in a brand new bottle. And while I'm quoting song lyrics, one could ask right about now, "When will we ever learn?"