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Fool Us Twice? Shame On Us

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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - It's hard not to listen to the nonsense that the White House is furiously pumping out regarding Iran, and not think about the con job they pulled in 2002 and early 2003 to sell their plan to invade Iraq.

I look back at the columns I wrote during the 18 months between the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq, and compare them to what the right-wing screech monkeys wrote during that period, and I believe that what I wrote holds up a hell of a lot better than what they wrote.

The people who didn't drink the neo-conservative Kool-Aid, the people who weren't Washington insiders or courtesans to the powerful, got it right on Iraq.

It wasn't because we were blessed with superior intelligence or predictive power. It was just plain common sense.

You didn't have to do much research to figure out that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no ties with al-Qaida. Anyone with a reasonable amount of skepticism could see that Iraq did not have a stash of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in 2002. Iraq had been effectively disarmed by more than a decade of UN inspections, sanctions and periodic bombing by American and British warplanes. Iraq wasn't a military threat to its neighbors, let alone the United States.

But the people who were talking sense about Iraq and the dangers of a pre-emptive war were drowned out by the tub thumpers who thought war was a splendid idea and that anyone who disagreed hated America.

Time has proven the skeptics on Iraq right. After nearly four years, Iraq is screwed up beyond all recognition and there is nothing that President Bush can do to change this reality.

Of course, the administration doesn't believe this. They think progress is being made in Iraq and victory is right around the corner. Not only that, they firmly believe that the way to victory in Iraq is a massive attack on Iran.

This is madness, but few in the elite press are willing to say this. The silence today is as deafening as the silence in the six-month run-up to war at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003.

But with each passing week, the Bush administration is ratcheting up the rationales for attacking Iran. While administration officials continue to deny that they are trying to provoke a war, their actions speak otherwise.

The European press has been reporting that planning for an attack on Iran has been ongoing for months. A list of nuclear sites in Iran to be bombed has prepared. The military assets to carry out the attacks are being moved into the region.

One U.S. Navy carrier group, led by the USS Eisenhower, is in the Persian Gulf. Another, led by the USS John Stennis, is on the way, and perhaps a third will join them. Extra Patriot missile batteries have sent to the region, as well as more minesweepers. It's the heaviest concentration of naval might in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003.

At the same time, new contingents of U.S. Air Force planes and personnel are being deployed to forward air bases in Bulgaria and Romania. Other U.S. air bases in Europe and the Middle East are at heightened state of alert.

An attack could happen as early as the spring, but Bush might wait until next year, just before he is due to leave office. The Bush administration may want the extra time to build up their propaganda campaign.

For Iraq, the threat of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction was the main selling point for an attack. The same line is being sold for an attack on Iran, except that unlike Iraq, Iran is actually conducting nuclear research - which it is legally entitled to do under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But most military experts believe Iran is at least a decade away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.

Playing the nuclear card won't work, especially now that we know that virtually everything the Bush administration said about Iraq's military capabilities was a lie. Instead, the administration is trying to make the case that the Iranians are meddling in Iraq and endangering U.S. forces there.

As Paul Krugman recently pointed out in The New York Times, "if you can claim that Iran is doing evil there, you can assert that you don't need authorization to attack - that Congress has already empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilize Iraq. And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing - well, the war would be in full swing."

An attack on Iran has long been a high priority for the Bush administration. While they have made it clear that they will do whatever they want in Iraq, regardless of what Congress or the American people say, they know that the only way they can bomb Iran is to tie the Iranians to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

That's why any discussion about the U.S. role in Iraq leads directly to the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran.

Congress has to do everything in its power to not only block the president's escalation of the Iraq war, but to stop him from widening that war to Iran. It must go on record now as stating that an attack on Iran is not in our nation's best interest and it will not authorize money for military action there.

Too many Americans were fooled into supporting an invasion of Iraq. We can't allow the president to do the same thing to justify an attack on Iran - an attack that would be a catastrophe for the United States beyond anything we've seen so far in Iraq.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at
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