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Why do I feel like the proverbial skunk at a Labor Day picnic? Sorry; but I thought you might want to know that this time next year there will probably be more skunks than we can handle. I fear our country is likely to be at war with Iran—and with the thousands of real terrorists Iran can field around the globe.
It is going to happen, folks, unless we put our lawn chairs away on Tuesday, take part in some serious grass-roots organizing, and take action to prevent a wider war—while we still can.
President George W. Bush’s speech Tuesday lays out the Bush/Cheney plan to attack Iran and how the intelligence is being “fixed around the policy,” as was the case before the attack on Iraq.
It’s not about putative Iranian “weapons of mass destruction”—not even ostensibly. It is about the requirement for a scapegoat for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and the White House’s felt need to create a casus belli by provoking Iran in such a way as to “justify” armed retaliation—eventually including air strikes on its nuclear-related facilities.
Bush’s Aug. 28 speech to the American Legion comes five years after a very similar presentation by Vice President Dick Cheney. Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney set the meretricious terms of reference for war on Iraq.
Sitting on the same stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored at the VFW convention. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear a depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew. Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.
“There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD...I heard a case being made to go to war,” Zinni told Meet the Press three and a half years later.
(Zinni is a straight shooter with considerable courage, and so the question lingers: why did he not go public? It is all too familiar a conundrum at senior levels; top officials can seldom find their voices. My hunch is that Zinni regrets letting himself be guided by a misplaced professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions, when he might have prevented our country from starting the kind of war of aggression branded at Nuremberg the “supreme international crime.”)
Cheney: Dean of Preemption
Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney’s words. Then-CIA director George Tenet says Cheney’s speech took him completely by surprise. In his memoir Tenet wrote, “I had the impression that the president wasn’t any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it.”
Yet, it could have been anticipated. Just five weeks before, Tenet himself had told his British counterpart that the president had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
When Bush’s senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day, 2002, the next five weeks (and by now, the next five years) were devoted to selling a new product—war on Iraq. The actual decision to attack Iraq, we now know, was made several months earlier but, as then-White House chief of staff Andy Card explained, no sensible salesperson would launch a major new product during the month of August—Cheney’s preemptive strike notwithstanding. Yes, that’s what Card called the coming war; a “new product.”
After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld dispatched him and the pliant Powell at State to play supporting roles in the advertising campaign: bogus yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment, and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agent—the whole nine yards. The objective was to scare or intimidate Congress into voting for war, and, thanks largely to a robust cheering section in the corporate-controlled media, Congress did so on October 10 and 11, 2002.
This past week saw the president himself, with that same kind of support, pushing a new product—war with Iran. And in the process, he made clear how intelligence is being fixed to “justify” war this time around. The case is too clever by half, but it will be hard for Americans to understand that. Indeed, the Bush/Cheney team expects that the product will sell easily—the more so, since the administration has been able once again to enlist the usual cheerleaders in the media to “catapult the propaganda,” as Bush once put it.
Iran’s Nuclear Plans
It has been like waiting for Godot...the endless wait for the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear plans. That NIE turns out to be the quintessential dog that didn’t bark. The most recent published NIE on the subject was issued two and a half years ago and concluded that Iran could not have a nuclear weapon until “early- to mid-next decade.” That estimate followed a string of NIEs dating back to 1995, which kept predicting, with embarrassing consistency, that Iran was “within five years” of having a nuclear weapon.