Over the past seven years I have read many articles that just make my blood boil. The other day was just such as an example with a seemingly innocent article from the AP, innocent, that is, until one starts piecing things together.
Because I can recall other matters related to the issue, the very first sentence made my hands shake in fury. With blithe naiveté the article began, "Washington - Iraqi leaders have been given the latest US evidence of Iranian support for militias inside Iraq, and Baghdad will decide what to do about it, two senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday." Baghdad will decide whether the U.S. will attack Iran or not? That is what it says, and that is totally disingenuous. Background will follow.
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With quivering fingers and flaring nostrils, I read on. "Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki possesses the evidence, which other officials said contradicts Tehran's stated commitment to stop providing arms, weapons technology and training to Shiite militias inside Iraq." Gen. Sattler added, "It's in Prime Minister al-Maliki's hands right now ..."
About ready to kill someone at this point, I continued to read to my everlasting regret, noting that the AP was merely reporting what it heard. The general added, "The evidence inside Baghdad has been shared with the Iraqi leadership, and that's where it stands right now." That's absolutely wonderful. The Iraqi PM has the evidence. I blew. What are the American people? Fish bait?
It gets worse. Enter CIA Director Michael Hayden, stage right. He states, "It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq." So here we have the DCI stating that the "Iranian government" is killing Americans, and Americans are not allowed to see the evidence, but the weak and ineffectual Iraqi government can. Also, this contradicts the JCS chairman, Adm. Michael Mullen, who recently stated, "... he has 'no smoking gun which could prove that the highest leadership [of Iran] is involved in this."
We were allowed to see a mere glimpse at the proof through the usual official-who-spoke-on-the-condition-of-anonymity-because-the-evidence-was-not-public-yet source. At least I hope it was a mere glimpse because he disclosed absolutely nothing of import. Weapons of Iranian origin were found in Iraq with recent code dates. Well, gee and golly. Imagine that. Iranian weapons were found in Iraq. General, Sir, allow me to clue you in. The Mideast is a hotbed for arms merchants. Without even looking hard one could find weapons of Russian, Egyptian, Israeli, Polish, German, Swedish, even American origin. If one has the bread, one could easily buy a tank.
Are you angry yet? I haven't even gotten started. For over two years now Americans have been besieged by the eminent attack on Iran, a truly disastrous and abysmal strategy. Recently, in a speech at West Point, Gates said Iran "is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons." That is pure conjecture, and flies in the face of the December NIE that stated with confidence that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons aspirations four years ago. Smart move on the part of Iran. Working to perfect one nuclear device while Israel has a hundred or more would be infinitely stupid and wouldn't happen in the first place. In the small pond known as the Mideast Israel is at the top of the food chain, and the Mossad is more than capable.
More than two years ago, Seymour Hersh disclosed in the New Yorker how George W. Bush was considering strategic nuclear strikes against Iran. Ever since, a campaign to demonize that country has proceeded in a relentless, neocon-like way, applying the same techniques and semantic contortions that were so familiar in the period before the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq. However, Americans say today, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Americans will not be fooled ... not again.
In early December, Marine captain [ret.], author, and columnist Scott Ritter predicted that the U.S. would attack Iran in April. Well, of course, that did not happen, but the article was written prior to the widely-publicized Dec. NIE mentioned above. That NIE took the wind out of the Bush/Cheney sails. However, they are now restarting the same old routine assuming Americans have forgotten that bothersome NIE. Americans have not forgotten. Another pundit predicted war with Iran in May. Still another before "summer's end." There are scores of such articles.
All these writers are basing their beliefs on what is appearing before their eyes. What they see is a change in tactics. President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, JCS chairman Adm. Mullen, SecState Gates, DCI Hayden, Iraqi commander Gen. Petraeus, and others are all saying the same thing. Iran is training and equipping forces in Iraq that are killing American soldiers. Some, like Gates, are returning to the original gambit - Iran "is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.
In March, Vice-President Cheney had the occasion to visit our friends in Saudi Arabia. Soon after he left, the Saudi newspaper, Okaz, with the blessings of the Saudi government put out a red alert for Saudis to make preparations for a nuclear fallout from Iran. Some experts claim the Bush Administration is on the brink of launching an attack against Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors and is warning neighboring allies. Earlier, on March 11, CENTCOM commander, Adm. William Fallon, was sacked. For those unaware of the chain of command, Adm. Fallon was Gen. Petraeus' boss. Fallon had declared months ago that an attack on Iran would not occur during his watch. His early retirement fueled speculation that Bush/Cheney were preparing for such an attack.
Only recently, Adm. Mullen stated, "... that the Pentagon is planning for 'potential military courses of action' against Iran ..." He added, "It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability." This aged former intelligence officer would like to remind the good admiral that contingency plans are not meant for public consumption, and respectfully, Sir, it is suggested that you keep your mouth shut about them. Mullen states that he prefers a diplomatic solution. Wonderful. Don't we all. He also reported that Gen. Petraeus is preparing a briefing soon to lay out detailed evidence of increased Iranian involvement in Iraq. While Americans are soaking in all of this, pray tell, what are we supposed to believe?
While America's leadership is ratcheting up the rhetoric about how Iran is killing Americans, President Ahmadinejad has a different point of view. He blames the Bush administration and the American occupation force of 160,000 troops as the reason for the fighting and dying in Iraq. From a purely unbiased viewpoint, there is something to be said for that argument. In addition, the U.S. has this huge occupation force on the doorstep of Iran, and Bush and Co. are arguing it is all Iran's fault for the repercussions of said force. The unbiased reader is asked, does that make any sense?
Sayyed Hassan al-Qazwini, imam of the largest mosque in North America in Detroit is one frustrated Muslim. "When I speak, or other moderate Muslim scholars speak, we will not find any outlet for our words," he says. "But if a grocer in Karachi goes out on the streets and calls for jihad [holy war] against America, he will find many media outlets there ready to cover his insanity." History is on the side of the imam. "Sunnis and Shiites, after all, have learned to 'grudgingly' tolerate each other for centuries, despite doctrinal differences," says Hisham Hellyer of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies and an adviser to the British government on Islamic extremism." Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, adds, "The distinctions between Sunnis and Shiites simply were not an issue during the height of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s." In other words, it was kind of like Catholics and Protestants in the U.S. We don't kill each other. Personally, there are even some liberals I like, noting that has little to do with religion.
While Shiite and Sunni-dominated countries have fought each other in the past - such as the Sunni Ottoman Empire and the Shiite Safavid dynasty of Persia and more recently the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, those conflicts were not motivated by disputes over religious interpretation.
"They were about power and politics," Mr. Hellyer says. Besides, the Turks are Turks, not Arabs, and, as mentioned above, the Iranians (Persia) are not Arabs either. I just want to keep the ethnicity straight, because Americans have a tendency to group all Mideast states under one umbrella, Arab Muslims.
When and where did sectarian warfare break out? When did Sunnis and Shiites begin bombing their respective mosques, killing each other on the streets, attacking mourners at funerals, and ravaging religious festivals? And when did rival factions within the Sunni and Shia begin to attack each other? If one has been listening, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer the question. Sectarian warfare broke out in Iraq soon after the American invasion of that sovereign nation. That, folks, is an indisputable historical fact. And, yet, Bush and Co. have the sheer audacity to blame Iran for the travails in Iraq today. That is not propaganda. That is mindboggling disinformation to the American people reminiscent of a Nazi era 75 years ago.
What if the Bush administration has the criminal effrontery to attack Iran, what will be the Iranian response? Will they passively accept it and go before the U.N. Security Council demanding condemnation of the United States? This is doubtful. The Iranian people, particular the young, the under 40-somethings, are very much like Americans, very in-tune to the modern world, very intuitive, technologically advanced that would put this writer to shame, and very Westernized. They actually like Americans, but loath the American government. They also share the Western virtue of revenge against an outrage. Will the Iranians attack Israel, bringing them into the conflict? The ayatollahs are not that stupid. Iran will react by attacking juicy targets, American units just across a convenient border in Iraq. It should be mentioned that Iran is three times the size of Iraq. Due to our stressed-out troops and dangerously long supply lines, I can't imagine a worst scenario. How will Bush react to Iran escalating the conflict by attacking American camps, bases and embassy in Iraq. I don't even want to go there. It is too horrible to contemplate, other than to say Bush may get his rapture, and the Second Holocaust may commence with the Mideast literally blowing up while American forces are right the thick of it, surrounded and in peril.
So, there you have it. Should Americans be concerned? The American who isn't is brain-dead. This time, before the U.S. attacks, we want unimpeachable proof that it is necessary, and the mere presence of Iranian weapons is less than pathetic as evidence. Even if there is proof the Grand Ayatollah is instrumental in American troop deaths, given the circumstances, perhaps we should consider other alternatives, rather than military ones.
But that is not up to us. According to the highest circles in our government, the evidence of Iranian misbehavior is being presented to Iraqis, not Americans, and "Baghdad will decide what to do about it."
Are you angry yet?
Sandy Shanks is the author of The Bode Testament and Impeachment. He is also a retired columnist who specialized in military/political issues.