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The next casualty

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It was Aeschylus who said, "Truth is the first casualty in war."

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America's War (Slate's Fred Kaplan refers to "them" as the "wars") in Iraq has borne out the observation with one after another vivid tragedy. The dead, the squandered wealth and degraded reputation, these were all begun, and have since ensued on the strength of fallacy. Figment weapons of mass destruction and concocted theories of conspiracy with al-Qaeda terrorists. The grim prospect of a mushroom cloud should we fail to act on an imminent threat. Those were the founding lies. We don't torture, this is about democracy, we're not building in a permanent presence, etc. The legacy continues. And as the casualties mount in these wars, the next war comes out of the blur and into focus. Vice president Dick Cheney's recent interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz already yielded up the quote, "So?" -which managed to elicit just enough indignation to further entrench both sides in our national debate on the war. But under the dust thrown up over that arrogance is the chilling evidence of another. Speaking on the subject of Iran in the same interview, Cheney simply brushed aside the factual matter of the U.S.'s own recent National Intelligence Estimate.
"Obviously, they're also heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels."
In the course of a whirlwind tour through the Mideast, Cheney has visited virtually every nation in the region with the same message and objective. Isolate and villlify Iran. Back home President Bush has been at the same business, accusing Iran of having a "declared" desire for nuclear weapons "to destroy people -some in the Middle East." When asked to substantiate such a "declaration," a White House spokesperson explained that the president was speaking in "shorthand." (When I was a kid, my mom used to write little notes to herself in shorthand, I wasn't aware it was a spoken language until now.) And the beat goes on. The Bush administration has been -let's say- somewhat disingenuous as it has tried to lens the most recent violence in Basra as further evidence of Iran's cancerous purposes in Iraq. Here is Bush speaking earlier this week in Ohio:
"As we speak, Iraqi security forces are waging a tough battle against militia fighters and criminals in Basra-many of whom have received arms and training and funding from Iran."
But as Fred Kaplan reports in the Slate article,
"Both sides in this struggle are essentially militias. Both sides have ties to Iran. And as for protecting "the Iraqi people," the side backed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and by U.S. air power) has, ironically, less support-at least in many Shiite areas, including Basra-than the side that he (and we) are attacking."
The administration has repeatedly cited examples of "Iranian backed" militia and weapons in Iraq as justification for sabers rattled in the general direction of Tehran. And what American could argue in defense of forces aligned against our own troops? There's just one flaw in that reasoning. Some of our "key strategic allies" in the region and we, too, have "armed, trained and funded forces" that have killed and kill American troops. Sunni tribal militias and insurgent forces that once represented the fiercest and most violent opposition to American troops (and which were plainly funded by Saudi sources) have formed a queasy alliance for the time being with the U.S. occupation. This is one of the great successes of the surge, we are told. "Leadership Councils" have been formed as part of an "awakening" and this has served in efforts to root out al-Qaeda operatives in the Sunni provinces. It has also served to further arm and organize Sunni groups in militant opposition to the central government's perceived or real Shiite sectarianism. Of course that was supposed to have been addressed in the "space" we created for Iraqi political reconciliation with our "surge." (But that's another argument) We entered Iraq more than five years ago on the fictive premise of a simple "good vs. evil" fight. When facts didn't quite fit our script, we willingly made them a casualty. There was that element of suspended disbelief. With Iran, now it seems the same authors are ready to move on to the next villain. There's even some comic relief as important actors like John McCain muff their lines. I'm sure some of the theater critics will opine that it's all of the same drama, the 'next chapter' -or 'Act II'! Me, I have that sad empty feeling I get ...watching reruns on TV.
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Tom driscoll is an opinion columnist, poet, performiing songwriter (let's just say he writes).
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