Sunday, September 30, 2007

“We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate. … 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again. … We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy.”

— Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 30 September 2007 (his emphasis)

At least he acknowledges his own contribution to the off-balance discourse. Here’s where he’d been all this time:

“… let’s stay the course in Iraq, but stay extra-vigilant at home” (13 April 2005)

“Sept. 11 amounts to World War III — the third great totalitarian challenge to open societies in the last 100 years” (8 January 2004)

“The failure of the Bush team to produce any weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.’s) in Iraq is becoming a big, big story. But is it the real story we should be concerned with? No. It was the wrong issue before the war, and it’s the wrong issue now. … The ‘real reason’ for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn’t enough. Because a terrorism bubble had built up over there — a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. … The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world” (4 June 2003)

“Lord knows, 9/11 has been a trauma for us, and our response has been to strike back and install better security” (8 January 2003)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“Thank you, may the Imam Mahdi’s return be hastened, for your silver grail. And here is your gold star…”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the veritable dean of realist international relations figures, has just said that “the administration, the president and the vice president particularly, are trying to hype the atmosphere, and that is reminiscent of what preceded the war in Iraq.” This comes about one week after French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said that the world should “prepare” for a US-Iran war should negotiations fail. Redux indeed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit.
Blood on the trees, blood at the root.
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck.
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

— “Strange Fruit” (1939), courtesy Michael Louis-Ingram

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” (Alan Greenspan, in his memoir The Age of Turbulence, as quoted by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, 15 September)

You meant what you said, Alan. Grow a pair and quit dissembling.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

(Courtesy Martin Klimas, and a personal hat-tip to Andrew Sullivan, who drew my attention to this really cool gallery; I think this is the best one.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

An air-attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would likely lead to a Shiite uprising in the South of Iraq — that’s why the Brits are trying to get out of there as quickly as possible — and mass casualties across the country. It would align the new Shiite ‘government’ in Baghdad much more closely with Iran, and force the US into a hideous alliance with Sunni dictators and Sunni tribes. We would have no other global allies. We would still have insufficient troops to win. And we would not just have created a regional civil war in the Middle East; we would have taken sides in it. Such a development could unleash a wave of Islamist terror across the West far more lethal than anything we have yet seen — and even bring the Sunni-Shiite conflict to the streets of Western cities. Such warfare would likely lead to an intensification of the imperial presidency at home, with all the consequences for the Constitution that would entail. There is a disconnect right now, I fear, between the enormous stakes we are deciding and the awareness of most Americans of what may be about to engulf them.”

— Andrew Sullivan, 12 September 2007

Writing in The Nation, Alexander Cockburn is skeptical: “Despite the unending stream of stories across the months announcing that an attack on Iran is on the way, I’ve had my doubts. … China has a big stake in Iran. It’s also Uncle Sam’s banker. The Chinese don’t have to destroy the dollar, merely squeeze its windpipe or revalue their currency enough to double retail prices at Wal-Mart. The Republicans and the presidential candidates wouldn’t want that.

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff know the Iraq War has almost broken the US Army,” he adds; it is worth noting that it has been reported that several military commanders have vowed to resign should war with Iran commence. “Wouldn’t they adamantly oppose the notion of an attack on Iran, which would see Shiite resistance groups in Iraq cut US supply convoys from Kuwait…? [Sullivan’s point, I believe] Wouldn’t Shiite forces as a whole finally commence a campaign of eviction of the American occupier?” These are reasonable critiques, although I disagree that “the Israel lobby calls the shots in US foreign policy,” as Cockburn believes. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

NOTE (Sept. 15): Debat vigorously denied the allegations brought against him yesterday, and the examination has been extended to his reporting of the Jundullah affair in Pakistan, the reported US arming of the militant organization in an effort to spur regime change in Iran. The New York Times reports that ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, “the correspondent who worked most closely with Mr. Debat, said the Jundullah story had many sources. ‘We’re only worried about the things Debat supplied, not about the substance of that story,’ he said. … So far, ABC has found nothing that would undermine the stories Mr. Debat worked on, Mr. Ross said last night. But he acknowledged that as the stories of fabrications continue to roll in, the network ‘at some point has to question whether anything he said can be believed.’”
CORRECTION: One of the more sensational claims in the preceding post was attributed to one Alexis Debat of the Nixon Center who, according to the New York Times, “has been revealed to be the author of faked interviews” and ABC News is launching what is going to be “a second investigation” into Debat, on whom ABC had used as “a consultant.” This obviously brings into question the credibility of his claims about our war plans for Iran. The Times notes that Debat “was quoted as a knowledgeable source in an article in The Times of London … saying that American military forces were planning attacks that would demolish ‘the entire Iranian military.’” Regardless, I think, of the validity of the source saying this, that would be the way to do it. It doesn’t make much sense to take out the nuclear plants and wait for a response, which would of course be balls-out ballistic. So, in a word, mea culpa.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

“Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout [for war against Iran] will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11. My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way [my italics]:

They [the source’s institution] have ‘instructions’ (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this — they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is ‘plenty.’

Of course I cannot verify this report. But besides all the other pieces of information about this circulating, I heard last week from a former U.S. government contractor. According to this friend, someone in the Department of Defense called, asking for cost estimates for a model for reconstruction in Asia. The former contractor finally concluded that the model was intended for Iran. This anecdote is also inconclusive, but it is consistent with the depth of planning that went into the reconstruction effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I hesitated before posting this. I don’t want to spread alarmist rumors.”

— Barnett Rubin, a specialist on Afghanistan at New York University (according to George Packer of the New Yorker), 29 August 2007

What about the alarmism — and dehumanization — in that cartoon (above) in the Columbus Dispatch, published on 4 September, the day after Labor Day?

In related news: “The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to ... well-respected British scholar and arms expert Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and Martin Butcher, a former Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.”

(The report adds that “Plesch and Butcher dispute conventional wisdom that any US attack on Iran would be confined to its nuclear sites. Instead, they foresee a ‘full-spectrum approach,’ designed to either instigate an overthrow of the government or reduce Iran to the status of ‘a weak or failed state.’ Although they acknowledge potential risks and impediments that might deter the Bush administration from carrying out such a massive attack, they also emphasize that the administration’s National Security Strategy includes as a major goal the elimination of Iran as a regional power.”)

Oh, and the London Times reported on 2 September that “the Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to ... Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, [who] said last week that US military planners were not preparing for ‘pinprick strikes’ against Iran’s nuclear facilities ... at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: ‘Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.’ It was, he added, a ‘very legitimate strategic calculus’.”

Stop the cockroaches before it is too late!

ADDENDUM (Sept. 11): I’m not alone in my crazed assertions. One commentator at Asia Times (some kook named Alan Jamieson) also thinks war against Iran looms, writing specifically that it’s most likely to go down sometime over the next twelve months, possibly just as the 2008 election heats up. Speaking of today, though, it’s not one for politics — albeit that politics but for a brief lull swept it into an exploited memory that less and less of my generation remembers, judging by an increasingly younger freshman class that was all of twelve(!) when it happened. My God. To paraphrase Hot Tuna, death don’t have no mercy in this world.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Think twice. (Courtesy Vero Testa, McSweeney’s)