Updated 2/14/07, 6:20 p.m.
A month ago, I found myself depressed and terrified by a Glenn Greenwald post I read that laid out, in a way I found very convincing, the reasons to believe that the United States may be deliberately heading towards war with Iran. The article, like most of Greenwald’s work, is highly worth reading, but the salient points were:
•that a number of unambiguous signs, including military decisions and Bush’s own rhetoric, suggested that the Administration was attempting to make war with Iran both thinkable and possible;
•that the apparent insanity of such a war was no evidence that the Administration wouldn’t pursue it, as evinced by its decision to escalate the war in Iraq even after widespread repudiation; and,
•that Congress and the American people were not likely to have any say in the matter, since the Administration seemed to be maneuvering for an (apparently) accidental conflagaration; according to Greenwald, “some grand announcement by the President that he wants to start a war, followed by a debate in Congress as to whether such a war should be authorized” was “the least likely way for such a confrontation to occur.”
You can see why I found all of that frightening, and my first reaction to reading it was to blog about it. However, I didn’t want to be an alarmist, and it was hard to know if what Greenwald was saying was really credible, or if it just seemed so due to his strong writing and my anxious and dim view of neoconservative foreign policy. Plus, I didn’t really have much to add except to say that I was scared and frustrated. So all I ended up writing was the following disclamatory fragment:
“Of course, this is a worst-case scenario. There was a time, Julie reminded me, when the government and its mouthpieces was triumphantly signalling that we weren’t going to stop with Iraq; we were going to show Syria who was boss as well. (Of course, Syria was also mentioned in the speech last night.) There was a time where I linked to reports that Bush was pushing Saudi Arabia for lower gas prices and pushing Afghanistan and Pakistan for the capture of bin Laden in advance of the 2004 election; neither of those materialized. Never has an administration gotten so much enjoyment out of bragging about the things it can do, whether it does them or not, and my hope is certainly that that’s what this amounts to. Nevertheless, given the enormous stakes involved—we may be talking about war consuming the entire Middle East for generations, war that could well involve the use of nuclear weapons—even the idea that the Administration may be keeping the option of war with Iran on the table is more than alarming, it’s outrageous. And the fact that there is nothing we can do about it, even after we elected a whole new Congress, makes me feel helpless and afraid.”
In the month that’s passed since then, the President has unilaterally sent 20,000 more troops to Iraq and once again accused Iran of aiding insurgents, this time in the State of the Union address. The Administration, in a flashback to 2002, has been asserting Iran’s culpability through anonymous sources, and the New York Times has published those untraceable assertions on its front page. Newsweek has published a cover story entitled “The Secret War with Iran.” And a Republican Congressman, speaking on national television (scroll down a bit), has said that not only should Congress not take war with Iran “off the table” (echoing my unpublished hand-wringing above), but that the President, and not Congress, has the power to declare war.
Maybe it’s not going to happen.
But I will say that if it does happen, they’re not going to give us warning this time. We’re not going to hear about weapons inspectors or deadlines; Condi Rice is not going to address the UN holding white powder in a vial. It will be the Tonkin Gulf again: we will wake up one morning and read that Iran has struck (or allegedly struck) in Iraq, or that the Administration has decided that the Iranian government has been building insurgent bombs, or that the line has been crossed in any one of a thousand different ways. And the bombers will already be in the air.
Update: Here comes another one, here it comes again, here comes another one, when will it ever end: Bush now says that it doesn’t matter whether or not whether the Iranian government has been supplying the insurgents (“What’s worse? That the government knew, or that the government didn’t know?”—actual quote), and says, “I intend to do something about it.” Note that “I.”