So, let me see if I've got this straight:
The Cheneyists wanted to bomb Iran based on the same fear-scam Americans
fell for when CheneyBush were pushing the invasion of Iraq: nuclear
weapons. Here's how their scheme fell apart -- or did it?
In 2002-2003, you may recall, Rice and Bush and Cheney kept hyping
Saddam Hussein's alleged robust nuclear-weapons program -- all that
"yellowcake" uranium supposedly obtained from Africa and so on -- and
warning about "mushroom clouds" over major American cities.
This time, in 2007, the Cheneyists were frothing at the mouth almost
daily about the need to attack because the Iranians were just about to
achieve atomic critical-mass and it wouldn't be long before they'd be
able to launch nuclear-tipped missiles at our allies in Europe, at our
troops in Iraq, and at Israel in the Middle East. Iran had to be stopped
But (and it's a very big "but"), it appears that there was a kind of
rebellion in the upper reaches of the Bush Administration to prevent the
neocons -- led by Cheney, Bush, Addington, Bolton, et al. -- from
rushing headlong into a disastrous use of the military option.
THE TUG-OF-WAR WITHIN
Virtually everyone in the Bush Administration agrees that Iran's
regional ambitions need to be blunted. The battle is between the
"ideologues" and the "realists," the latter being those who think that
in light of the intelligence community's NIE findings that Iran's
nuclear-weapons program was abandoned in 2003 and could take up to a
decade to reconstitute to the point of danger, one has time to develop a
strong diplomatic-cum-sanctions policy, with no need for immediate
No doubt, the key players and factions in that rebellion will be
revealed shortly. I'll offer my reasonable guesses, for what they're
worth: the Joint Chiefs of Staff and many of the senior analysts at the
CIA and State Department.
As for the timing, some of those career intelligence analysts were ready
to disclose the
NEI's classified contents in public unless the finding were
released; these CIA analysts were prepared to face prosecution, if
I suspect that Defense Secretary Gates fell into this "realist" camp as
well. And, who knows?, maybe even Condi Rice, along with a good many key
Republican leaders in Congress, who realized how difficult it would be
to save their jobs in the '08 election if Bush launched yet another war
in the Greater Middle East.
SHORT ON BULLETS & BODIES
The Joint Chiefs, more than anyone in the Bush Administration, know how
thin their forces are stretched to service the Administration's
ambitious war aims; in order to fill their quotas for warm bodies in
uniform, they have to: lower the physical and moral standards for
recruits (taking in criminals, gang members, those physically and maybe
even mentally unfit for service); use various lies and scams to lure
young prospects to join the military; keep sending those soldiers
already serving in Iraq and Afghanistan back again and again for yet
another rotation; utilize stop-loss provisions in order to keep their
hooks into soldiers whose tours of duty are up and should be going home;
In addition, U.S. military equipment in Iraq is constantly breaking
down, or "disappears" once it gets into the field. Just this week, it
was revealed that the Pentagon was unable to account for
yet another billion dollars' worth of military equipment, a good
share of which no doubt winds up in the hands of the Iraqi insurgents
trying to force the occupying American forces out of their country.
Symbolizing how ridiculously scary the situation is there:
law-enforcement agencies inside the U.S. are
running out of bullets, because that ammo is needed in Iraq where
the troops also are in short supply.
BUSH'S LUDICROUS RESPONSE
Bush's first, laughable response to press questions about the NIE
release last week was to claim that he was informed in August of 2007 by
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell that there was unspecified
"new information" on Iran, but McConnell "didn't tell me what the
information was." We were supposed to believe that Bush never asked
"what information?", but simply went back to bike-riding in the White
House gym. That was the Maximum Leader's cockamamie story, which didn't
pass the smell test by any measure.
Senator Joe Biden, among many others, expressed incredulity and outrage
at this obvious lie. Said the Delaware senator: "Are you telling me a
president that's briefed every single morning, who's fixated on Iran, is
not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence
agencies in the U.S. government [was that the Iranians] had abandoned
their effort for a nuclear weapon in '03? I refuse to believe that. If
that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American
history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern
Without admitting that Bush had lied, the White House hastily "amended"
Secretary Dana Perino, admitted that McConnell told Bush that Iran's
nuclear program may have been "suspended." With a straight face, she
went on: "I can see where you could see that the president could have
been more precise in that language. But the president was being
THE NEW OPERABLE WORD: "KNOWLEDGE"
How can we be sure that Bush was informed of the actual Iran findings by
the intelligence community? Because it was in August that Bush's
anti-Iran rhetoric switched. Instead of talking about a nuclear-weapons
program and capabilities, he began referring to how dangerous Iran would
be if it obtained the "knowledge" of how to make nuclear weapons. A BIG
It took some weeks but a number of internet political analysts (most
notably Josh Marshall at
Points Memo) began commenting on the ramifications of that
difference. In October, for example,
"The former probable casus belli -- coming close to having a
nuclear weapon -- has now been replaced by having 'knowledge' of how to
build a bomb. Anyone can obtain that 'knowledge' on the internet or by
reading scientific papers. Short version: the U.S. will attack."
But few in the mainstream media either noticed or commented on the
difference, since the anti-Iran propaganda emanating from Cheney and
Bush and Rice was rolled out daily, as a justification for when the U.S.
would be "forced" to go to war with Iran, presumably in the Spring of
2008. In other words, even though CheneyBush knew about the NIE
findings, they continued to issue statements that were designed to give
the impression that nothing had changed and that Iran's nuclear-weapons
program was on track and was scarily close to being operational -- Bush
even used the term "World War III". (For a great chronological summary
of how this all unfolded, see the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin's
"A Pattern of Deception.").
As the Bush Administration moved closer and closer to pulling the
trigger on an Iran attack, something had to be done by those forces
inside the government who opposed the Iran misadventure. Hence, the
forcing of the release of the NIE.
SY HERSH'S 2006 REPORTING
We now know that Cheney and his neo-con forces inside the Administration
had prevented the NIE from surfacing for a long time. Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that
Cheney had "kept his foot on the neck of that report" for more than a
Much of the early history of this attack-Iran plan was reported
brilliantly by Hersh in The New Yorker. Here are the money quotes from a
Raw Story summary:
"As early as July 2006, Hersh had reported that the
US military was resisting administration pressure for a bombing
campaign in Iran, because 'American and European intelligence
agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities
or hidden facilities.'
"By November 2006, Hersh's sources had told him of 'a highly
classified draft assessment by the C.I.A.,' which concluded that
satellite monitoring and sophisticated radiation-detection devices
planted near Iranian facilities had turned up absolutely no evidence
of a nuclear weapons program. However, Bush and Cheney were expected
to try to keep those conclusions out of the forthcoming NIE on
Iran's nuclear capabilities.
"As Hersh explained to Wolf Blitzer at the time, the White House was
attempting to counter the CIA assessment with an Israeli claim,
based on a 'reliable agent,' that Iran was working on a trigger for
a nuclear device. 'The CIA isn't getting a good look at the Israeli
intelligence.' Hersh explained: 'It's the old word, stovepiping.
It's the President and the Vice President, it's pretty much being
kept in the White House'."
And kept it was, under Cheney's heel, until last week,
when the White House released the NIE, presumably because they feared
the New York Times was about to run the story, maybe one leaked by those
angry CIA analysts.
The White House took an embarrassing P.R. hit with the release of the
NIE, since their rationale for an imminent military attack on Iran went
out the window, but, in true Rovian fashion, Bush and Cheney and Hadley
and their neo-con echo chamber in the rightwing media proceeded as if
the NIE never had been issued and continued to urge the world to come
down hard on the secretive Iranians for not "coming clean" about their
nuclear program. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
TRYING TO PROVOKE IRAN
The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is that the Administration
now no longer can feel free to launch an attack on Iran. But CheneyBush
for the past seven years have demonstrated time and time again that they
want what they want and that they will move to get what they want
despite what anybody else thinks or does.
What they want before a new president is inaugurated in January 2009 is
to wipe out Iran's weapons capabilities, nuclear and conventional, at
the very least setting back that country's geopolitical ambitions in the
Greater Middle East for at least a decade or two. During this hiatus,
presumably Iraq and other regional countries can be built up as buffers
against Iranian influence.
While it's true that Iran may have dodged an imminent bullet as a result
of the NIE findings, CheneyBush are desperately looking for some way to
justify an attack on Iran -- or, if they don't initiate it themselves,
will support a massive bombing from the air by their regional ally
CheneyBush's operational tactic at the moment is to try to get American
citizens enraged at the Iranians for smuggling explosives in large
quantities into Iraq (which may or may not be true), which wind up
killing U.S. troops. On a second track, CheneyBush will try provoking
Iran into some deadly overt act that would require a robust military
response by the U.S.
In short, friends, the final year of CheneyBush in power, unless they
are impeached and removed soon, is going to be filled with even more
such reckless, dangerous initiatives abroad, and continued degradation
of our democracy and Constitution at home. Fasten your seatbelts; we're
all in for a helleva bumpy 2008.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner