The Accountability Moment and Hersh on Iran
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh threw Washington, Islamabad and Tehran into consternation Monday with his report
in the New Yorker on the activities of Bush’s Pentagon with regard to Iran. He said that the Pentagon had alread sent some special ops teams into Iran to look for evidence of a nuclear weapons program, with Pakistani help. Bush used the Pentagon instead of the CIA, Hersh alleged, because Bush maintains that there are no reporting requirements with regard to Congress this way. Using the CIA would have required informing the Senate Intelligence Committee, by law. Probably Pentagon intelligence gathering falls under the same statute, but that is an untested theory and for the moment Rumsfeld is acting as though the Pentagon is unconstrained.
I don’t think there is any doubt that Bush and his appointees at the head of the Department of Defense intend to do something to Iran. If Iraq had gone well, they probably would already have attacked it. Since their land army is tied down in Iraq, they have to use special operations forces for aggressive action against Iran.
The Pentagon and also Pakistan are denying the report heatedly. But it makes sense.
Iran has formed a close military alliance with India, Pakistan’s chief rival in South Asia, and Iran has come out on top in the new Afghanistan, with Tajik and Hazarah allies displacing the largely Pushtun, Pakistan-oriented Taliban. And Pakistan has
reason not to want Iran to get nukes, thus surrounding Pakistan with nuclear powers on both the east and the south. So Pakistan has every reason to cooperate with the US against Iran.
As for Bush and his DoD hawks, they have been quite clear about their intentions. They announced that Iraq and Iran were part of an axis of evil, and we have already seen what happens to regimes so categorized.
The potential for trouble for the United States if the Bush administration acts aggressively toward Iran is enormous. It could turn the Iraqi Shiites and the Afghan Hazarahs decisively against Washington. An Iran in chaos similar to that in Iraq would be three or four times the problem for the US and the world that Iraq is.
Ironically, Bush revealed the day before Hersh’s article that he has learned nothing from his mistakes in Iraq.
Bush’s comments in the Washington Post on Sunday that he did not need to fire anybody over his Iraq policy because the US electorate had endorsed that policy cause a political uproar.
‘ “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 election,” he was reported as saying. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates and chose me, for which I’m grateful.” ‘
Bush doesn’t seem to know the difference between getting a mandate to lead and getting a mandate to continue failed policies. Those Americans who voted for Bush often did so, according to polls, despite worries that Iraq wasn’t going well. They didn’t put him back in to just keep on making the same stupid mistakes. They put him back in in hopes that he had been seasoned by the errors and was committed enough to the project to see it through properly.
That is why he should have fired the top three officials at the Department of Defense, to signal that he was going to make a course correction.
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith don’t know how to fix the Iraq mess, and don’t even seem to pay much attention to the problems. In testimony before Congress last spring, Wolfowitz grossly underestimated the number of US troops that had been killed in the guerrilla war.
Rumsfeld either was involved in the decision to put the US into the torture business, or didn’t keep watch on subordinates who did make that decision. Either way, he goes down in history as the Marquis de Sade of Abu Ghraib. He didn’t know that it would only have taken a phone call to increase the number of armored vehicles sent to our troops in Iraq. And, when he was asked about the difficulties of holding elections in Iraq, he said it would be all right if the polls couldn’t be held in some areas of the country. He did not know that his subordinate, Paul Bremer, had set the elections up as national and proportional, so that if one region with a major ethnic group did not vote, it would end up not being represented in parliament. (Rumsfeld seems to have though it was like the US, where if you have a light turnout in a district, you still get a congressman, he or she just doesn’t represent much of the electorate). He should be fired.
Feith is so much of a security risk because of his long ties to the Likud Party in Israel that for a while the Pentagon brass was refusing to share classified documents with his office. One of his subordinates is under investigation by the FBI for turning confidential Pentagon policy documents over to an official in the Israeli embassy via the pro-Israeli lobbying group, AIPAC. Feith had signed on to a 1996 policy paper for Likud party politician Benyamin Netanyahu that called for a war against Iraq for Israeli security purposes and openly opposed the Oslo peace process, which could have resolved the festering Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Feith’s Office of Special Plans, its personnel drawn in part from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, cherry-picked intelligence on Saddam’s Iraq to make an exaggerated and unfounded case for Iraq having weapons of mass destruction programs and an operational link to al-Qaeda.
Bush should have been elected, as a war president, with a big margin. He wasn’t. He barely got back in. The American public is just not going to put up with this World War IV nonsense that the Neocons keep putting out. If Bush doesn’t find a way to resolve the Iraq mess, and if he is so foolhardy as to pursue direct confrontation with Syria and Iran that proves just as disastrous, he may well turn the US public decisively against the Republican Party for decades, as the party of adventure, war and ruin.
Benjamin Franklin said in the 1758 edn. of Poor Richard’s that “Experience keeps a dear School, but Fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.” What he didn’t envisage was a pupil at the helm of state who would scarcely even learn in the hard school (or perhaps not even that). When your helmsman won’t correct course, you as passenger are in big trouble. That is where the US now stands.
When the constitutional convention was over in 1787, “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” In that case he knew exactly where the threat would come from. Overly ambitious politicians.