Why Bush folded on Iran

Reality, of the military and petroleum-based variety, forced the administration to change course. Now Bush sounds like Obama.

By Juan Cole

Pundits and diplomats nearly got whiplash from the double take they did when George W. Bush sent the No. 3 man in the State Department to sit at a table on July 19 across from an Iranian negotiator, without any preconditions. When Bush had addressed the Israeli Knesset in May, he made headlines by denouncing any negotiation with "terrorists and radicals" as "the false comfort of appeasement." What drove W. to undermine John McCain by suddenly adopting Barack Obama's foreign policy prescription on Iran?
Peacenik feels mildly reassured by this article by Juan Cole. But he can't help but recall Andy Card's remark that you don't roll out a new product (Iraq War) in the summer time. The warmongering in the press does seem to have abated lately. But there are lots of triggers that could ratchet up the rhetoric, fear, and war drums.

watched a bit of the movie Downfall the other day with an insane Hitler screaming in his bunker about General Steiner saving the day, and he couldn't help imagining Bush, Rice, Cheney et. al. in comparable roles.


Forget the Surge -- Violence Is Down in Iraq Because Ethnic Cleansing Was Brutally Effective

By Juan Cole

Editor's note: John McCain's latest stumble in discussing Iraq -- in which he muddled the timeline of the so-called "surge" -- was treated by most of the press as an unfortunate gaffe, rather than further proof that the aspiring commander in chief does not know what he's talking about when it comes to the war and occupation. (One CNN report actually ran the headline: "McCain Broadens Definition of the Surge.") Meanwhile, the Republican nominee's recent attacks on Barack Obama for failing to admit the success of the "surge" was widely reported by the same members of the media, whose dominant and uncritical narrative has long been that, as McCain and Bush contend, the "surge" has been an unqualified success. "Why can't Obama bring himself to acknowledge the surge worked better than he and other skeptics thought that it would?" a USA Today editorial asked last week.

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Peacenik ponders...Why it is that the media and most polticians have deemed the surge a success? Forget the failed timeline, the unmet performance measures, the violence and the ethnic cleansing. Read Juan Cole's sad overview, above. And try and remember the CNN footage from the days before shock and awe when there was a vibrant city life and street life in Bahgdad. When there was a sophisticated, educated, civil society.....

Richard Perle, War Architect, Exploring Iraq Oil Deal


The Wall Street Journal reports that neoconservative war architect Richard Perle is getting back into Iraq:

Influential former Pentagon official Richard Perle has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan, according to people with knowledge of the matter and documents outlining possible deals.

Mr. Perle, one of a group of security experts who began pushing the case for toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein about a decade ago, has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, including its Washington envoy, according to these people and the documents.

Think Progress remembers that Perle "resigned from his position on the Defense Policy Board in an attempt to 'defuse a controversy over charges he stood to profit from the war in Iraq.'"

punditman says...Remember, the wars in the Middle East have nothing whatsoever to do with oil. Nothing. Just keep repeating that mantra, drink your Kool-Aid, watch your reality show and everything will be fine...NOT!


Open Letter to Obama

Peacenik here, probationary guest blogger for Punditman. I'll try and keep within the focus of this blog but may wander a bit. Punditman will reel me in if needed. In this post Mike Shedlock of Mish's Global Economic Trend Analyis offers a laundry list of bad economic news. But is there a silver lining in a possible global/U.S. economic collapse? One possible one is that the U.S. won't be able to afford to wage international war. But maybe the U.S. could still be able to afford to wage war on its own citizens who might not be happy with new found Third World, banana republic status. Time will tell.
Read on...

punditman says...Let's give a big welcome to Peacenik, who has recently returned from his bunker at an undisclosed location. Apparently this Thoreau-like sabbatical has yielded a thirst to contribute the hidden gems he finds when data surfing, along with his trademark satirical wisdom. We could use some dark comedy for these trying times, and I happen to know he has ample supply.

State Department Realists vs. Cheney's Ultras

War With Iran?



Commentators whom I respect are saying, with conviction, that there’s no way the U.S. is going to attack Iran. Alexander Cockburn, Jim Lobe and Tom Engelhardt, for example, say no. Others whom I equally respect predict the opposite. Gordon Prather, Ray McGovern, Scott Ritter and Justin Raimondo say yes, it’s going to happen. Those proffering the comforting message that further insanity is not on the immediate horizon argue that the U.S. is overextended in Afghanistan and Iraq, that the military brass opposes an attack, and that the Condoleezza Rice faction of “realists” in the State Department is heading off Vice President Cheney and the neocons. They point to the presence of Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns at the recent six-nations talks with Iran, and talk of opening a U.S. interests section in Iran. They note the furious denunciations of Rice in the Weekly Standard, presumed to articulate Cheney’s views, and suggest that the rage results from a sense of political defeat.

Those predicting an assault point to the incessant propaganda campaign against Iran, abject Congressional complicity in that campaign, military preparations in the U.S. and Israel, the recent flurry of U.S.-Israeli military contacts, the power of AIPAC and Israel in U.S. politics and specifically their influence on the impressionable mind of President Bush. They point to the sidelining of mainstream intelligence reports that declare Iran has no active military program, and to the nearly identical rhetoric from Bush, McCain and Obama about how that (probably non-existent) program poses an “existential threat” to (nuclear) Israel. They suggest Burns’ recent step and other small diplomatic initiatives are really cover, merely designed to convince the world that the U.S. is exhausting diplomacy before the bombing starts.

Having predicted a U.S. attack on Iran for several years during which it’s failed to materialize, at this point I think it’s a toss-up. I believe that the president’s cabinet is, as Lenin would put it, “the executive committee of the bourgeoisie” of this country. It mainly represents and is answerable to a ruling class. Bush made it clear in the 2000 presidential race that the billionaires are “my social base.” Obviously oilmen Bush and Cheney would love to secure U.S. control over the petroleum resources of Southwest Asia and establish military bases throughout the region in preparation for future rich man’s wars. But on the other hand, U.S. capitalists and oil execs in general do not seem enthusiastically united in favor of the expansion of the conflict and the destabilization of regimes (like the Saudi) that they’ve profitably worked with for decades. The Wall Street Journal editors might be agitating for an attack on Iran, but the U.S. ruling class is in fact deeply divided on how to proceed.

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Noam Chomsky: I think McCain will win.

 Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project)

punditman says...Chomsky has proven to be one the most astute observers of the US political scene ever, so even one of his throw-away remarks is worth serious contemplation.
I am one of those who is endlessly grateful for Noam Chomsky's activism, his clear and perceptive explanations, and the withering snark he directs at the "Masters".

I know Chomsky has a well-deserved reputation as a scientific genius in linguistics, but I always thought that his political principles were simple (in a good way). Chomsky has taught me to apply the following principles to politics: States are systems of power, not moral entities and must adhere to their obligations under international law. Everyone is responsible for the foreseeable effects of his or her actions. Power is fundamentally invalid unless justified by contigent need, with the burden of proof placed on those trying to justify power. There is far more moral value in criticizing our own states and institutions (for which we are responsible) than in criticizing others.
All of this is a long wind-up to the point of this diary- namely my own panic and dismay upon reading that Chomsky predicts a McCain victory. (I remember he predicted Bush's reelection in 04, though he personally voted for Kerry). I note that I predicted a McCain victory myself, but have since taken a more optimistic view. 

Noam Chomsky's prediction was a throw-away at the end of an interview and he doesn't explain why he thinks that McCain will win.


Scott Horton Interviews Andy Worthington

punditman says...

Above is yet another great interview by Scott Horton, courtesy of antiwar.com. Download the mp3 here. (40:48)

Thus far, I have refrained from commenting on the Omar Khadr situation because, simply put, I can barely contain myself long enough to write about it.

As Andy Worthington points out, what is especially disturbing are the attitudes of a sizable number of Western citizens, who feel it is apparently okay to torture children just because they are deemed to be "terrorists" or "illegal foreign combatants" by an all powerful state. It is these crass souls--who feel obliged to actually sit down and gather their few remaining brain cells and bang out a hateful note--who worry me the most.

After all, it is one thing for this ilk to fire off a hateful harangue quite anonymously in a web forum, but quite another thing to attach their names to their embarrassingly misguided rants in the letters section of a national newspaper. Imagine trying to reason with these people over a few beers! I may have run into one or two over the past eight years, but shockingly, we now know that they can be found in ample supply. They either know nothing of the rule of evidence, international treaty obligations against torture, the rights of child soldiers--or they simply don't care. This can lead to only one conclusion: a sizable, grassroots, neo-fascist movement of dumbed-down creeps is lurking in the weeds.

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses the recently released footage of Omar Khadr, the Canadian juvenile being held in Guantanamo, the dubious “charges” against him, the legal black hole of the made-up “enemy combatant” status, the evil and counterproductive nature of torture and the kangaroo court system in Guantanamo.

Andy Worthington is a historian based in London. He is the author of The Guantánamo Files, the first book to tell the stories of all the detainees in Guantanámo. He writes regularly on issues related to Guantánamo and the “War on Terror” on his Web site.


Scott Horton Interviews Ray McGovern

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern discusses his recent article on the probable Israeli/U.S. attack on Iran, Israel’s need for new war in Iran to keep the U.S. military in the Mideast due to the failure in Iraq, the outspokenness of the military brass against an attack on Iran, AIPAC’s drafting of the new Iran war resolutions, Bush and Cheney’s loyalty to Israel, the never-ending conflicts created by the Israel occupation of Palestine, the need for the American people and Congress to understand the catastrophe that would ensue from attacking Iran and the urgency of impeachment.

MP3 here. (48:57)

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years – from the John F. Kennedy administration to that of George H. W. Bush and is a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.


The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

Iran Shows Its Cards

By Scott Ritter

There can no longer be any doubt about the consequences of any U.S. and/or Israeli military action against Iran. Armchair warriors, pundits and blustering politicians alike have been advocating a pre-emptive military strike against Iran for the purpose of neutralizing its nuclear-related infrastructure, as well as retarding Iran’s ability to train and equip “terrorist” forces on Iranian soil before dispatching them to Iraq or parts unknown. Some, including me, have warned of the folly of such action, and now Iran itself has demonstrated why an attack would be insane

I’ve always pointed out that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy, and furthermore one can never forget that, in war, the enemy gets to vote. On the issue of an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran, the Iranian military has demonstrated exactly how it would cast its vote. Iran recently fired off medium- and long-range missiles and rockets, in a clear demonstration of capability and intent. Shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, regional oil production capability and U.S. military concentrations, along with Israeli cities, would all be subjected to an Iranian military response if Iran was attacked.

The Bush administration has shrugged off the Iranian military display as yet another example of how irresponsible the government in Tehran is. But the Pentagon for one has had to sit up and pay attention. For some time now, the admirals commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf have maintained that they have the ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. But the fact is, the only way the United States could guarantee that the strait remained open would be to launch a massive pre-emptive military strike that swept the Iranian coast clear of the deadly Chinese-made surface-to-surface missiles that Iran would use to sink cargo ships in the strategic lane. This strike would involve hundreds of tactical aircraft backed up by limited ground action by Marines and U.S. Special Operations forces which would involve “boots on the ground” for several days, if not weeks. Such a strike is not envisioned in any “limited” military action being planned by the United States. But now that it is clear what the Iranian response would entail, there can no longer be any talk of a “limited” military attack on Iran.

The moment the United States makes a move to secure the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will unleash a massive bombardment of the military and industrial facilities of the United States and its allies, including the oil fields in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. American military bases in Iraq and Kuwait, large—fixed and well known— would be smothered by rockets and missiles carrying deadly cluster bombs. The damage done would run into the hundreds of millions, if not into billions, of dollars, and hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. military personnel would be killed and wounded.

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punditman says...Back from vacation...and I see that my ignoring the world scene has done nothing. Looks like an Iran attack is still very much in the cards. Stay tuned, folks: it's going to be a tense ride heading into the Fall.

For an interview with Scott Ritter, courtesy of antiwar.com, check this out:

MP3 here. (47:29)


On Vacation!

Check back in about a week or so, folks.

Until than,
punditman says...
Fight the good fight, uphold the Light and don't let them get you down!


Attacking Iran? How Does $300 Oil Sound?

Robert Dreyfuss

The Nation -- Last week the Middle East Policy Council held an interesting and important discussion of what to do about Iran. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend it, but the MEPC has helpfully posted the transcript of that event. Led by the astute Chas Freeman, a former American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the discussion was a very thoughtful effort to analyze the consequences of an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran. If you have the time, read it.

An important aspect of the idea of war with Iran is how it would be viewed by the Arab Gulf states and Iraq. Freeman, who is well connected in the Arab Gulf, made this rather scary point, which I haven't heard anywhere else:

Because logistics require cooperation from countries in the region, they cannot avoid a measure of complicity with a U.S. operation against Iran, and the word in the region is that Iran has already told Qatar, for example, that if there is such an attack, the Qatari regime is toast.

Qatar, of course, is where the U.S. Central Command has its local headquarters.

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punditman says...Check out this map of the region as well as this one to see Quatar's North Dome natural gas field and the maritime border between Iran and Quatar.


Sy Hersh: US Already Attacking Iran

punditman says:
Hersh on US covert activities against Iran:
"If that doesn't make people nervous, I don't know what would."