"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bush: "completely nuts"?

The diplomatic and political world is a-twitter this morning over this article appearing in the April 17th issue of The New Yorker magazine. Written by independent investigative journalist Seymour Hirsch (who broke the recent Abu Ghraib and Vietnam-era My Lai massacre scandals), it claims that the Bush administration is fine-tuning plans for a military strike against Iran. These plans reportedly include the possible use of "bunker buster" tactical nuclear weapons to take out hardened targets buried deep underground. The article was widely reported in the press over the weekend; on Sunday, an administration spokesman downplayed prospects for American military action, calling the reports "ill-informed", but stopped short of an outright denial. Today, Reuters reports that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Television that a U.S. military strike was "not on the agenda" and any idea that Washington could use tactical nuclear weapons against Iran was "completely nuts."

While I essentially agree with Straw's assertion, I unfortunately also think that "completely nuts" is an apt description of Bush's foreign policy decisions to date, and that it would be a mistake to consider such an idea as totally impossible. Military strategic planners have contingencies for everything, and you can be certain that a nuclear strike against Iran, while unthinkable to most people, is a scenario that has received considerable analysis at the White House and Pentagon. Whether or not Bush would actually order the military to do something so foolhardy is open to debate. There are hopefully enough safeguards in place to prevent any President or rogue commander from launching nuclear weapons in a "Dr. Strangelove" style mental breakdown, but it's no secret that Bush considers Iran to be a serious danger to the world. From the Hirsch article:
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush's ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. "That's the name they're using. They say, 'Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?' "

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb" if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."
If Bush decides that the threat of an Iranian nuclear device possibly causing the destruction of Israel is serious, there are any number of ways to bypass the standard chain of command and launch a strike. One such scenario is called "false flag", and would consist of a covert action by the U.S. military cloaked in the garb of another entity, designed to provoke an attack by "real" American forces. Bush considered such a plan three years ago; there was discussion about flying a plane over Iraq clad in United Nations colors, in the hope that the Iraqis would shoot it down and justify an invasion. (Bush ultimately decided on the "weapons of mass destruction" ploy instead.) And according to grand jury testimony by indicted White House aide "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney intentionally peddled lies to the public in order to bolster the case for war.

Most people will dismiss this latest report as sabre-rattling by Washington designed to pressure Iran into negotiations. I am not so sure. As Bush's popularity continues to evaporate, I am afraid he is becoming so desperate that he might think a pre-emptive nuclear war is a viable option.

There is madness afoot in the halls of power in the United States. God help us all.

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