Creating people's geographies
A very important and alarming article from Virginia Tilley in Counterpunch (18 Jan), slightly truncated here. Though many good articles deal with US foreign policy toward Iran and the idiocy of this gang of neocon criminals, Tilley sets out their mentality (the madness to their method, to reverse the phrase) very clearly. If you’ve ever wondered why on earth they would be stupid to want to attack Iran and what on earth are they thinking, herein lies a summary of their worldview and motives, and their slimey manoevrings and machinations to achieve it in what’s left of their term of unelected office.
Also see by Conn Hallinan, ‘Iran: THinking the Unthinkable’, Foreign Policy In Focus (15 January, 2007).
… From the beginning, the Bush neocons viewed the region through an Orientalist lens, and therefore saw tribes everywhere, as mentors like Daniel Pipes encouraged them to do. Viewing the Middle East also through an Israeli lens, they saw ethnicity as the best way to break up national and pan-Arab solidarities. Their staggering ignorance of the region was perhaps best exposed by their early faith in the charlatan Ahmed Chalabi, who promised a pro-Israeli Shi’a-led Iraqi government. On such rampant idiocy were their enthusiasm and deceitful arguments for war fueled.
(I)n setting out its package of recommendations, the supremely pragmatic Iraq Study Group neglected one glaring political fact. It assumed that the package was a real possibility — i.e., that the Bush administration could muster the necessary energy and faith to engage in the multilateral diplomacy essential to it. The Bush neocons have no talent or faith in multilateral politics and indeed openly deride them. And they are still in charge, whatever the changing political climate in Washington and mounting popular hostility to the Iraq war. The Great Decider is still the president. Mr. Cheney is still the Vice-President. All the old villains, like Douglas Feith and David Wurmser and the scary Michael Ledeen, are still in government or guiding events from Isengards like the American Enterprise Institute. They have exactly two years to complete the agenda they formulated in the 1990s: that is, reshape the entire Middle East, in the interest of Israel and their own construction, security, and oil companies, by taking out any regional rival to Israel’s uncontested military hegemony. Hence we have increasingly clear signals that, far from withdrawing troops, the US plans to take the next disastrous step in their program: bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities and, they hope, change Iran’s regime.
Long in the making, a US attack on Iran has been maturing over the past year. Most graphic, although not catching much public alarm until now, was the transfer last year of two US naval carrier groups to the Persian Gulf (each flanked by nuclear submarines and battleships, carrying fleets of attack jets, and holding special Marine landing forces). Now some staff changes in the US security and command staff are drawing worried comment. One change is the replacement of General Abizaid (who did not favor a troop increase) with the Pacific theatre’s top naval commander, Admiral Fallon, hitherto in charge of those same carrier groups (which were posted in the Pacific). Another signal, less widely noted, is that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who downplayed the nuclear threat from Iran, has been replaced by Vice Admiral John Michael “Mike” McConnell, also a Navy man seen as much more compliant (having already facilitated the Bush administration’s programs to monitor international financial transfers).
It is over-obvious that, while the Navy is a vital support to US operations throughout the Middle East, a massive carrier build-up in the Gulf cannot possibly assist the US occupation in Iraq. But it is absolutely pivotal to launching an attack on Iran and containing Iran’s retaliation. In this context, even Bush’s proposed troop “surge”, otherwise puzzlingly meaningless, may be intended to support an attack on Iran, as the US will need more ground troops to consolidate its transportation lines in the event of Iranian or allied Iraqi-guerrilla reprisals. (That the “surge” itself can only prolong and worsen Iraq’s suffering and further demolish US standing in the region is relatively unimportant.)
Bombing Iran will cast the Middle East into such a frenzy of violence, however, that desperate editorials denouncing it are starting to appear all over the world press. But the Bush neocons — and, of course, Israel – also have utter contempt for world opinion and indeed any analysis outside their immediate crazed circle. Certainly the little question of international law, which makes a preemptive strike on Iran entirely illegal, does not figure for them in the slightest. (It did not stop them from raiding and seizing Iranian consular staff and archives in Arbil, which was also entirely illegal and has recklessly imperiled US consular relations globally.)
The only hope of stopping a US strike on Iran is therefore the Democrats, who now control the purse strings for US war-making and are already sending signals that the troop “surge” might be in trouble. Whether they have sufficient spine to stop the attack on Iran is universally questioned. But even if a US attack is somehow stalled by domestic action, Israel can always strike Iran instead. It is still not widely debated that, over the past few years, Israel has purchased a cluster of advanced German Dolphin submarines, which would allow sea-based missile launches on Iran from the Indian Ocean, as well as a new fleet of attack jets and thousands of “bunker-busting” bombs. Or that last year Israel was running test bombing runs on a mock-up site of the Natanz reactor, well ahead of its recently revealed long-distance bombing test flights to Gibraltar.
Why such a dangerous US-Israeli alliance in such a clearly crazed mission? The old necon strategy of A Clean Break is one obvious answer. But the goals may go further. A strike on Iran by Israel might be the magic bullet for the sinking US neocons and their stumbling military global mission. No Democrat now breathing is going to vote to withhold the US funds necessary to “defending Israel” from an Iranian counter-attack. Generating a direct threat to Israel may indeed now be their only way to ensure that war funding continues to flow lavishly.
If an Israeli attack is indeed pending, only something close to a coup in Washington can stop it. The real question now, therefore, is whether the same pragmatists who entered US politics unbidden to comprise the Iraq Study Group (led by Baker but representing the old Cold-War guard, including now-frightened Pentagon officers, desperate State Department experts, and even alarmed oil men) will conclude that the US national interest is indeed in such imminent peril that they must launch emergency political measures to preclude a US or Israeli attack. This effort could take several shapes, but the normal options are not promising. Hearings to expose White House malfeasance (lying, fraud, graft) in the Iraq war, leading even to an impeachment process, could fatally cripple the attack plan, but would take more time than we have and would not stop Israel in any case. Hearings to expose Israeli espionage and discredit Israel’s role in US foreign policymaking could stymie an Israeli attack, but the AIPAC-saturated Congress would never countenance them. Normal Washington peer pressure, represented by the Iraq Study Group, has demonstrably failed. More urgent methods, that might be pursued in other countries facing such a crisis, are precluded in the US by very potent political and military cultures that preclude any open revolt against a sitting president or the civilian command. (Recall General Powell’s quiet capitulation to lies, deceit, and foolery that he could not possibly support.) No one wants the US to operate otherwise.
The challenge to the US political system is therefore now extremely grave: somehow to retake rational control of US foreign policy, from people known to be lying criminals, within as little as two months, yet with no precedent for doing so. It should not be impossible. Insider Washington pressures must should now become ultimatums. But insider operations require political backing that can only be obtained through a pincer strategy: rapid public revelations of White House criminality by serving officials, with responsible headline coverage by the national press sufficient rapidly to cripple White House foreign policymaking. This political rebellion would require rare political will.
The US occupation of Iraq has appeared since its inception like a large and cumbersome truck driven into a swamp. We have been watching, in horrified fascination, as it slowly sinks. In recent months, we have been certain that even the drivers must soon surely abandon the truck, jump for shore, and try to preserve some shred of dignity as it goes down. Instead, we are seeing those drivers flinging out ropes around everything in sight and getting ready to haul, apparently in the hope of dragging the whole carcass back onto solid ground and rolling on to glory. That they can only strangle the rest of us, and bind everyone into the swamp with them, must finally inspire decisive collective action. Washington insiders and key players in the new Democratic Congress, with political backing from an alarmed electorate and frantic international allies, can still stop the neocons’ rush to disaster. But it would require rare determination, initiative, transparency, and courage, and it would have to happen fast.
Virginia Tilley is an alarmed US citizen now working at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa. She can be reached at [email protected].