by Gilles d'Aymery
"All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is pride."
(Swans - July 16, 2007) WAR FATIGUE: The US Senate is currently debating the Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008. Were it not for the monstrous and catastrophic results, especially to the Iraqis, but also to our military and our future, that debate would call for plenty schadenfreude. Schadenfreude, my dictionary explains, is "the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others." Let me be clear that I am referring to the senators; there is no pleasure whatsoever to feel or experience about the horrific destruction and suffering in Mesopotamia, the mental and physical price born by the US military and the families, the financial costs that are bleeding the Treasury and may end up bankrupting the country or at least substantially impoverishing it (for example, one and one-half months of war funding would pay for an entire year of the No Child Left Behind program), and the long-term consequences of this folly (remember the Law of Unintended Consequences?). No pleasure indeed. But to watch on C-SPAN2 the confusion that reigns in the august chamber, the self-described "world's greatest deliberative body," is rather entertaining. In short, the senators are clueless, placed between the legendary rock and the hard place.
DAMNED IF I DO, DAMNED IF I DON'T: Polls show that about 70 percent of the American people just want to see this war off their TV screens and are asking their representatives to do something, anything about it. The Democrats and a handful of Republicans -- but not enough to defeat a filibuster (60 votes) or a presidential veto (67 votes) -- want to "change the course"; to develop a new strategy; to transition out of the war; to extricate the troops from the civil war; to withdraw; to redeploy; to reposition; to lower the footprint; all in order, at the end of the day, to stay put under the guise of "training the Iraqi military"; of "defending US personnel"; of "fighting al Qaeda and other terrorists"; of "deterring Iran"; and, of course, of "protecting our vital national and strategic interests." The White House and the vast majority of the Republicans want to stay the course and to wait for the assessment of the "surge" and the "benchmarks" (oil law, anyone?) that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will supposedly deliver in mid-September before deciding on a course of action. Having the votes, Mr. Bush will prevail. But this is a false debate. Forces will have to be drawn down, for two major reasons: First, the military has announced that they'll have to either start bringing a brigade home on a monthly basis by April 2008, or further expand rotation time, which has already been expanded to 15 months -- i.e., the military is on the breaking point. Second, the presidential and legislative elections will be in full swing, including 28 Republican seats, several of them up for grab. The rats are close to jumping ship, or getting on to a fresher one.
MORE PROBLEMATIC is the bipartisan consensus to keep boots in Iraq on a long-term basis -- again, to keep training the Iraqis, fight the conveniently resurging al Qaeda, deter Iran, protect US personnel and national interests, etc. These are not new goalposts. These are four-year-old goals. If they could not be achieved with 130-160,000 troops on the ground, how can one realistically expect to achieve them with a drawn-down force with most combat troops out of the country? I've yet to see that question addressed by our political elites... Take one simple example: With the full "surge" in place the insurgents are able to hit the Green Zone almost at will. Seems to me that with a remaining force garrisoned in the Green Zone and military bases, far from fulfilling the "new" strategy, they'll become target practice for the insurgents/terrorists/resistants... As said, damned if we do, damned if we don't.
SO, WHAT COULD ALTER this unenviable situation? A full and complete withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq would be one possibility, long awaited by the Iraqi people -- even their puppet government. A second possibility would be another disastrous terrorist attack on American soil, which would rekindle the pathology of fear within the American people and a new resolve to get 'em, hence prolonging the war far beyond 2009. And then, there is the option of a good old diverting escalation. The first one is not in the cards. Again, the Washington consensus is to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq. The second one does not depend on a Washington decision (conspiracy theorists notwithstanding). Last, but not least, remains the third possibility...Iran.
BUT, BEFORE I REVIEW IT, I'd like to speedily underline the way al Qaeda is becoming marketed. I say marketed because the message is truly being packaged like any product sold on the shelves of our supermarkets. Al Qaeda has become a "brand" with outlets around the world; the latest region where al Qaeda franchises can be found, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is in the Maghreb (North Africa). Terrorist cells are "affiliated" with al Qaeda from which they take directions but remain autonomous. Listening to the talking points being repeated by so many intelligence officials, members of the administration, lawmakers, and pundits, I'd swear that the bin Laden brand has morphed into McQaeda, whose "franchises" have metastasized all over the globe. I am simply fascinated by the framing of the message in commercial terms -- perhaps the only kind of message that the American people are capable of grasping nowadays.
ON TO IRAN, for whom there is little fatigue but much appetite to confront militarily, at least within the Establishment: On July 6, 2007, The Wall Street Journal published "Iran's Proxy War," an editorial by Senator Joseph Lieberman, in which the senator listed a series of alleged evidence brought forth by the US Military that Iran was training Iraqi insurgents; was responsible for at least 170 fatalities of US military personnel; was financing "its Iraqi proxies generously, to the tune of $3 million a month"; was "training, funding and equipping radical Islamist groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan -- where the Taliban now appeared to be receiving Iranian help in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai and its NATO defenders." Senator Lieberman went on,
No responsible leader in Washington desires conflict with Iran. But every leader has a responsibility to acknowledge the evidence that the U.S. military has now put before us: The Iranian government, by its actions, has all but declared war on us and our allies in the Middle East.
America now has a solemn responsibility to utilize the instruments of our national power to convince Tehran to change its behavior, including the immediate cessation of its training and equipping extremists who are killing our troops.
He concluded, without once mentioning Israel,
The threat posed by Iran to our soldiers' lives, our security as a nation and our allies in the Middle East is a truth that cannot be wished or waved away. It must be confronted head-on. The regime in Iran is betting that our political disunity in Washington will constrain us in responding to its attacks. For the sake of our nation's security, we must unite and prove them wrong.
ONE SOLID SHOT ACROSS the bow of the warring Armada...one among many in the last six months... Five days later, on July 11, 2007, Senator Lieberman (I. CT) introduced Amendment No. 2011 to the Defense Appropriations Bill. That amendment, following a few modifications, became Amendment No. 2073. It began with a list of 22 findings by Congress that stated Iran's alleged destabilizing and aggressive activities in Iraq and in the Middle East. Then, it read:
(b) Sense of Congress. -- It is the sense of Congress that --
(1) the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable and unacceptable act against the United States by the foreign government in question; and
(2) the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran must take immediate action to end any training, arming, equipping, funding, advising, and any other forms of support that it or its agents are providing, and have provided, to Iraqi militias and insurgents, who are contributing to the destabilization of Iraq and are responsible for the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces.
(3) It is imperative for the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to have accurate intelligence on Iran and therefore the intelligence community should produce the NIE on Iran without further delay;
(4) Congress supports U.S. diplomacy with the representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to stop any actions by the Iranian government or its agents against U.S. service members in Iraq;
(1) IN GENERAL. -- Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 60 days thereafter, the Commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq and the United States Ambassador to Iraq in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence shall jointly submit to Congress a report describing and assessing in detail --
(A) any external support or direction provided to anti-coalition forces by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran or its agents;
(B) the strategy and ambitions in Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and
(C) any counter-strategy or efforts by the United States Government to counter the activities of agents of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iraq.
(2) FORM. -- Each report required under paragraph (1) shall be in unclassified form to the extent practical consistent with the need to protect national security, but may contain a classified annex.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran.
NOTE THE LAST CLAUSE: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran." This is the main modification to the original amendment (No. 2011). It was inserted through negotiations between Senators Levin's and Lieberman's staffs. The Democrats were weary of an amendment offered by a senator that has long been on the record supporting military intervention in Iran. Even Senator Durbin (D. IL) wanted reassurance and had a colloquy on the floor of the Senate with Lieberman. Durbin asked: "Does this amendment, now, that the Senator has presented, as modified, authorize the use of military force by the United States against Iran?" To which Lieberman answered, "the direct and short answer is no, it does not. In fact, in the modification I will soon send to the desk, we have added a section that says explicitly what was intended implicitly, which is, 'Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran.'"
A FIG LEAF, that's what the Democrats were looking for, to cover their tender parts, before assenting to the amendment. Why? Because the 2002 Authorization Act, passed by the Republicans and a majority of the Democrats, gave unprecedented power to the president to launch military operations against any terrorist organizations, or any states harboring terrorist organizations or supporting terrorists, so long as he deemed that all diplomatic venues had been exhausted. When all is said and done, this amendment is carte blanche for the Bush administration to do as it sees fit. It is another stone laid on the path to war.
THE AMENDMENT passed 97 to 0 with three senators "necessarily absent" (Johnson, still incapacitated; Brownback, possibly on the campaign trail; and Vitter, laying low after having been caught in the web of the DC Madam scandal). In other words, they all voted to give the president latitude to attack Iran.
MORE OMINOUS AND TRULLY MADENING were the speeches in favor of the amendment; in particular, beside Lieberman's hypocritical screed, those of Senators Kyl (R. AZ), McCain (R. AZ), and Graham (R. SC). There were others, but those four were frightening. I sat in front of my small 13" TV all day long watching the "debate." Never, ever, have I attended to so much rabid hatred, propagandistic rhetoric, and sheer madness (but I do not watch much TV). I know, people have little spare time to listen to or read these speeches, but I highly recommend you do. They are mesmerizing in their infamy, repeating innuendoes and erroneous statements at will, and calling, all but in name, for a military strike against Iran. They are, furthermore, sprinkled with sheer arrogance and condescension. Sincerely, people should spend the time to read the speeches of these four warmongers. I'm including a few excerpts below. To access the full transcripts, try this link:
Since it's a temporary file, the URL may not work. If it doesn't, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search the Senate's Congressional Record for July 11, 2007. It's a long document. Scroll down to Page S8984 to find Lieberman's speech; S8994 for Kyl's; S8995, S8996, and S8998 for McCain's; and S8997 for Graham's. (If a reader can't find the full transcript, I can e-mail a copy of it.) Excerpts:
SENATOR KYL: Iranian actions are killing Americans and undermining our efforts in Iraq. The Congress needs to take this threat seriously and begin to take appropriate actions to deal with it. (Pages S8994 and S8995 of the Congressional Record.)
SENATOR McCAIN: For some time now, American diplomats and military officers have suspected that key Iranian Government elements are actively engaged in supporting individuals and groups seeking to destabilize the Iraqi Government and who are deliberately targeting American troops for attack. There is a body of evidence, a body of reporting on Iranian material support to Shia militias, reports that suggest that Iranian support for the most lethal of the improvised explosive devices and for armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles. Together, these weapons account for a high percentage of American casualties in Iraq.
.... Let me be clear. This amendment is not a call for war. However, it is a clear message that America stands by our troops and our interests in Iraq and that all Americans are united against those who would do them harm.
I remind my colleagues of several quotes made by various Iranian leaders, including the Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who said:
"Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day be destroyed."
He said on another occasion:
"Israel is a rotten dry tree that will be annihilated in one storm."
Another time he said:
"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. Israel must be wiped off the map."
Those are not the words of the Senator from Connecticut, the Senator from Michigan, any one of our enemies, but the elected leader of the State of Iran, who has said on numerous occasions that Israel must be wiped off the map.
.... There is no doubt that the Iranian Government is attempting to realize an age-old dream of Persian influence and superiority in the Middle East. This is a real and serious threat.
.... I am far more concerned about the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon and handing it over to one of the terrorist organizations with which they have intimate and close ties.
.... This is a great threat in the region.
.... But the threat Iran presents, not just to Iraq, not just to the region, but peace in the world, is real. It is extremely urgent that we address it. (Pages S8995 and S8996.)
Relations between the two countries obviously are being strained by Iran's nuclear program, which, in the minds of most experts, is by no means peaceful.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, and this will be part of one of the amendments that is proposed, the United States should engage in face-to-face talks with the Iranians. That is fine. As I say, it is fine with me as long as it doesn't undermine U.S. prestige and enhance the prestige of a nation that continues to say things such as:
"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury." (Page S8998.)
IF THAT'S NOT ENOUGH, then I will end with Senator Graham (R-SC), perhaps the most frightful individual during the floor "debate."
I say the Iranian Government purposefully, because I do believe that parts of their Government are deeply involved in trying to undermine our activity in Iraq.
.... The reason I think Iran is trying to destabilize Iraq and drive Americans out of Iraq and the region is because Iran's worst nightmare is a functioning democracy on their border.
Iran is a theocracy controlled by some of the most brutal people in the Middle East. The Iranian President is up there in terms of rhetoric with Adolph Hitler. He is saying things in 2005, 2006, and 2007 that you thought were coming out of the 1920s and 1930s. Does he mean it? I think he does.
.... Now, does anybody believe Iran is trying to produce power through a nuclear program for peaceful purposes?
.... Do I believe Iran is going to conquer the world? No. But I do believe Iran unchecked will change the world for the worse. I believe with all my heart and soul that Iranian efforts to get a nuclear weapon are real, and if they are successful, we will have a nightmare on our hands because I think they would use the weapon or at least empower somebody who would use the weapon. That would create chaos in the Mideast.
.... I hope and pray that this Congress, this Senate, and this country can muster the will to do the things that have always worked in the past.
.... The script says: Get us out of the Mideast, destroy forms of moderation in the Gulf States, and destroy Israel. They have written it down, just as Hitler wrote it down. I believe it can be stopped, just as Hitler was stopped. The Iranian leadership is not hiding where they want to go. They are challenging us to stop them. I hope we will rise to the occasion because we can stop them. (Page: S8997 and S8998.)
WATCHING AND LISTENING TO these four senators -- Lieberman, Kyl, McCain, and Graham -- I kept repeating to myself, "they are mad, they are mad." As Senator Jim Webb (D. VA), whose son is serving in Iraq, intimated, and I paraphrase, there is not one day in which Senator Lieberman does not call for attacking Iran. We are stuck in the muddy sands of Iraq with only bad options to choose from, but those guys are laying the groundwork to expand the war to Iran. Bankrupt they are, so they want to go for broke and dig a much deeper hole. This is criminal madness, and here we stand, incapable of stopping this freight train -- the military-industrial-congressional complex -- that is rushing closer and closer toward the edge of the cliff, bringing us all along in their wake. Will these Strangelovian Merchants of Misery find their Curtis LeMay before they can be thrown out of Congress? When will we hear, enough is enough? When?
. . . . .
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.