Sunday, April 09, 2006

Masters of war

The disconnect between reality and the White House seems to have drifted toward Persia.

The Washington Post:
Preparations for confrontation with Iran underscore how the issue has vaulted to the front of President Bush's agenda even as he struggles with a relentless war in next-door Iraq. Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends, aides said, and the White House, in its new National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.

Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making U.S. troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.
Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker:
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.
And Hersh on CNN's Late Edition:
BLITZER: Here's, among other things, what you write in the article: "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.' " So what's your bottom line? Do you believe, based on the reporting you did for this article, that the president of the United States is now aggressively plotting military action, a preemptive strike against Iran?

HERSH: The word I hear is messianic. He thinks, as I wrote, that he's the only one now who will have the courage to do it. He's politically free. I don't think he's overwhelmingly concerned about the '06 elections, congressional elections. I think he really thinks he has a chance, and this is going to be his mission.

BLITZER: So your sources have concluded basically that the diplomatic option as it's going forward is not necessarily going to work?

HERSH: That's the fear. The fear is that we're back to the pre- Iraqi invasion game when we went through the U.N. exercise. The fear is that the White House, there's some people in the White House who aren't really, no matter what happens diplomatically, they don't believe Iran's going to give up its ambitions. BLITZER: The rhetoric coming from the president and the vice president, Dick Cheney, has been very serious. I want you to listen to these excerpts of what the president and vice president recently said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally, Israel. That's a threat. A serious threat. It's a threat to world peace. It's a threat in essence to a strong alliance. I made it clear -- I'll make clear again -- that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, what do you think? Given the enormous military headaches the United States now has in Iraq, does the U.S. military have the wherewithal to launch another preemptive strike, this time against Iran?

HERSH: Oh, sure. We have plenty of air power. We can do it. We have great precision bombings. There's been a lot of planning going on. It's more than planning, it's operational planning. It's beyond contingency planning. There's serious, specific plans. Nobody's made a decision yet. There hasn't been a warning order or an execute order. But the planning's gotten much more intense and much more focused.

I can't tell you. Nobody can say what's going to happen in the future. But I can just tell you there are people in the Pentagon and people, our allies, the allies involved with us diplomatically, the French, the Germans and the Brits, who don't really know what the president is thinking.

BLITZER: Here's the most explosive item in your new article in The New Yorker magazine. And I'll read it: "The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites," the nuclear sites in Iran, "little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. 'Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,' the former senior intelligence official said. 'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision, but we made it in Japan."

Now, this is an explosive charge, an explosive revelation, if true, that the United States is seriously considering using a tactical nuclear bomb or bombs to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities.

HERSH: What you just read says this. If you're giving the White House a series of options, and the option is to get rid of an underground facility -- the facility I'm talking about is Natanz, 75 feet under hard rock -- if you want to tell the White House one sure way of getting it in a range of options is nuclear, what happened in this case is they gave that option, the JCS, the joint chiefs.

And then, of course, nobody in their right mind would want to use a nuclear weapon in the Middle East, because it would be, my God, totally chaotic. When the JCS, the joint chiefs, and the planners wanted to walk back that option, what happened is about three or four weeks ago, the White House, people in the White House, in the Oval Office, the vice president's office, said, no, let's keep it in the plan.

That doesn't mean it's going to happen. They refuse to take it out. And what I'm writing here is that if this isn't removed -- and I say this very seriously. I've been around this town for 40 years -- some senior officers are prepared to resign. They're that upset about the fact that this plan is kept in. Again, let me make the point, you're giving a range of options early in the planning. To be sure of getting rid of it, you give that option.

BLITZER: Your point being, or at least the points of some experts, that a conventional bomb, even a bunker-busting conventional bomb, would not be big enough to go that deep under the ground to assure the destruction of Iran's capabilities. Is that why you would need, theoretically, a nuclear bomb?

HERSH: What I write about is this, and, you know, it's a 7,000- word article, so it's easy to -- it's hard to summarize in a sentence. We learned in the, three decades ago during the Cold War that we saw a lot of digging outside of Russia.

We didn't know what it was. It turned out to be an underground contingency of government facilities, 75 feet underground, hard rock.

And at that time, our planners -- if you want to have an all-out war with the Russians and decapitate, destroy the leadership, the only sure way, they said, 30 years ago, was nukes.

So when they looked at the underground facility in Iran -- as I said, this place, the main place is 75 hard feet underground, the only way you can tell the White House for sure, folks, you have to use a tac nuke.

But that isn't what they were -- they were just giving the range. But it's the fact that the White House wouldn't let it go that has got the JCS in an uproar.

BLITZER: And you're saying that some senior military officers are prepared to resign?

HERSH: I'm saying that, if this isn't walked back and if the president isn't told that you cannot do it -- and once the chairman of the joint chiefs or some senior members of the military say to the president, let's get this nuclear option off the table, it will be taken off. He will not defy the military in a formal report. Unless something specific is told to the White House that you've got to drop this dream of a nuclear option -- and that's exactly the issue I'm talking about -- people have said to me that they would resign.

6 Comments:

Blogger Kvatch said...

National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.

Mother puss-bucket. Iran? What about North Korea?! It's one thing to striving to get nukes, but the N. Koreans have them and a delivery system.

ARRRGGGGHHHH!

5:28 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I'm not sure what's surprising or negative about any of this. I don't see why, in light of the likelihood that the bunkers are deep underground, and there is a reasonable possibility that nothing but a nuke could take it out, the nuclear option should be taken off the table before starting. It should be used only as a last resort, but why close off your options in advance?

5:30 AM  
Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Yeah, it’s déjà vu all over again: following the “success” of their Iraqi ventures, the Neocon Neros of Washington are now toying with the idea of expanding their flourishing business eastward into the highly promising Persian market!

No matter how bad the news coming from Iraq, George W. Bush is still living in his rosy Neocon dream…

I can’t conceptualize the fact that his followers still believe the Pentagon-produced infomercials showing complacent cum generously breasted Baghdad girls throwing rosewater, lukums and champagne at our troops on Apr 9, 2003 …

Frankly, can’t they see Teheran’s mullahs are the only winners here?

And those ungrateful Ayyranians should be mighty satisfied and thankful for el Chimpresidente nukular supreme de la White Casa knocked their secular archenemy for them and handed them (via their SCIRI cum Da’awa stooges) two thirds of Ayyraq on a silver plate!

Plus the Persians got all that for free: future generations of infidel American taxpayers will generously pick the estimated 2 trillion dollars tab- George W’s contribution to the Koranic jurisprudential concept of “Jiziyah”…

As a seasoned Sassanid sophist might have said: With foes like these, who needs friends?

8:51 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Kvatch, I believe Hadley was taken to task by the press corps for the frequency of references to Iran in the NSS while N.Korea was not referenced as frequently. I tried to find a story last night, but couldn't. In any case, the Bush administration is supposed to put out an NSS once a year... It took four years off. Interestingly, the NSS in 2002 predated the war in Iraq and explained preemptive action. This NSS, well, reaffirmed that action.

Ezzie, you are approaching this rationally. It seems, however, that some in the administration are not. Hersh says that someone in JCS is going to resign over this. That could be a 4-star resigning. Tactically, using nukes would may blow the Iranian bunkers to pieces. Strategically, this would be a terrible blunder. Iran and other powers protest the NPT as an exclusivist club of sanctioned nuclear powers. Using nukes to enforce the NPT is counter productive and will reaffirm the need for nukes in the point of view of rogue states. Moreover, threatening nukes is a diplomatic mistake -- take a look at Jack Straw's comments on the BBC yesterday of the London Times op ed today. Also, our military is shaky at best. Now is not the time to pick a fight. Maybe in five years, when it is more urgent. But now is the time for diplomacy.

Doc, you're right: deja vu all over again. I believe this comment:

No matter how bad the news coming from Iraq, George W. Bush is still living in his rosy Neocon dream

Cannot be refuted a posteriori.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Of course such a comment cannot be refuted: There's no way to prove it either way. It's similar to my saying "Copy Editor is a secret murderer." Idiotic, without basis - but irrefutable.

I don't think nuking would be wise, and your reason is a good one; nevertheless, it should remain on the table. The WH stated yesterday that Hersh is off his rocker - I believe that. They also said of course there are contigent plans drawn up, as there always are for any threat - it's a repeat of people saying the US was planning Iraq well in advance. Of *course* a major power will have plans in place in case they ever need to go to war. That's not planning for an imminent strike, that's common sense.

8:04 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Ezzie... there is more about me than you know. ;-)

Sy Hersh contends that senior brass feel the nuke option is immoral. I am guessing (GUESSING only) that it is because the military realizes that using nukes or planning to use nukes can come back to haunt us -- much the same way that most traditional military people don't condone any form of coercive interviewing of detainees.

11:59 AM  

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