What becomes quite clear from the Hersh piece is that this confrontation is about much more than Iran’s nuclear capability. Again, like with Iraq, nuclear development is being used as the Trojan Horse to sell a strike with wider strategic aims – regime change, stability of oil supply, to stop Iranian support for terror etc. Each can be debated on its own merits, but lets stop pretending that this is just about nuclear weapons.
As briefly as possible, the article illuminates the following:
The Plan: Hersh reports that a massive bombing campaign is being planned with the hopes of stalling nuclear development and forcing regime change. A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon told Hersh that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ If this is the meat of the plan, we should indeed be concerned.
The idea is to hit several hundred targets and includes the use of tactical nuclear weapons to strike underground centrifuge production facilities.
The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles.
While ostensibly to slow nuclear production capability (by 3-5 years), the strike plan goes far beyond this.
The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that “ninety-nine per cent of them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are people who believe it’s the way to operate”—that the Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been supported by neoconservatives.
And on a geopolitical level:
“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. “That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”
Again, the nuclear issue is clearly being used as the selling point for wider strategic aims – regime change and control in the middle east.
Opposition: There is significant opposition to such a strike and to the use of nuclear weapons. This comes from among others, the British government, from within the UN military and from the IAEA.
First, “The Brits think this is a very bad idea,” Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staff member who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, told Hersh. “but they’re really worried we’re going to do it.”
Second, many within the US military are against the strike. A Pentagon advisor told Hersh that there was a serious push from some in the administration to use tactical nukes. Again, this shows that the push is coming from civilian, rather than military leadership:
He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”
Third, the IAEA is amazed at the lack of interest in actually inspecting to see if Iran has production capability. The reasons for this should be obvious.
The threat of American military action has created dismay at the headquarters of the I.A.E.A., in Vienna. The agency’s officials believe that Iran wants to be able to make a nuclear weapon, but “nobody has presented an inch of evidence of a parallel nuclear-weapons program in Iran”
Another diplomat in Vienna asked me, “Why would the West take the risk of going to war against that kind of target without giving it to the I.A.E.A. to verify? We’re low-cost, and we can create a program that will force Iran to put its cards on the table.” A Western Ambassador in Vienna expressed similar distress at the White House’s dismissal of the I.A.E.A. He said, “If you don’t believe that the I.A.E.A. can establish an inspection system—if you don’t trust them—you can only bomb.”
Consequences: As I have commented before, the consequences of a strike against Iran are potentially massive and must be seen as part of the strategic calculus. Like the post war period in Iraq, human costs must be viewed in a strategic light. As Richard Armitage poignantly told Hersh:
“What will happen in the other Islamic countries? What ability does Iran have to reach us and touch us globally—that is, terrorism? Will Syria and Lebanon up the pressure on Israel? What does the attack do to our already diminished international standing? And what does this mean for Russia, China, and the U.N. Security Council?”
“If you attack,” a high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna, “Ahmadinejad will be the new Saddam Hussein of the Arab world, but with more credibility and more power. You must bite the bullet and sit down with the Iranians.”
As a Pentagon advisor also stated: “If the diplomatic process doesn’t work, there is no military ‘solution.’ There may be a military option, but the impact could be catastrophic.”
Messianic?: A frightening aspect of this debate (or lack thereof) is the messianic nature of many comments by Bush. As one official told Hersh:
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.”
But is diplomacy being actually taken seriously? Most evidence seems to suggest that it is not. As a senior diplomat told Hersh: “There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution.” The reason for this gall should be apparent. Diplomacy could only serve to stop nuclear production. It will not result in regime change, or in a US ally in control, nor in permanent military bases in Iran. Just like in Iraq, containment may have worked to stop WMD production, but it was not deemed sufficient for wider US aims. Plus ca change...
(cross posted at taylorowen.com)
When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption. Large-scale and pervasive corruption meant that available resources could not be used to stabilize and secure Iraq in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), when it was still possible to do so…
The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.
So, a left wing lunatic right? An unpatriotic flag burning liberal? Try the in October 2005. In their rush to only report the bad news in Iraq, the left wing MSM must have overlooked one of the biggest corruption cases in history. One that also had massive strategic implications.
Where to start. First, much of the money was transfered from UN control to the CPA in the fallout of oil for food and to much of the international community’s (proven justified) concern.
Where did this money go? For one, the Iraqi’s got the privilege of hiring hundreds of budding ideologues, recruited straight off the Heritage Foundation website and paid six figure salaries out of Iraqi funds on 90 day rotations, no qualifications.
So how much are we talking about? A few million are bound to be lost in such a large scale endeavor? Try tens of billions of dollars. Much of it in cash.
The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.
Almost all of this was off the books. With as much as 4 billion coming from illegal oil exports.
Before anyone comments that this was all necessary for reconstruction, much of the work wasn’t even done. One could cancel the work without penalty for “security reasons”. Meaning literally countless corporations literally took the money and ran.
The distribution tactics were also somewhat unconventional.
Money also disappeared in truckloads and by helicopter. The CPA reportedly distributed funds to contractors in bags off the back of a truck. In one notorious incident in April 2004, $1.5 billion in cash that had just been delivered by three Blackhawk helicopters was handed over to a courier in Erbil, in the Kurdish region, never to be seen again. Afterwards, no one was able to recall the courier’s name or provide a good description of him.
Paul Bremer, meanwhile, had a slush fund in cash of more than $600 million in his office for which there was no paperwork. One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag.
Three-quarters of a million dollars was stolen from an office safe, and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.” Nearly $5 billion was shipped from New York in the last month of the CPA. Sources suggest that a deliberate attempt was being made to run down the balance and spend the money while the CPA still had authority and before an Iraqi government could be formed.
So who was overseeing the financial transactions?
The only certified public-accounting firm used by the CPA to monitor its spending was a company called North Star Consultants, located in San Diego, which was so small that it operated out of a private home. It was subsequently determined that North Star did not, in fact, perform any review of the CPA’s internal spending controls.
And the cleptocracy did not die with Bremer’s departure (taking a Blackhawk to the airport as he had failed to secure the road).
The undocumented cash flow continued long after the CPA folded. Over $1.5 billion was disbursed to interim Iraqi ministries without any accounting, and more than $1 billion designated for provincial treasuries never made it out of Baghdad. More than $430 million in contracts issued by the Petroleum Ministry were unsupported by any documentation, and $8 billion were given to government ministries that had no financial controls in place. Nearly all of it disappeared, spent on “payroll,” wages for “ghost employees” in the Ministries of the Interior and Defense. In one case, an Army brigade receiving money to support 2,200 men was found to have fewer than 300 effectives. 602 actual guards at the Ministry of the Interior were billed as more than 8,200 for payroll purposes.
Ok, so one question. Where are all of the neocons who were screaming bloody murder over the UN oil for food. Bad as it was, it is nothing compared to this heist. Massive amounts of money, stolen by American corporations from the Iraqis and the US taxpayers with no oversight from the CPA. This must be incorporated into our understanding of the already long list of extensive and preventable mistakes made post invasion. We are sure to see some brutal assessments in the coming weeks as more information surfaces as it finally seems to be. Needless to say, if the Democrats take the House, this will be one hell of an investigation.
Read the whole . It is truly astonishing.
Cross posted on www.taylorowen.com
The notion is this: of all those well-intentioned and admirable Americans rallying to call attention to Darfur and demand action, ask for volunteers to join a genocide prevention division for two years. They would begin their service with roughly 12 weeks of boot camp and 12 weeks of specialized training -- and then go to Darfur next winter.
There would be risks in such a venture, to be sure. But they are manageable and tolerable risks. By contrast, the Darfur genocide is unacceptable, intolerable, and a blight on our collective consciences.
Well said. Check out the whole piece, O'Hanlon is a thoughtful writer.
I would add that this force would need a substantially redesigned training program, the US troops proving so disastrously ill suited to operating in complex humanitarian emergencies. Further to this, I would rather see it be a UN, EU or Canadian led force (US troops are simply too politically charged), but if none of them are going to do it, then this option should be on the table. The model is no secret, it is the troops that are needed. Who’s going to step up?
Interested in thoughts.
The opening line is frightening, and seems to come from someone both deeply saddened and angered by what he has lived in Iraq:
Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device.
I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya , or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.
Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq"the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere.
After descriptions of horrendous brutality committed by Sunnis, Shiites and Americans alike, he concludes:
Sectarian and ethnic cleansing has since (the Samarra bombing and 1000 Sunni retribution killings) continued apace, as mixed neighborhoods are"purified." In Amriya, dead bodies are being found on the main street at a rate of three or five or seven a day. People are afraid to approach the bodies, or call for an ambulance or the police, for fear that they, too, will be found dead the following day. In Abu Ghraib, Dora, Amriya and other once-diverse neighborhoods, Shiites are being forced to leave. In Maalif and Shaab, Sunnis are being targeted.
The world wonders if Iraq is on the brink of civil war, while Iraqis fear calling it one, knowing the fate such a description would portend. In truth, the civil war started long before Samarra and long before the first uprisings. It started when U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad. It began when Sunnis discovered what they had lost, and Shiites learned what they had gained. And the worst is yet to come.
The frustration in this article seems to come from the combination of witnessing the ongoing horrors, and his conclusion that they are getting worse. Some will undoubtedly label it biased, most from the comforts of the Beltway, but whatever ones beliefs on the wars rationale, there should be no doubt that passionate reporting like this is a reminder of the massive human cost of this conflict.
Update: has a very good post up about this piece. Suffice it to say, my mushy sentimentalism post reading this horrific account stands in notable contrast to David's removed rationalism. I agree with some, but certainly not all of his critique. Sometimes, however, it is important to simply listen to the direct accounts of the horrors of war without contextualising them with policy analysis.
The government concessions offered in return for insurgent amnesty are actually quite extensive, and I think are a pretty clear indication of how desperate the situation really is. For example:
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.
It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
OK. Does this not run almost completely contrary to US policy over the past 2 years? Are they not suggesting a reversal of the majority of US policies and tactics in Iraq? Are they not making the distinction between different types of terrorists, a distinction this administraton is absolutist against?
It certainly appears so. Even more poignant is the call for a timeline for withdrawal, from all involved in the negotiations, including Khalilzad, the US Ambassador. On timelines, the document states:
We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision.
This is in marked contrast to the current debate in the US congress, where any discussion of timelines is ridiculed by the right, and by the administration. The disconnect between the US domestic debate, and the negotiations IN IRAQ could not be more poignant. One has to wonder if the former, in an election year, will limit the success of the latter? Will the administration agree to a deal that goes against the bulk of its Iraq policy, makes a deal with elements of an insurgency it has refused to nuance, and sets a firm timeline for complete withdrawal (including the 12 permanent military bases), all of this in an election year? The thing is, they may not have a choice.
IN THAT WAY ONLY HE CAN:Hitchens critiques Vietnam-Iraq analogies in a manner that plainly demonstrates why his is a polemical voice to be cherished.
While his argument is fragmented and dangerously absolute
The scope of the typically eclectic argument defies summary, however, some morsels of his pastiche are worth highlighting.First, he argues, as if undisputed, that there never should have been a war in
The scope of the typically eclectic argument defies summary, however, some morsels of his pastiche are worth highlighting.First, he argues, as if undisputed, that there never should have been a war in
1945 the successive French and Japanese occupations had been discredited and defeated, and if Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived it is unlikely the US would have supported the disastrous restoration of French rule in Indochina.
He cites the war’s atrocities, including “ecocide by chemical weaponry to the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians.”The latter of which I have worked extensively on in
He holds no punches at contrasting the two in the starkest of ways:
, even president Dwight Eisenhower conceded that Ho would have won any national election. But the Vietnam then proceeded to impose a dictator who was so hateful that Kennedy had to have him killed. US
, the coalition has removed an almost uniquely ghastly dictator and mass murderer, and sponsored the only elections Iraq has had. The only real people's army in Iraq , the Kurdish freedom fighters, enter combat on our side. Iraq
The tussle in the
in 1964, on the other hand Gulfof Tonkin (compared with 911), was a minor squabble, distorted and magnified for purposes that were warmongering and imperialistic.
Of course, saying that there are no similarities between
As should be no surprise, his support for
Gruesome as it is, theWho else could write that paragraph?
war has justice on its side and pits us against a truly wicked enemy; the confrontation was inevitable and long in the making. It is a pity Saddam was not removed in 1991. None of these things can be said about the war in Iraq , which no revisionist will be able to remove from the annals of disgrace. Vietnam
Like his line of the day or not, there are very few people who have both ruthlessly critiqued the Vietnam war and unabashedly supported and advocated for the war in Iraq.For this, if nothing else, I am glad he is as extraordinarily prolific as he is.cross posted on Oxblog
In the vein of the Truman Democrats, Beirnartian liberalism and Ikenberrian liberal realism, Robert Wright has weighted in with what he labels ‘Progressive Realism’.Essentially, he argues that what is needed is the idealism traditionally attributed to liberal foreign policy combined with a degree of realism that reflects the changing nature of American strategic interests.
America’s fortunes are growing more closely correlated with the fortunes of people far away; fewer games have simple win-lose outcomes, and more have either win-win or lose-lose outcomes.
President Bush’s belated diplomatic involvement in
Darfursuggests growing enlightenment, but sluggish ad hoc multilateralism isn’t enough. We need multilateral structures capable of decisively forceful intervention and nation building — ideally under the auspices of the United Nations, which has more global legitimacy than other candidates. Americashould lead in building these structures and thereafter contribute its share, but only its share. To some extent, the nurturing of international institutions and solid international law is simple thrift.