OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The Democrats’ failure to challenge Bush’s Mideast policies

How the Democrats blew it

The fact that Democrats have eagerly participated in Bush and the neocons’ campaign to demonize Iran shows that they have learned nothing from Iraq. The Democrats know that Bush lives in his own world outside the “reality-based community,” one in which rational behavior is not a given. They know that the neocon nut jobs in Dick Cheney’s circle want another war. They know that Bush is engaging in exactly the same kind of propaganda campaign against Iran that he did against Iraq, with “explosively shaped charges” replacing the “mushroom clouds” that Saddam Hussein was going to release from a secret chain of demonic falafel stands located in the “east, west, north and south” of the country. And they know that war with Iran would be a disaster. That’s why last March the Democratic leadership proposed a resolution that would prevent Bush from attacking Iran without congressional authorization. But when what the neoconservative New York Sun called “a group of conservative and pro-Israel Democrats” objected, the Democrats caved — in effect, putting the decision on whether to launch a third Mideast war in Bush’s capable hands.

While they abet Bush’s Iran madness, the Democrats treat the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which is by far the greatest cause of anti-American sentiment in the Arab-Muslim world, as if it were a municipal garbage-jurisdiction dispute in Peoria. The Bush administration is doing almost nothing to prepare the ground for the November peace summit, a window-dressing exercise destined to go nowhere. But none of the major Democratic candidates seem to care. None have insisted that Washington and Tel Aviv must put final-status issues on the table, even though without that stipulation the talks are doomed to fail, with potentially grave consequences for Israel, the Palestinians, the region and U.S. interests. Certainly none have dared join that raving radical, Colin Powell, in suggesting that Hamas must be a part of the negotiations. No one endorses Hamas’ use of terrorism — but just as after 9/11, the fetishization of terrorism as pure evil is preventing America from acting in its own interests. From the ANC’s guerrilla struggle with South Africa to the IRA’s urban war against the British in Northern Ireland, the lesson of history is that peace can only be attained by talking to the men with the guns.

Ironically, reality has forced the Bush administration to accept this moral relativism in Iraq. We are in a looking-glass world, where Bush befriends Sunni Baathists in Iraq who yesterday were blowing up American troops, but the Democrats, who are supposedly less prone to moralistic myopia than Bush, rule out talking to Hamas, which took office in elections the U.S. insisted on, and sing from Bush’s far-right song sheet on Iran. Indeed, the only issue on which congressional Democrats are routinely more conservative than Bush is the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. In 2006, the House overwhelmingly approved a sanctions bill against the Palestinians that was opposed by the White House. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — As Taylor Marsh recently noted, “There’s only one thing Clinton and others who voted in favor of Lieberman’s Iran amendment fear more than Iran’s possible involvement in Iraq, or them going nuclear, and that’s standing up to the Israel lobby at large. It’s not going to happen.”

Even so, now that Clinton has made a course correction and announced the she will co-sponsor the Webb legislation prohibiting the use of funds for military operations in Iran, Taylor describes this as a “critically important and a progressive move.” It is no such thing.

Why? Because it is increasingly clear that action against Iran will not start with a fanfare. All the administration needs is a pretext for opening fire and in its original form, the Webb legislation provides Bush with all the room for maneuver he needs:

Specifically, the amendment requires that the President seek congressional authorization prior to commencing any broad military action in Iran and it allows the following exceptions: First, military operations or activities that would directly repel an attack launched from within the territory of Iran. Second, those activities that would directly thwart an imminent attack that would be launched from Iran. Third, military operations or activities that would be in hot pursuit of forces engaged outside the territory of Iran who thereafter would enter Iran. And finally, those intelligence collection activities that have been properly noticed to the appropriate committees of Congress.

I can already hear the presidential address:

In the early hours of this morning, I was informed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, that our intelligence services had discovered that Quds forces in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, operating close to the Iraqi border, were at the advanced stage of launching a stealth attack on a United States military base in Iraq. I therefore ordered U.S. naval and air forces to take all necessary measures to thwart this imminent attack and we have informed the Iranian government that we will not hesitate to take any further necessary action to defend American soldiers who are currently serving their country in Iraq.

Would we get to see the intelligence? Almost certainly not. Would Congress be shouting out in protest? Fat chance! Because if this was to happen, the president would of course be acting in strict compliance with the Webb legislation — in the extremely unlikely event that he had actually signed it into law.

The war against Iran won’t start with shock and awe; it will start with an incident. And while the commentariat is still arguing over who started it, one incident will have led to another and in the unfolding escalation the MSM will be wringing their hands as they earnestly ask: is this war?

But for now, don’t expect the Democrats to take any meaningful action that might help avert this war — they’ll be too busy playing strong and cautious, fishing for the antiwar vote without antagonizing the Israel lobby.

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6 thoughts on “OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The Democrats’ failure to challenge Bush’s Mideast policies

  1. hquain

    There’s a factual question that needs to be answered, or at least approached, to enable deeper discussion of the Cheney-Bush Iran initiative: What is Iran’s state of military preparedness?

    The presupposition of the Pearl-Harbor-in-reverse idea (2000 targets, all destroyed in a morning’s work) is that Iran is essentially defenceless (as Iraq indeed was). But with US forces visibly concentrated in relatively small areas, the attack could easily morph into Midway-in-reverse, if the Iranians are sufficiently well-armed and sufficiently crafty. So: how good are their weapons? their commanders? can they take a punch? deliver one in return? Do we know anything, or are we at the mercy of the usual run of poseurs and propagandists?

    The run-up to the Iraq war saw a marked intensification in the bombing of Iraqi air defence sites by US and British forces . Is it realistic to assume that an assault on Iran would be different? Would the Iranians just have to lie there and take it? Have they not already starting thinking about their options? Sheer cleverness can go a long way, as we know from the largely unsuccessful air war against Serb forces in Kosovo.

    Woodward’s ‘incident’ theory is considerably more plausible than the mass strike fantasies that dominate current discussion. But many of the same questions arise in trying to evaluate its consequences. This reader would be most grateful for any further information that can be supplied about the military priors to the conflict.

  2. Paul Lookman

    Just a comment from a European source. I wonder if your headline “How the Democrats blew it” is correct. Surely there are quite a few dissidents within the Democratic Party. Can’t imagine that presidential hopeful John Edwards would be in favour of allowing the Bush administration to launch an attack on Iran. Have we heard anything from Barrack Obama on this issue? There is more to the equasion: most European “leaders” seem equally sensitive to the Israeli lobby and ready to let Bush/Cheney do as they please. The Sarkozy effect?

  3. Paul Woodward

    “hquain” raises lots of interesting questions none of which am I in a position to answer. Nevertheless, I think it’s reasonable to make a number of assumptions:
    1. Iran will have drawn a number of lessons from last year’s Israel-Hezbollah war. Mobile missile defense systems are surprisingly easy to conceal from the watchful eye of your next door neighbor — provided you have suitable terrain. Anyone who looks at a map should immediately notice that Iran has an immense topographical advantage on its western border with a mountain range on its side and plains on the Iraqi side. If Iran chooses to retaliate against a US attack by firing missiles at US bases in Iraq, at least to my eye, these bases look quite vulnerable.
    2. Iran will play to its own advantage. Rather than go for a major escalation by say firing missiles at Tel Aviv, it’s much more likely to have a measured response designed to humiliate the US military and show the American public that everyone will suffer the consequences of this administration’s recklessness.
    3. The idea — no doubt quite prevalent in Washington and now also (according to Seymour Hersh) in London — that Iran must be taught a lesson, is sheer arrogance. It is clear that this is a nation and a government that has no intention of bowing in submission.

  4. Russ Wellen

    As for silence on the part of the American public. . .

    1. We just refuse to believe that an administration bogged down on Iraq would take on an even more difficult undertaking.

    2. There’s a secret part of us that thinks maybe it would be a good idea to stop whatever nuclear program Iran has in its tracks.

    3. 9/11 fear has worn off and we’ve gone back to being that same complacent nation that — since it hasn’t been attacked otherwise on its own soil since the War of 1812 — has no concerns about our foreign wars impacting the home front.

    4. We also have no concept of how such an attack could affect our economy. If the public understood that one in seven or eight of us (or more) could lose our jobs in the downturn of the economy that would follow an attack, it might register more vocal opposition to attacking Iran. In other words, it could mean you can’t support your family anymore.

  5. Spyguy

    Iran will NOT be a pushover – be prepared for a very rough ride.

    After the Iran/Iraq war, Iran made a concerted effort to be self sufficient in as many weapons systems as they could. For example, they design and make their own main battle tanks. They design and make their own medium range ballistic missiles. The latest missile versions have more than enough range to hit all of Israel. Iran also has the financial resources to purchase state-of-the-art weapons systems from Russia, China and other sources. Yes, I know the US and Israelis consider Russia and China to be junk dealers, but that was the past, things are vastly different now that the US and Israel have given China virtually all the technology ever invented, plus training the engineers in China and Russia on the “bleeding edge” technology. Iran recently purchased and installed Russia’s latest anti-aircraft systems. Any attack on Iran could result in the US losing a fair number of aircraft. Iran should be able to retaliate very significantly against the US/Israel.

    Many of Iran’s military officers are battle-hardened vets of the Iran/Iraq war, plus they have all of the near real-time feedback from the ongoing or recently “ended” wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Iran’s army is 300k to 500k strong and Iran has another 25 MILLION men and women available to supplement the military. Any land invasion of Iran by US/Israel military would be suicidal for the invaders.

    Iran has, of course, learned from Saddam’s mistakes and any attack will force the US to pay a very heavy price in personnel, material and cash.

    Information gleaned from the CIA Fact Book and other public sources on the Internet. The Internet and globalization really have changed the whole war equation.

  6. Spyguy

    BTW – although the Futures Markets currently show a one in three chance that the US/Israel will attack Iran, I think Bush definitely will do it before he is thrown out of office in 2009. There is no one to prevent Bush from giving the order whenever he feels like it. Even if Congress ever woke up and expressly forbade it, he would just do it anyway. Short of physically restraining Bush, there is nothing to prevent the next war. Sure, he will probably get impeached once the American people find out just how screwed they are, but by then the damage will be extensive and much may not be repairable.

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