February 25, 2007

Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939 (II)

[Part I] [And I'll post an entry specifying the various ideas for action that I have, and the rationales behind them, sometime on Monday, February 26. ... and here it is.]

To continue this series from hell (which will doubtless have further installments throughout the coming weeks), I turn to Jim Bovard. As I have urged you to do before, please consider buying his books: Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, The Bush Betrayal, and Attention Deficit Democracy.

In a column entitled, "'Liberating' Iran, Enslaving the USA," Jim writes:
Attacking Iran will put American civilians in the terrorist crosshairs, with little or no federal Kevlar to protect them. The key question is not whether terrorists will attack but how the American people will likely respond and how politicians could exploit the situation.

There is no reason to expect the American people to be less docile than they were after 9/11. The percentage of Americans who trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time doubled in the week after 9/11. It became fashionable to accuse critics of Bush administration policies of being traitors or terrorist sympathizers. ...

The Bush administration has a record of exploiting terrorist attacks to seize nearly boundless power. After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration effectively temporarily suspended habeas corpus, railroaded the Patriot Act through Congress, authorized warrantless domestic wiretaps, and nullified restrictions on torture by the CIA and U.S. Military. The Bush administration now claims that the Authorization to Use Military Force resolution passed by Congress in September 2001 raised the president’s power above the Bill of Rights.

If there are new terror attacks at home, how much more latent presidential power will administration lawyers claim to discover within the penumbra of the Constitution? How broad would the roundup of suspects be? How many years would it be until Americans learned of how much power the government had seized? Is there any reason to expect that a series of attacks would not quickly result in attempts to proclaim de facto martial law?


If Bush does bomb Iran, the chain reaction could wreck American democracy. The Bush administration shows no signs of developing either an allergy to power or an addiction to truth. The American republic cannot afford to permit a president to remain above the law and the Constitution indefinitely. Anything that raises the odds of a terror attack reduces the odds of reining in the government.
I also mentioned the possibility of martial law here in the United States following an attack on Iran, in Part I. I urge you to read Jim's piece in its entirety.

And you should also read Seymour Hersh's latest article, about which I will have more soon. These brief excerpts can get you started:
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.


The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”
And thus continues The Folly of Intervention. I repeat what I stated to be "the single most important principle concerning foreign intervention," whenever such intervention is not a genuine act of self-defense in response to a grave threat:
Intervention always leads to more intervention: the first intervention leads to unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as the justification for still further intervention. That intervention in turn leads to still more unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences, which are then used as yet another justification for still further intervention. The process can go on indefinitely, and the ultimate consequences are always disastrous in the extreme.
We have seen this principle reenacted time and again on the world stage, ever since the disastrous involvement of the United States in World War I. This is one lesson all our political leaders absolutely refuse to learn, even as devastation threatens to spread across the world -- again.

For more on the decades-long history of United States' support of Islamic fundamentalism -- a history about which most Americans are entirely ignorant -- read this essay, It's Much Later than We Think (the second half in particular), which includes some excerpts from Robert Dreyfuss's very valuable book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

To read my earlier series on Iran, which dates from a year ago and longer, go here, here and here, and follow the links for more. All of it is now more relevant than ever before.