June 15, 2006

I Wake Up Screaming: Al Qaeda in the White House

"I Wake Up Screaming" is one of my favorite movie titles of all time. But I don't think I've ever seen that film; I'm not exactly a big Betty Grable or Victor Mature fan. But if the movie is even half as lunatic as the title, I suspect I'd enjoy it a lot.

But in this, the Sixth Year of Our Glorious Emperor (with date citations soon to be in the form "A.B.," no doubt), I often feel that way when I first begin to peruse the news sites each morning. As I contemplate the continuing, widening destruction wrought by Bush and his henchmen both at home and abroad, screaming seems to be the only appropriate response. Such a reaction is warranted not only by the endless death in Iraq and the continuing destruction of that country, but by the Bush administration's embrace of torture, by its ceaseless assault on individual rights and civil liberties, by its rejection of science and reason as a matter of fundamentalist policy -- to say nothing of the numerous other horrors, the incidents at Haditha and Guantanamo, and what I think is the likely attack on Iran in the near future. (I will soon be writing much more about Haditha, Guantanamo and Iran.)

This morning, however, my screams were of a somewhat different kind: they were screams of deeply bitter laughter, of a kind I have not experienced for quite a long time. My bitterness and laughter were occasioned by the description of certain of those "huge treasure" of documents that have miraculously turned up just in time to boost Bush's sagging political fortunes:
A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday.

The document, purporting to reflect al-Qaida policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein, also appear to show that the insurgency in Iraq was weakening.

The al-Qaida in Iraq document was translated and released by Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie. There was no way to independently confirm the authenticity of the information attributed to al-Qaida.


The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, by massive arrests and seizures of weapons, by tightening the militants' financial outlets, and by creating divisions within its ranks.

"Generally speaking and despite the gloomy present situation, we find that the best solution in order to get out of this crisis is to involve the U.S. forces in waging a war against another country or any hostile groups," the document said, as quoted by al-Maliki's office.

According to the summary, insurgents were being weakened by operations against them and by their failure to attract recruits. To give new impetus to the insurgency, they would have to change tactics, it added.

"We mean specifically attempting to escalate the tension between America and Iran, and America and the Shiite in Iraq," it quoted the documents as saying, especially among moderate followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq.

"Creating disputes between America and them could hinder the U.S. cooperation with them, and subsequently weaken this kind of alliance between Shiites and the Americans," it said, adding that "the best solution is to get America involved in a war against another country and this would bring benefits."

They included "opening a new front" for the U.S. military and releasing some of the "pressure exerted on the resistance."
This is a joke, right? Normally, I wouldn't believe anything that comes from the U.S. government or U.S. military, or from the Iraqi National Security Adviser (which is about the same thing). The Bush administration started its endless campaign of misrepresentations, distortions and lies on the afternoon of 9/11, and it's never stopped. At this point, no one has grounds to lend credence to a single word they utter on any subject -- and that is especially true in connection with matters of war and national security.

But in this case, I can believe that this branch of the insurgency in Iraq sought to increase tensions between the U.S. and Iran, simply because it's entirely ludicrous to present this as "proof" of some dastardly, evil plan hatched by our enemies. Why do I say it's ludicrous? The answer is very simple: because this is the same exact strategy and goal embraced by the Bush administration itself.

This would hardly be the first time that the strategies of our own government and of our enemies were entirely congruent. Take a look at this entry, which excerpts an article by Peter Bergen. Consider just these two paragraphs from Bergen's piece:
In more than a dozen interviews, experts both within and outside the U.S. government laid out a stark analysis of how the war has hampered the campaign against Al Qaeda. Not only, they point out, did the war divert resources and attention away from Afghanistan, seriously damaging the prospects of capturing Al Qaeda leaders, but it has also opened a new front for terrorists in Iraq and created a new justification for attacking Westerners around the world. Perhaps most important, it has dramatically speeded up the process by which Al Qaeda the organization has morphed into a broad-based ideological movement -- a shift, in effect, from bin Laden to bin Ladenism. "If Osama believed in Christmas, this is what he'd want under his Christmas tree," one senior intelligence official told me. Another counterterrorism official suggests that Iraq might begin to resemble "Afghanistan 1996," a reference to the year that bin Laden seized on Afghanistan, a chaotic failed state, as his new base of operations.
What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden has long predicted was the United States' long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden has long despised, ignited Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a "defensive" jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It's hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism.
For the same reasons, if we were to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran, it would be the equivalent of a thousand Christmases rolled into one -- for all the terrorists and all our enemies across the globe. And if we engaged in the aggressive use of nuclear weapons, tactical or otherwise, you can probably say farewell to civilization as we now know it. Large-scale destruction might arrive overnight, or more slowly over the course of several years. But such destruction would be averted only by a miracle.

Despite these facts -- which are widely acknowledged by all those actually concerned with facts, as opposed to those who are driven by a True Believer ideology, with its Utopian delusions of refashioning the entire world in our own image -- the administration hardly needs help from anyone else "to escalate the tension between America and Iran." That is precisely what Bush, Cheney, Rice, Bolton and all the rest of the warmongers have been attempting to do for many months now. See this essay, where I discuss how the alleged danger from a nuclear Iran was first portrayed as being a decade in the future, a period of time that has been steadily reduced to a few years, and then to a few months. I also discuss how even many liberals swallow this propaganda, almost in its entirety. Now Bush has reduced the time horizon to a matter of weeks, just as he did in the runup to the Iraq invasion.

See this more recent essay, too: Morality, Humanity and Civilization: "All that remains...is memories." And with profound regret, simply because they may be the only potential obstacle between where we are now and Armageddon, I have to note that almost all the prominent Democrats are no better than the Bush administration on the question of Iran and, hard as it is to believe, some of them are even worse. I'll be discussing that in more detail; for a preview, you might want to read this entry about Mark Warner's ignorant and dangerous recent comments. For instance: "When he spoke about the biggest threats we face in the WMD proliferation arena, he named Iran..." Remember that all the best estimates conclude that Iran will not have even one nuclear weapon for a minimum of five to ten years (assuming that is, in fact, their goal). I'm sure the Bush administration is deeply grateful for Warner's diligent efforts to help them start the next war -- or, more accurately, the next chapter in the same war.

The benefits of Iran-hysteria to the Bush administration are obvious. Of greatest importance is the fact that, to the extent the administration can once again create an atmosphere of danger and even panic, it serves to distract attention from the calamitous consequences of their past and present actions. Interestingly, much of the American public doesn't seem to be buying the Iran propaganda -- at least, not yet. And I would find the public's infinitely more sensible and accurate assessment of the danger a cause for hope, except for the fact that the administration doesn't give a damn what the public thinks in that sense. Moreover, our criminally incompetent media have learned next to nothing from their numerous errors during the propaganda onslaught about Iraq, and they still unthinkingly parrot administration talking points. So when the administration decides to ratchet up the Iran propaganda, the media will transmit and amplify the lies just as they did before.

And when the hysteria reaches a certain point -- with cries of "appeasement" and "cowardice" targeted at all those who even question the government line, causing most of the administration's opponents (and almost all Washington Democrats) to slink away in fear and shut up -- the public may well finally go grudgingly along. If there are no significant public voices to protest the administration's insanity, exactly who or what is the public going to rally around in opposition, even if they were so inclined?

All in all, it is quite a spectacle: we are supposed to be horrified at the depths of evil revealed by the insurgents' plans "to escalate the tension between America and Iran" -- when that is precisely what our own government is and has been doing with absolute consistency. And at this point, and after the record of the last several years and the constantly repeated lies from the administration on every imaginable subject, I trust no one will be heard to say: "Oh, but they would never do that! How can you even think that the administration would launch an attack on Iran, when that might be the start of a global nuclear conflict that would destroy life on a scale never seen before?"

If you had even the glimmer of such a thought, I have but a single response: You cannot be serious.

And I have only these questions: Why aren't more people screaming? Why isn't everyone screaming?