Monday, April 10, 2006

Pickett's next charge

The evidence is piling up that President Bush was itching for a fight with Saddam Hussein long before the actual invasion and is itching for another.

Paul Krugman's column today summarizes the growing list of reports:
The New York Times has confirmed the authenticity of a British government memo reporting on a prewar discussion between Mr. Bush and Tony Blair. In that conversation, Mr. Bush told Mr. Blair that he was determined to invade Iraq even if U.N. inspectors came up empty-handed.

Second, it's becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Bush knew that the case he was presenting for war — a case that depended crucially on visions of mushroom clouds — rested on suspect evidence. For example, in the 2003 State of the Union address Mr. Bush cited Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes as clear evidence that Saddam was trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Yet Murray Waas of the National Journal reports that Mr. Bush had been warned that many intelligence analysts disagreed with that assessment.

Was the difference between Mr. Bush's public portrayal of the Iraqi threat and the actual intelligence he saw large enough to validate claims that he deliberately misled the nation into war? Karl Rove apparently thought so. According to Mr. Waas, Mr. Rove "cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged" if the contents of an October 2002 "President's Summary" containing dissents about the significance of the aluminum tubes became public.
While still governnor, Bush mused to biographer Micky Herskowitz,
“My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of [Kuwait] and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Uh-huh. And now that his presidency is on the rocks, Bush is looking to use the American military to "double down" his way out of the political hole.

Seymour Hersh in this week's New Yorker gives us a peek into the White House's foreign policy works. This time, it's a peek at Pentagon military plans for forcing regime change in Iran.
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief 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?’ ”
Indeed. President Bush was determined not to repeat the mistakes his father made in Iraq. Instead he made all new ones. He plans to repeat his father's mistakes in Iran.

Given that some of the potential targets are hardened and deep Soviet-style bunkers, plus the same lack of adequate intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion over nonexistent WMDs, the White House is considering compensating with serious firepower, including tactical nuclear weapons. Hersh spoke with an unnamed former senior intelligence official:
“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.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”
As the familiar prewar rhetoric heats up once again, retired Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold quotes the rock group The Who in his 9 April Time magazine article, "Why Iraq Was a Mistake." The three-star general urges his fellow officers and citizens to speak out this time and not be "fooled again."

Newbold admits that culpability for the Iraq lies with himself, his fellow officers, members of Congress and the American media, and he decries White House efforts to deflect blame onto our own soldiers.
... Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
The errors were made at the top, Newbold asserts, by leaders who committed our forces "with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results."

The son of Bush has a talent for painting himself into a corner and leaving himself no other alternative than a military one. And rather than look as weak as he now is (and was), this Bush would order a second Pickett's Charge into a hail of canister shot rather than admit his first order was a grievous error.

Hersh cites a government consultant "with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon," as saying:
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.”
And again the fallout will be ours.

No comments: