Flipping through channels last week, I caught the tail end of the 1982 movie, “Poltergeist.” It’s still unnerving decades later. Childhood terrors come to life: monsters in the closet, outside the window, under the bed. In one scene, JoBeth Williams runs to her screaming children, but in helpless slow motion as their bedroom door recedes impossibly before her.
Watching the rerun of the Bush administration’s war-starting strategy — this time featuring Iran — feels like those slow-motion nightmares.
We charge Iran with interfering in Iraq. They’ve supported fellow Shiites there since the days when the United States supplied Saddam Hussein with chemicals, but no matter.
We charge Iran with smuggling weapons across their border with Iraq. The U.S. smuggled Stinger missiles to mujahideen halfway around the world in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, but no matter.
One influential hawk among many, National Review’s Michael Ledeen, insists a state of war with Iran has existed since 1979. Ledeen helped the Reagan administration transfer weapons to the Iran he repeatedly claims we were at war with, but no matter.
In “The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know” in the recent Esquire, two former Bush State Department Middle East policy experts outline their post-Sept. 11, 2001, discussions with Iranian diplomats. “Iran was ready to cooperate unconditionally,” Esquire reports. The Bush administration was not — is not — interested in diplomacy, but no matter.
The executive branch players reprise roles they made famous, pre-Iraq. President Bush warns of “nuclear holocaust.” Vice President Cheney threatens Iran with “serious consequences.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Iran of “lying” to inspectors about its nuclear programs.
It doesn’t take a quarterback to see that the administration is running the same play again. Against Iran and against us.
Trumping up a case
They’ve been wrong about everything from weapons of mass destruction to Iraqi “dead-enders” to de-Baathification, Hurricane Katrina and Harriet Miers, but no matter. Regimes must be changed. Wars must be started. Reasons will be found.
In February, a story in London’s Telegraph newspaper reported that more than 100 .50-caliber Steyr-Mannlicher sniper rifles had been captured during American raids in Iraq. The weapons shipped to Iran in 2005 were now in use against U.S. troops, claimed the Telegraph’s anonymous source.
These formidable-looking Austrian weapons can take off a man’s head at a mile. Austrian native Arnold Schwarzenegger might wield one in the movies. What a jim-dandy backdrop for a press conference 100 would make, a picture worth a thousand words.
But no photos of the captured weapons appeared in any newspapers — only shots from Steyr’s online catalog. Skeptics asked if the serial numbers matched the weapons shipped to Iran, and the tale of the unseen rifles died overnight.
“Explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs) star in this year’s sequel too. Military briefers told reporters that the armor-piercing roadside bombs require machining too sophisticated for Iraqis. They had been manufactured in Iran.
“We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” a senior U.S. military official told the New York Times in February.
Days later, a Los Angeles Times op-ed article cited a November 2006 raid on a Baghdad machine shop producing EFP components. Earlier reports of Iraqi EFP factories surfaced, and more questions. Military spokesmen backed away from earlier claims, prompting suggestions that the allegations against Iran had been manufactured. Bush called those suggestions “preposterous.”
Congress can stop this
These anecdotes don’t disprove Iranian weapons are reaching Iraq. Some indeed may. But these examples cast a cloud over tales — especially regarding Iranian nuclear programs — used to justify a disastrous new “preemptive” war by the same people who produced the last one.
Congress has the power to stop it. But despite receiving the voters’ mandate last November — to exercise its duty to flex its own constitutional war and oversight powers — Congress shies like an abused child who fears slaps and name-calling for doing so.
Hoping to wait out a reckless and power-hungry White House until November 2008 is itself reckless, as it is unconscionable.
Presidential spokesmen and candidates warn that a nuclear-armed Iran will destabilize the region. But that mission is already accomplished. Another American pre-emptive war will destabilize it further, and quicker.
Like a slow-motion nightmare, we watch it unfolding just as it did in 2002 and 2003. We scream warnings, but our leaders do not hear us.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
This piece first appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on November 11, 2007.