America and the world are entering an extremely dangerous and volatile period and it will be up to senior U.S. military officials and members of Congress to stop the rush to a new war with Iran. The evidence is alarming and disturbing and today’s speech by President Bush before the Veteran’s of Foreign War should not be dismissed as mere political posturing. According to AFP:
US President George W. Bush branded the Islamic Republic “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” citing its backing of Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Shiite fighters killing US troops in Iraq.Bush’s claims are disingenuous and dishonest.
“And Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust,” he told the American Legion veterans group.
The causus belli for the war in Bushworld consists of terrorism, attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Let me address these in order.
It is true that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. However, while Iran has American blood on its hands, Al Qaeda – a Sunni movement – not Iran has killed more Americans in terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, Iran pioneered the use of terrorism as an extension of its foreign policy towards the United States. Iran, at a minimum, had a direct role in two attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in the 1980s, the kidnapping and murder of CIA Chief William Buckley, the kidnapping and murder of U.S. Marine Colonel Rich Higgins, the execution on board TWA 847 of U.S. Navy Diver Robert Stethem, and the bombing of the U.S. military housing complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia in June 1996. And it paid what price? Nothing of any consequence. President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush Senior, and President Bill Clinton failed to mount a credible response to these attacks. One could argue that Iran could assume it can attack the United States without fear of retaliation.
But what is Iran doing in Iraq? Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Iran has used its contacts with prominent Iraqi shia – including the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Abdul Aziz al Hakim – to build intelligence networks, train and arm militia, and collect intelligence. Iran is not the primary driving force for the terrorism that wracks Iraq. Which raises the question of whether Iran is helping direct attacks against U.S. soldiers?
Attacks on U.S. Soldiers
The Bush Administration and the U.S. military commanders in Iraq need to answer one basic question. Who is responsible for most of the violence directed against U.S. forces? The answer is simple – Sunni extremists. It is not Iran. But hey, when you are whipping up war fever why worry about facts.
That said, Iran is responsible in some fashion for the production and use of what is now known as Explosively Formed Penetrators aka EFPs. EFPs are really nothing more than platter charges. Platter charges were employed first by U.S. Army special forces in World War II. They are simple, deadly, and capable of taking out a bridge (follow this link and search the term, “platter charge”). EFPs have been used against U.S. forces in Iraq. They are employed by Shia extremists and Shia militia. They have killed U.S. troops. But these devices are not responsible for most of the U.S. fatalities and wounds. That is a basic fact.
I do not believe for a minute that President Bush is ignorant of this fact. Neither is his National Security Advisor or his Secretary of Defense. They know the truth. But instead of telling the truth to the American people the President and his minions are busy propagandizing the masses in order to justify an attack on Iran.
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The Nuclear Question
So, we have a state keen on supporting terrorism, who is attacking U.S. soldiers, and, for the icing on the cake, is busy trying to build a nuclear weapon. Here the Bush Administration tries to play the same card they did in Iraq. We ostensibly have a zero tolerance for rogue states with nukes. Yet somehow we have been able to accept that North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Israel, and India have nukes without going to war.
Here is the canard. Even if Iran has twenty nuclear weapons they do not have the wherewithal to attack and destroy the United States. Hell, not even China can pull that off and they have a hell of a lot more nukes than Pakistan, India, and South Africa combined. Just getting a nuke decreases your chances of being invaded. However, producing a nuke does not mean you have the means and capability to effectively deliver those devices.
Nonetheless, don’t be surprised that we will be told repeatedly that Israel’s future will hinge on taking out Iran. At least that’s the message that will be blared unrelentingly for the next few months by this Administration and its media lackeys. Remember, only anti-Semites do not want to protect Israel from Iranian nukes. So, if you try to argue the opposite point, that the threat can be contained without resorting to a pre-emptive strike, just accept the fact that you are an unrelenting jew hater and one step removed from the Gestapo. (If you don’t understand sarcasm go read something else and exit this blog.)
So What if We Launch a Preemptive Strike?
Once again we are being promised a painless, bloodless conquest of an evil doer. In a paper published today in the United Kingdom, Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and Martin Butcher, a former Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament offer this claim:
Under the command of Marine General James Cartwright, US Global Strike planning has the potential to destroy over 10,000 targets in Iran in one mission with “smart” conventional weapons. That number assumes only 100 strategic bombers with 100 bombs each. The actual number of planes/bombs and missiles is far larger. US government documents obtained by Hans Kristensen and analysed by William Arkin has described the development of this Global Strike capability.Scary thought indeed. Now let’s try some reality. The U.S. has tried twice in the last 16 years to use air power to eliminate threats and enemies on the ground in that region – Gulf War 1990 and the Iraq War 2003. In fact, in the lead up to the war in Iraq several, including the late General Wayne Downing, argued that Iraq could be taken over with a shock and awe air campaign and only 50,000 U.S. special forces. Well, we all know how that turned out. And have you forgotten that the highly touted U.S. air power failed to destroy a single SCUD missile during the 1991 military action?
Awaiting his orders, George Bush has more than 200 strategic bombers (B52-B1-B2-F117A) and US Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles. One B2 bomber dropped 80, 500lb bombs on separate targets in 22 seconds in a test flight. Using half the total force, 10,000 targets could be attacked almost simultaneously. This strike power alone is sufficient to destroy all major Iranian political, military, economic and transport capabilities.
Pat Lang and I discussed some of the likely consequences that would occur if the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on Iraq in an article in the 2006 issue of the National Interest. We updated our assessment in the March-April 2007 issue. Both are worth your time.
Beyond the points we made in those articles there are some other critical facts to consider:What Should be Done?
Iran is not flat like Iraq. Iran has vast mountainous regions and can easily hide production facilities and weapons inside mountains that we cannot easily attack.
Iran has more robust air defense systems than Iraq ever had. We are likely to lose some pilots and aircraft in an attack on Iran. We can hope for the best, but if the worse comes to past – the shoot-down of several aircraft and the capture of several pilots – the Iranians will have some additional leverage that will constrain President Bush.
U.S. tankers required to refuel aircraft involved in any attack on Iran will force a reduction of military operations inside both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Army and Marines are incapable of being employed in any significant numbers to support an operation in Iran. Generals are already warning that they cannot (I REPEAT) cannot sustain the current surge in Iraq beyond the Spring of 2008. Who in their right mind would undertake a new military adventure when we cannot handle what we are currently doing? George Bush? But the question of his state of mind is another story.
The withdrawal of British forces from Basra now leaves Shia militia, who have direct ties to Iran, in complete control of the supply routes used to ferry beans, bullets, water, and toilet paper from Kuwait to U.S. troops in Iraq. An attack against Iran will likely see a cut off of this supply route. That will require a diversion of air assets and ground forces to southern Iraq to reopen the lines of communication.
If the President orders U.S. Generals and Admirals, specifically Admiral Fallon at CENTCOM, to attack Iran then senior officers will face a choice. If they follow the order they will share responsibility of leading the United States into a new military disaster that has the potential to bankrupt this country. Officers confronted with this choice must resign and go public immediately with their opposition. We cannot afford any more belated mea culpas (General Gregory Newbold comes to mind) of military leaders with doubts about an insane policy.
It is also the obligation of members of Congress to refuse to give the President a blank check for a new war. So far the Democratic controlled Congress has refused to lay down the marker requiring Congressional approval before Bush launches on a new preemptive strike. Senator Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi must speak with a clear, united voice on this.
While Iran offers a potential threat that we must take seriously, this does not lead to the conclusion that we have no other option but to attack Iran. Expanding the war in the Middle East at this time would be an act of madness and strategic suicide. Are the American people willing to push their leaders to stand up to Bush and refuse to go down this dark path? I hope so.
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