“My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th when we got attacked. I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people.” President George W. Bush in response to a question by Helen Thomas at his news conference on March 21, 2006.
There is a good possibility that the Bush regime will soon attack Iran with nuclear weapons, particularly if the situation in Iraq and their domestic approval ratings continue to deteriorate, as they very likely will.
The primary impetus for this attack will be Bush’s poor standing in opinion polls, with approval ratings currently hovering in the mid-30’s and falling. Such numbers spell doom for marginal Republican candidates in November who have loyally stood by Bush and now face reverse coattails. The Republican US Senate candidate in New Jersey failed to show up when Cheney went there to endorse him last Tuesday. Unless something changes radically, there is almost no doubt that the Democrats will improve their fortunes markedly in the fall congressional elections regardless of their stance on issues.
How can the Republicans possibly revive their political fortunes before November? If they don’t rebound they may lose control of at least one house of Congress, possibly opening the door to impeachment. The public’s high level of disapproval is primarily based on unhappiness with the failure of the occupation of Iraq. Unless a bird flu pandemic breaks out or the economy collapses, there is no other issue that might conceivably supercede Iraq in importance with the electorate. The situation within Iraq is largely beyond the capacity of the US military forces or political agents to change the historic tides running against them.
Iraq as a unified nation is very likely history. Of its creation as part of the Versailles Treaty ending WWI, a prominent historian of the period said, “Putting together the three Ottoman provinces and expecting to create a nation was, in European terms, like hoping to have Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs make one country.”* Ethnic divisions are rapidly solidifying everywhere outside the Green Zone. Integrated areas are ceasing to exist as each sectarian component flees to the security of homogeneous areas. Kurds now control in the north and Shiites in the south without central government interference. Sectarian violence is escalating all along the boundaries between ethnic communities and the Sunni-Shiite boundary runs through Baghdad. The Bush experiment with nation building has backfired.
What does Bush do in this situation? It is certain the Bush cabal will do something, but whatever they do, it probably will make the situation worse. To expect them to make a second term change toward a façade of moderation a la Reagan is completely out of character. These are “true believers” who will do everything within their power to conform reality to their ideology.
Although many in the “reality-based community” as yet cannot accept the likelihood because of all the political and military reasons against it, it is nonetheless clear from their pronouncements that the Bush administration is planning an attack on Iran. Using much the same PR model they used to prepare the public for the invasion of Iraq, they say as much with their unrelentingly bellicose rhetoric and their unstinting efforts to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for alleged, but unproven, violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This move is entirely cynical because they know in advance that their demand for sanctions will be vetoed by the Russians or the Chinese. They believe this will give them a justification for unilateral action, based on the UN’s failure to take action. Their current demands that Iran end its nuclear arms program and threats to stop them by any means necessary echo unattainable prewar ultimatums flung at Saddam Hussein. Their propaganda seeks to establish that an attack on Iran is unavoidable. Unless restrained by determined outside forces, the question is not if, but the nature of their coming military attack on Iran.
Circumscribing their options are some unavoidable realities. First, they have no available ground army and they will have no military allies besides Israel. With every ally in the Iraq invasion and occupation now looking for a way to extricate itself, none will be willing to contribute troops to a far more dangerous invasion of Iran. Blair has been battered for being Bush’s sycophant and Berlusconi faces defeat in next month’s election in Italy.
Secondly, Iran is very much not like Iraq. Iran (aka – Persia) has been a major national entity for millennia. It has its own language, more than three times as many people as Iraq and they are largely ethnically unified, technologically modern and nationalistic. They have a powerful military funded by their very considerable oil revenues and the will to fight. Iran is also vast, rugged and mountainous, a much better defensive fighting turf than the flat deserts of Iraq. In addition, Iranians justifiably hate the US for the CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew their democratically elected Mosaddeq government in 1953, for installing and supporting the Shah during 25 years of brutal dictatorship, and for arming and encouraging Saddam Hussein to attack them during the 1980’s. These factors limit the Bush regime to an air assault.
Many think that the US will get the Israelis to make a surgical, conventional bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities, knocking them out like they once did to the Iraqi nuclear facilities. But, Iran in 2005 is not Iraq in 1981. For starters, it is hard to bomb a nuclear weapons facility that you don’t really know exists. Based on the Iraq experience, US “intelligence” is doubtless spotty at best. Iran’s nuclear research facilities are dispersed, protected and often underground. Any conventional bombing is likely to be inconclusive and largely symbolic. It would, however, likely cause an environmental nightmare. World public opinion will be inflamed. Iranian retaliation through its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and on the world oil market would be certain, with great potential negative consequences to Bush’s interests. But if it were a nuclear attack, the whole world might be cowed into submission. It’s like Texas Hold-em and Bush wants to go “all in.” With the US in possession of 5,000 armed and ready nuclear weapons, who calls that bet?
The Bush regime espouses the neoconservative ideology that the USA has a historically unique opportunity to dominate the world and that because of its inherent virtuousness, it has the moral obligation to do so. This opportunity is based on predominant US military and economic power in the post-Cold War era, especially on the US monopoly of deliverable nuclear weapons that can hit anywhere on Earth. For the Bush regime, the lesson of Vietnam was don’t fail to use every weapon in your arsenal. They must also see their window of opportunity diminishing. The Iraq War has seriously weakened American imperialism and threatens to seriously damage the Republican Party. But as Bush and his political allies are weakened and isolated, they become more desperate and dangerous.
The neocon ideology is failing. It did not accurately predict reality in Iraq. Yet, they cling to their creed and intensify their efforts to mold reality to their ideology. Their blind devotion to their beliefs makes them unable to understand and interpret the meaning of events around them, the basic characteristic of psychosis. Add to this disability the anti-historical hubris of the mediocre sons of the overly-privileged now leading this nation. These are people who were born with the innate belief in their ability to be in complete control of their own destiny, yet too shallow to appreciate their limitations.
There are many signs pointing in the direction of a nuclear attack on Iran. Most pundits reject this possibility because they just can’t grasp that level of evil on the part of anyone, especially an American. But the US is the only country ever to have attacked another country with nuclear weapons and their justification will mirror the one used against Japan. Bush will say that a nuclear attack will save the lives of thousands of American soldiers, which would have otherwise been lost in a ground invasion. In both cases, the invasion was never going to happen anyway.
In 1945 the nuclear attack of Japan was to intimidate the Soviets. This one will be to intimidate everyone.
* “Paris 1919” by Margaret MacMillan, p.397.