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Political Animal

War Games

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/19/2006

In case you haven’t been paying attention, no fewer than seven former military commanders of flag rank have called upon our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, to resign. Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, and Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, along with former Army general Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate for president in 2004, have all publicly said that Rumsfeld ignored advice of commanders on the ground in Iraq and made a mess out of the post-invasion there.

Unfortunately, George W. Bush sees the approbation of press, public, or military as an excuse to dig in further. Once again, recall that this is the administration that, no matter how poorly any operation fares, can find someone else to take the blame. Abu Ghraib? A few bad apples in the lower echelons of the military. Katrina? Poor planning on the part of the locals. When the federal Environmental Protection Agency puts out a 268-page report that blames global warming on the use of fossil fuels, to Bush, it’s the fault of “the bureaucracy.” This president can never, ever, be wrong.

The terrifying part of this most recent news deals not with the mistakes the administration has made already but the ones it purportedly is planning to make. The nation’s premier investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, recently wrote a story pointing out that the U.S. military has begun drawing up tentative plans to attack Iran due to its recently announced capability to enrich uranium, the forerunner to the creation of an atomic bomb.

We saw this kind of gamesmanship before under this administration. And while the Bushies were intent on convincing Americans that Saddam Hussein was the greatest threat to democracy and freedom in the world, North Korea’s Kim Jung Il steadily marched his country toward a nuclear-weapons program as well.

You don’t have to be an Army general to see what some of the immediate consequences of a military strike on Iran would be; all you have to do is drive down the street to your local gas station. After a war in one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations joined with a hurricane strike on our country’s predominant oil-refining regions, gas has risen up to and in some cases over the $3-per-gallon mark. Throw in an attack on yet another oil-producing country, and it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see $4-per-gallon gasoline in the United States. And try as he might to argue that his tax cuts have saved the economy over the last six years, I don’t think even George Bush could explain away how another massive gas-price spike could be the fault of something other than a foolish military incursion.

The Iraq war was part of a domestic strategy on the part of the president and his aides to use patriotism and jingoism to paint liberals and opponents as weak or traitorous during an election year—recall the movement inside the administration to wait until the fall of 2002 before pushing for the invasion, as then maximum political advantage could be taken, and the GOP could try—and succeed—to break the 50-50 vote deadlock in the Senate.

Now it is 2006, yet another election year, and the only card the Bushies have ever played that has never failed is the national security one. By starting to pound the nuclear threat from Iran, the administration hopes to once again deflect attention from foreign-policy failures like the Iraq war, and move whatever attention there is to the continuing disaster that is New Orleans, and force the Democratic Party yet again to sign onto another “my country, right or wrong” scenario.

The one fly in this ointment is the fact that everyone, including the U.S. military, has seen this game played before. And already the signs are showing that they won’t go along with it again—when was the last time you saw top military brass come out and call for the resignation of the top civilian leader in the Pentagon during a so-called time of war? Approval ratings in the 30s means that the press might even start using the phrase “wag the dog,” something we haven’t heard since Bill Clinton tried to stop Osama bin Laden during the impeachment hearings in 1998.

George Bush may think a war in Iran may save his presidency. What is scary is that he can’t see that it may just put the final nail in his coffin, and those of more Americans as well.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

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