Editorial: It Looks Like They Plan to Bomb Iran

By Becky O’Malley
Friday March 02, 2007

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your eyes on the big picture. Sy Hersh was on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air radio program, which ran twice on Tuesday, and both times I managed to listen only to the first half. He was pumping his latest New Yorker piece, which explains one more time and in even greater detail how mad dogs at the top of the current national administration, notably Dick Cheney and Elliott Abrams, really are planning to bomb Iran. Since he’s predicted this at least twice before, he knows that some are going to regard him as more Chicken Little than Paul Revere, but he convinced me. 

The normally glib Terry Gross kept rephrasing Hersh’s central hypothesis in a hesitant tone, as if she just couldn’t believe that’s what he was really saying. Briefly, it seems to be that the above-mentioned mad dogs have decided that, despite the facts that Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Moslem and the United States has installed Shiites in the current Iraq leadership, they’re now worried about the emergence of a “Shiite crescent” led from Iran, so they’re shifting their weight to back the Sunni faction, and they plan to bomb Iran to solidify their stance, using Iran’s continued nuclear research as a pretext.  

The main actors in this melodrama are guys who first worked together in the Iran-Contra caper, when Abrams and friends financed covert action against Nicaragua, which Congress had declined to fund, by arms dealing in the Middle East. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser, is playing the same kind of role these days as he played in Iran-Contra. A pretty picture indeed. 

After getting the gist of the analysis on the radio, I tried to check it out in the Internet edition of the New Yorker, since my print magazine hadn’t come yet, but I found myself simply unable to read through to the end. When my copy finally arrived in the mailbox, I tried again, but deep denial ruled the day, and I wasn’t able to finish it. 

Like many consumers of the news, I’m just overwhelmed by the enormity of the manipulations going on at the national level, at the same time Democrats are fooling themselves into thinking that they control the country just because they control the Congress and have a shot at the presidency. There’s a sense in which things are looking up at the national level, but it might be too little too late, as long as people like Cheney and Abrams are still in positions of power. Hersh says that they believe that the insanely broad resolution which kicked off the war in Iraq authorized them to do as they please in the Mid-East, so that Congress is now out of it. Their experience in Iran-Contra taught them that there are many ways of raising money to do what you want, and of course just for starters the Saudis have a bunch of money. And the planes and bombs are already there. 

Can we do anything about this insane plan from here? The Planet’s faithful corps of signers of form letters is going heavily for impeachment, some of Bush, others of Cheney. Impeachment of either one would certainly slow them down, but are there enough votes to impeach? It’s doubtful that the House would vote for impeachment, and even more doubtful that the Senate would convict even if one of them were put to trial.  

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to put her few congressional eggs in the impeachment basket is understandable. There’s more than enough that needs doing in the reality-based world, so it’s hard to insist that all of the country’s real needs should be sacrificed in an attempt to impeach Cheney that might very well fail. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynne Woolsey have put forward a gutsy proposal, House Resolution 508, which would set a six-month deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, but it has no chance of passing and would have no effect on the bomb-Iran boys anyhow.  

More and more, we have the sense that events at all levels are simply spiraling out of rational control. It’s not that there have never been irrational elements in the national government before, of course, the self-same Iran-Contra, which the nation finally turned around, being the prime example. But the damage to Nicaragua which was done by that particular nutty episode persists until the present day, and where nuclear technology is involved, as in the case of Iran, even worse damage could be done to the whole world.  

Hersh identifies the three major national players in what the magazine titles “The Redirection” of American Mid-East policy as the Bush administration, the Saudis and Israel. At least two of the three have access to nuclear weapons, which is one of the more frightening aspects of this policy shift. The murkier parts of his piece, which I finally forced myself to read in preparation for writing this, have to do with the political goals of these three players. Influencing the course of events in Lebanon, including getting rid of Hezbollah, is certainly one, and defanging Syria seems to be another. How these goals are aided by pumping up the kinds of Sunni factions which produced Al Qaeda is hard to understand, though Hersh makes a valiant attempt to trace the logic used by proponents.  

At the end of his piece, almost certainly having been instructed by his editors to lighten up a little in the conclusion, he mentions a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing starting Monday which might include some effort to find out what’s going on. But he quotes Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the committee, as saying that “The Bush administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been ‘Trust us.’ ” Wyden said, “It is hard for me to trust the administration.”  

That goes for most Americans these days. So what are we going to do about it? It’s a question that we must face up to, even though there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer in the offing any time soon.