Saturday, April 15, 2006


Bush's Secret War

by digby

Colonel Sam Gardiner is the retired colonel who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College and who found more than 50 instances of demonstrably false stories planted in the press in the run up to the war, back in 2003. He was just on CNN:

CLANCY: Well, Colonel Gardiner, from what you're saying, it would seem like military men, then, might be cautioning, don't go ahead with this. But what are the signs that are out there right now? Is there any evidence of any movement in that direction?

GARDINER: Sure. Actually, Jim, I would say -- and this may shock some -- I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way.


GARDINER: And let me say this -- I'm saying this carefully. First of all, Sy Hersh said in that article which was...

CLANCY: Yes, but that's one unnamed source.

GARDINER: Let me check that. Not unnamed source as not being valid.

The way "The New Yorker" does it, if somebody tells Sy Hersh something, somebody else in the magazine calls them and says, "Did you tell Sy Hersh that?" That's one point.

The secretary[sic] point is, the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know that the other part of that has been completed, that there has been any congressional approval to do this.

My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike.

CLANCY: All right. You lay this whole scenario, but there are still a lot of caution flags that one would see out here.

GARDINER: Sure. True.

CLANCY: If they do decide on a military option...


CLANCY: ... what's the realistic chance of success? What's your -- your prognosis for that kind of reaction here?

GARDINER: Yes. Let me give you two answers to that. First of all, the chance of getting the facilities and setting back the program, I think the chances go from maybe two years to actually accelerating the program. You know, we could cause them to redouble their efforts. That's on one side.

The other side is this sort of horizontal escalation by the Iranians.

My assessment is -- and it's because of regime problems at home -- that if we strike, they're likely to want to blame Israel. Now that's -- because that sells well at home.

Blaming Israel means that there's a chance that we could see Hezbollah, Hamas targeting Israel. We could very easily see this thing escalate into a broader Middle East war, particularly when you add Muslim rage.

You know, if you take the cartoon problem and multiply it times a hundred -- you know, the Danish cartoons, you could see how we could end up very quickly with a very serious problem in the Middle East.

CLANCY: Former U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner. Not a very rosy outlook here. A man who thinks the decision may have already been made.

Thank you for being with us.

GARDINER: Certainly.

My tin foil hat is beeping and honking like crazy right now. These generals coming forward is huge.

I really think it's possible that Bush and Rummy have already got a secret war going on, one that has not been revealed to congress in any form. It's designed that way. Bush is not going to fire Rummy --- he can't. He's already committed himself to this thing. This could be the ultimate action of the unitary executive.


John McCain Losing Ground by Going Right


How the media learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Last weekend, The New Yorker and The Washington Post both reported that the Bush administration is considering the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

Near the end of an 1,800-word front-page article about the administration's consideration of "options for military strikes against Iran," the Post reported:

Pentagon planners are studying how to penetrate eight-foot-deep targets and are contemplating tactical nuclear devices. The Natanz facility consists of more than two dozen buildings, including two huge underground halls built with six-foot walls and supposedly protected by two concrete roofs with sand and rocks in between, according to Edward N. Luttwak, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The targeteers honestly keep coming back and saying it will require nuclear penetrator munitions to take out those tunnels," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst. "Could we do it with conventional munitions? Possibly. But it's going to be very difficult to do."

The New Yorker went into greater detail:

One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.


The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. "Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap," the former senior intelligence official said. " 'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision. But we made it in Japan."

He went on, "Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout -- we're talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don't have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out" -- remove the nuclear option -- "they're shouted down."

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran -- without success, the former intelligence official said. "The White House said, 'Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.' "

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it "a juggernaut that has to be stopped." He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue.

On Monday, President Bush responded to the reports, declaring: "I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is -- it's kind of a -- happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."

Bush did not, however, directly deny that his administration is considering the first use of nuclear weapons against another nation in more than 60 years. Nor have any of his spokespeople.

Perhaps more stunning than the administration's apparent consideration of the military use of nuclear weapons is the reaction some in the media have had to the news.

Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly, for example, accused his colleagues in the media -- "the anti-Bush media," he called them -- of "phony and political" outrage over the administration's military planning. But O'Reilly didn't bother to mention that the planning includes the possible use of nuclear weapons.

Fox News national security correspondent Bret Baier likewise somehow managed to discuss the Post and New Yorker articles without ever mentioning that both reveal the Bush administration's openness to using nuclear weapons.

New CNN hire and nationally syndicated radio host Glenn Beck, meanwhile, asked, "Why do we have these weapons? Why have we developed these weapons if we're afraid to use them?" and suggested referring to nuclear weapons by alternate names to make their use more palatable.

Of course, few people turn to Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck for thoughtful, informed discussions of the news.

Amazingly, the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post have stayed silent on the topic. The Post, in an April 13 editorial, suggested that a military strike against Iran might not be effective. And the Times, in an April 11 editorial, went further, arguing that "war with Iran would be reckless folly." But neither even addressed the administration's reported consideration of nuclear strikes against Iran -- much less denounced such planning.

Regular readers know we've long argued that a major flaw in the media's coverage of the Bush administration has been a shortage of news stories exploring the consequences of the president's handling of the Iraq war:

And it is important to assess the consequences of the administration's lies about, and mishandling of, the Iraq war. Is the public less likely to believe the administration if it says we need to use force against Iran because of their false claims about Iraq? That's a question we've repeatedly asked; why don't reporters? Perhaps the third anniversary of the Iraq war would be a good time to finally include the question in a poll.

The Los Angeles Times took a step in the right direction with a poll released this week. The L.A. Times didn't directly measure whether Bush's false statements about Iraq hurt his credibility on Iran, but it did ask whether the Iraq war has made people more or less supportive of military action against Iran; "less supportive" won by a greater than two-to-one ratio. And the L.A. Times asked: "Generally speaking, do you trust George W. Bush to make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran, or not?" Only 42 percent of Americans, according to the poll, trust Bush to make the right decision; 54 percent do not. Among independents, the disparity was even greater -- 40 percent trust Bush, while 54 percent do not.

In short: the American people have lost confidence and trust in their commander in chief ... at a time when we're already fighting one war ... and considering the use of nuclear weapons in another.

Shouldn't this be the dominant news story of our time, rather than something that gets mentioned in bits and pieces -- and only in passing?

Friday, April 14, 2006


Chocolate Eggs, Faith and the Democratic Party

By Taylor Marsh

The Founding Fathers had ample opportunity to use Christian imagery and language in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, but did not. At the same time, they were not absolute secularists. They wanted God in American pubic life, but, given the memory of religious warfare that could engulf and destroy whole governments, they saw the wisdom of distinguishing between private and public religion. In churches and in homes, anyone could believe and practice what he wished. In the public business of the nation, however, it was important to the Founders to speak of God in a way that was unifying, not divisive. "Nature’s God" was the path they chose, and it has served the nation admirably. Despite generations of subsequent efforts to amend the Constitution to include Jesus or to declare that America is a "Christian nation," no president across three centuries has made an even remotely serious attempt to do so. - American Gospel, by Jon Meacham (p. 22-23)

Now I’ve done it. Brought faith into the mix. Everyone is either going to start ranting, raving or just running for the door. But those who remain will still represent the majority. It’s Good Friday, Passover, which means something to some of us, though not all, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, it is a holiday weekend.

We may not be able to define what religion exactly means in this country today. But most of us sure know there is something deeply spiritual about this place we call America. Democrats may have lost our voice on religion, while Republicans have found one, so it’s just a matter of choosing whether being mute or shrill is a better place from which to move forward.

Yes, we may get tongue tied at times, but at least Democrats have a rich history of putting our spirituality into practice through policies that sing arias around the Republican notion of government. What was it that Grover said? Oh, yeah, "get it down to the size…" …you know the quote by heart. Republicans want to drown government because they believe it serves no common good. Never mind we’ve got the most bloated government in 40 years, with a deficit to match. The contradiction is illustrative as to how we got in the mess we’re in today. And boy are we in a mess.

But since Republicans are supposed to be the religious ones, why don’t they ever infuse humanity into their policies? Why doesn’t the religious morality they tout make it into their foreign policy? What is it about the ultra-religious, who espouse their faith so openly, but who remain wedded to war first, talking reserved as a last resort? Why are Republicans so conservative with their compassion?

Democrats want to find a way for illegal immigrants to make a life in America as citizens earning a living wage. Republicans began by wanting to felonize 12 million people through law. They still want to separate them into groups according to time served in America. Then they want employers who hire illegal immigrants to get off free. They talk about border security, without funding it.

Democrats want to find a way to provide health care for all Americans. Republicans start paying the federal bill by yanking money away from programs that aid the poorest among us, including children. Is that Christian? Is it moral? For that matter, is it right?

When thousands were stranded in New Orleans, why didn’t the federal government jump into action, no-holds barred, all stops out, everyone rushing to do what they could? Why did President Bush need a DVD of news clips to show him what human suffering looked like in Louisiana?

Is saying you’re a Christian against gambling, then getting mixed up with a crooked lobbyist in gaming illustrating leadership worthy of your professed faith?

Why is poverty not the first item on the agenda for a president and a Republican Party who touts their religious roots? Why do tax cuts to the top 1% matter more than the middle class?

Democrats want to raise the minimum wage. We want to provide health care for all Americans. We want to put back regulation on corporations and others who are destroying our environment. Democrats want to engage with the world and solve our challenges together. And Democrats absolutely reject the notion of any type of nuclear war whatsoever. But that’s where we sit poised today. Talking about nuclear war. It’s nuts. Only the morally weak and spiritually bankrupt would consider it. Nuclear weaponry released in the Middle East is not an option. It is the end.

If religion and spirituality mean anything in public life it is that we have the choice to infuse the answers we uncover in private meditations into our public works. Where private faith and public works meet is a place where lives can be changed, the world moved. From Democrats it is a message of hope versus the Republican language of fear, war and almost certain doom.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Hagel: Military Strike on Iran is ‘Not a Viable, Feasible, Responsible Option’

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has joined the long list of officials and experts who believe that no good military options exist in Iran. (Read the full list HERE.)

“I think to further comment on it would be complete speculation, but I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option,” he added. …

I believe a political settlement will be the answer. Not a military settlement. All these issues will require a political settlement,” Hagel said.

Stating that no good military options exist doesn’t mean the U.S. should take the military option off the table. What it means is that the U.S. needs to get off the sidelines and engage Iran directly, as Hagel has urged in the past:

Iran is a regional power; it has major influence in Iraq and throughout the Gulf region. Its support of terrorist organizations and the threat it poses to Israel is all the more reason that the U.S. must engage Iran. Any lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program will also require the United States’ direct discussions with Iran. The United States is capable of engaging Iran in direct dialogue without sacrificing any of its interests or objectives.

Unfortunately, the latest reports suggest the Bush administration is turning down opportunities to begin direct talks, as it has done consistently for several years.



After Monday's immigration marches, The National Review's Cliff May crept forth with a dark, ominous post wondering about the shadowy groups organizing these demonstrations and the nature of their true "agenda." Well May can take that extra layer of tin foil off his hat, because the answers are out, and they're pretty innocuous.

According to the AP, the story goes something like this: After James Sensenbrenner brought his endearingly medieval outlook to the issue, a hastily called confab of unions, civil rights groups, and religious organizations met in California. The consortium decided to sponsor some rallies with a simple purpose: against Sensenbrenner's legislation, for some undefined path to citizenship. Outreach was conducted primarily through Hispanic radio, e-mail, and churches, with the Service Employees International Union and the Catholic Church eventually taking the lead, particularly on funding. The rallies tapped into the Hispanic community's unexpectedly deep desire to find their voice, and so the protests became rallies, and the rallies emerged a movement. For May and others of his ilk, that authenticity and spontaneity may be the scariest explanation of all.

--Ezra Klein


Bush administration tells ABC Iran could move quickly to a nuclear weapon. Gee, lying about WMD in order to spark a war. Sound familiar?

by John in DC - 4/13/2006 07:47:00 PM

An anonymous US official told ABC today that "It is a very big deal [that Iran is enriching Uranium], and we fear they could try to move quickly to a nuclear weapon."

No offense to my mother, but that's a bit like saying my mom may move quickly to running the marathon. Yes, she may, but by the end of 8 blocks we'd probably need to carry her the rest of the way. Just because you say you're gonna try, doesn't mean you can do it. THE LATEST US INTELLIGENCE BEST ESTIMATE says Iran is 10 years away from being able to develop a nuke, period.

Radditz, to her credit, pointed out that the actual experts she talked to say Iran is 3 to 5 years away from producing a nuke. While she didn't bother mentioning that the best estimate from the US intelligence community, the folks who actually have access to the real info, is ten years.

Then ABC concludes with a great quote from a, yes anonymous, Bush official:
"What we're really scared of is what we don't know about the Iranians."
As BC wrote in the comments to this post,"I know so little about that hornets' nest... I must kick it!"

I am scared, really scared. Scared of an incompetent president rushing us into yet another unnecessary and dangerous war based on phony and/or incomplete evidence.

Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?

Mark my words, this is all about politics and Bush's falling approval ratings. Bush will send to congress, BEFORE the fall elections, a resolution authorizing the use of force agaist Iran. The resolution won't be necessary for years, probably like ten years, but then again, that's not really the point now is it.


Nuke news

LEAVE THIS PAGE THE MOMENT YOU FINISH READING THIS POST and watch this computer animation produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists. You will discover the hard truth about "bunker-buster" nuclear weapons:

1. The blast cannot reach many underground targets.

2. Because the missiles do not bore so deeply as many presume, the radioactive cloud could spread as much as one thousand miles. Three million people may be killed, while another thirty million will be at increased risk of cancer. The victims will be Iranians (the ones we suposedly hope to liberate), Afghans (the ones we supposedly liberated), Pakistanis (our supposed ally) and Indians (another ally).

3. Using nukes on a chemical weapons cache will spread toxic gasses, thereby increasing the death toll.

And why does Bush propose to use commit genocide? To prevent Iran -- a country which has never attacked us or any of our allies -- from acquiring nukes. Iran cannot be trusted with nukes. Bush can. Or so we are told.

You've heard a lot of hooey about Iran being "16 days" away from producing a nuclear bomb. Here's the truth, according to Juan Cole:
Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.

The crisis is not one of nuclear enrichment, a low-level attainment that does not necessarily lead to having a bomb. Even if Iran had a bomb, it is hard to see how they could be more dangerous than Communist China, which has lots of such bombs, and whose Walmart stores are a clever ruse to wipe out the middle class American family through funneling in cheaply made Chinese goods.
America, fueled by religious hatred, will soon commit the greatest atrocity the world has seen since the Third Reich. Every decent human being in this country must spend at least some part of every day trying to prevent the coming catastrophe.


Reid on Bush and Immigration: Liar-in-Chief

Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 01:54:24 PM PDT

Harry tells it like it is.

WASHINGTON - President Bush accused Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Thursday of "single-handedly thwarting" action on immigration legislation, and got a brisk retort in return.

"President Bush has as much credibility on immigration as he does on Iraq and national security," shot back the Nevada Democrat.

The Republicans are frantically trying to shift blame for yet another failed GOP legislative effort on the Dems, while at the same time putting off a vote on this issue that is increasingly making them look bad. Their efforts include trying to smear the Dems with the blame for the whole mess. At least this time the AP is calling them on it:

Republicans disclosed a Spanish-language radio advertising campaign designed to shoulder Democrats with the responsibility for legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House that would make illegal immigrants subject to felony charges.

The ads are scheduled to air in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada -- states with large Hispanic populations.

In the meantime, Reid is fighting back.

"If the president is serious about moving forward, then he should join me in calling on Senator Frist to bring immigration reform back to the Senate floor when we return" from a two-week recess, Reid said.

"Hopefully, by then, President Bush and his majority leader will have found the backbone to stop the extreme elements of the Republican Party from blocking improvements to America's security," Reid said.


Not Wild Speculation, it's US Policy to Use Nukes re: Iran

Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 09:30:18 AM PDT

Supposedly outraged that anyone could possibly conceive that the Bush administration might be planning to use nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran, on Monday both President Bush and his Press Secretary, Scott McClellan were quick to condemn such charges by Seymour Hersh in the current edition of the New Yorker as "wild speculation."

Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld went even further on Tuesday, implying that anyone who believed the Hersh report was living in a "fantasyland." Not to be outdone, GOP Senator Judd of New Hampshire equated Hersh's credibility with that of a Disney cartoon character, Donald Duck.

I fail to see why they are so outraged about these claims. After all, the US military's deployment and possible use of of these so-called "tactical nuclear weapons" against rogue states seeking WMD has been the official policy of the United States since the Defense Department issued its Nuclear Posture Review Report on January 8, 2002:

Greater flexibility is needed with respect to nuclear forces and planning than was the case during the Cold War. The assets most valued by the spectrum of potential adversaries in the new security environment may be diverse and, in some cases, U.S. understanding of what an adversary values may evolve. Consequently, although the number of weapons needed to hold those assets at risk has declined, U.S. nuclear forces still require the capability to hold at risk a wide range of target types. This capability is key to the role of nuclear forces in supporting an effective deterrence strategy relative to a broad spectrum of potential opponents under a variety of contingencies. Nuclear attack options that vary in scale, scope, and purpose will complement other military capabilities. [...]

The planning process [for the New Triad] not only must produce a variety of flexible, pre-planned non-nuclear and nuclear options, but also incorporate sufficient adaptability to support the timely construction of additional options in a crisis or unexpected conflict. [...]

Composed of both non-nuclear systems and nuclear weapons, the strike element of the New Triad can provide greater flexibility in the design and conduct of military campaigns to defeat opponents decisively. Non-nuclear strike capabilities may be particularly useful to limit collateral damage and conflict escalation. Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).

I know that's a lot of military jargon to wade through, but the critical point is contained in the last sentence I highlighted in the above excerpt: Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities). Isn't this precisely the situation the Bush administration and its supporters claim exists in Iran? Deep underground bunkers allegedly protecting a secret nuclear weapons program (I say allegedly because I have yet to see any information from a credible source that documents the existence of such underground facilities)?

Since that DoD report was sent to Congress in January, 2002, the Bush administration has taken additional steps to bring the first strike use of nuclear weapons by American forces closer to reality. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post first reported on the Pentagon's revised nuclear strike doctrine in his September 11, 2005 report:

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. [...]

Titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" and written under the direction of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the draft document is unclassified and available on a Pentagon Web site. It is expected to be signed within a few weeks by Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, according to Navy Cmdr. Dawn Cutler, a public affairs officer in Myers's office. Meanwhile, the draft is going through final coordination with the military services, the combatant commanders, Pentagon legal authorities and Rumsfeld's office, Cutler said in a written statement. [...]

The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.

Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy." [...]

The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for "attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons."

But that's not all folks. The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) announced in a press release dated December 1, 2005 that it had "achieved operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons." What follows are excerpts from a news report regarding STRATCOM's press release contained in in my story posted here last December entitled The Future of Blitzkrieg is Now:

The annual Global Lightning exercise last month tested U.S. strategic warfare capabilities, including the so-called CONPLAN 8022 mission for a global strike, according to publicly available military documents.

CONPLAN 8022 is "a new strike plan that includes [a] pre-emptive nuclear strike against weapons of mass destruction facilities anywhere in the world," said Hans Kristensen, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kristensen first published the STRATCOM press release on his Web site,

Let that sink in for a moment. Since December 1, 2005, our military has had the capability to execute CONPLAN 8022, a "pre-emptive nuclear strike against WMD facilities anywhere in the world." Sounds a lot like what Hersh was describing in the New Yorker, doesn't it? And what the hell is the CONPLAN 8022? Well, here's the Washington Post story by Wiiliam Arkin, dated May 15, 2005, on what it is, and what it calls for:

CONPLAN 8022 is different from other war plans in that it posits a small-scale operation and no "boots on the ground." The typical war plan encompasses an amalgam of forces -- air, ground, sea -- and takes into account the logistics and political dimensions needed to sustain those forces in protracted operations. All these elements generally require significant lead time to be effective. (Existing Pentagon war plans, developed for specific regions or "theaters," are essentially defensive responses to invasions or attacks. The global strike plan is offensive, triggered by the perception of an imminent threat and carried out by presidential order.)

CONPLAN 8022 anticipates two different scenarios. The first is a response to a specific and imminent nuclear threat, say in North Korea. A quick-reaction, highly choreographed strike would combine pinpoint bombing with electronic warfare and cyberattacks to disable a North Korean response, with commandos operating deep in enemy territory, perhaps even to take possession of the nuclear device.

The second scenario involves a more generic attack on an adversary's WMD infrastructure. Assume, for argument's sake, that Iran announces it is mounting a crash program to build a nuclear weapon. A multidimensional bombing (kinetic) and cyberwarfare (non-kinetic) attack might seek to destroy Iran's program, and special forces would be deployed to disable or isolate underground facilities.

According to the Wikipedia entry for CONPLAN 8022, it was completed in November 2003. So, for the last 2 and 1/2 years, our military has had a plan to use nuclear weapons to destroy the WMD infrastructure of "rogue states" like Iran.

Have I got your attention now? Let's look back and review what we have so far regarding the Bush administration's nuclear strike policies, shall we?

1. January 2002: The Rumsfeld Defense Department issues a report to Congress on our nuclear forces posture which states that official US military policy now formally encompasses the use of nuclear weapons against targets like deep underground bunkers.

2. November 2003: STRATCOM completes its global strike plan, CONPLAN 8022, for dealing with possible WMD threats from nations like Iran.

3. March-September 2005: The Joint Cheifs issue their draft revision of the "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" which envisions a pre-emptive nuclear strike against an adversary's WMD facilities. [Note: The Pentagon, after exposure of this draft revision by the Washington Post, canceled the document on February 6, 2006 in response to demands by 16 lawmakers to be briefed on its contents.]

4. October 2005: STRATCOM conducts an exercise to test its Global Strike capability known as "Global Lightning." That exercise proves a success.

5. December 2005: STRATCOM issues press release stating it had "achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons."

6. April 2006: Seymour Hersh reports in the New Yorker that Bush is planning to attack Iran and may use nuclear weapons to destroy certain targets such as underground bunkers suspected to be harboring elements of Iran's secret nuclear weapons program. Days later, President Bush and other administration officials condemn Hersh's report but do not specifically issue a denial.

Now maybe Hersh is off base in his charges that Bush is planning to attack Iran, and in that attack use nuclear "bunker-busting" bombs against Iran's nuclear facilities. I don't happen to think Hersh has gone off the deep end on this story, but, for argument's sake, let's posit that he might have been misinformed by his sources. Nonetheless, in light of the history of the Bush administration's loosening of the threshold for using nuclear weapons by US forces, can anyone claim that his report is based on mere "wild speculation?"

By the way, for those of you who might have difficulty imagining that any President or US administration could seriously contemplate using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive attack against a non-nuclear state, let me refer you to a study by the National Institute for National Policy (a neoconservative think tank) in 2001 entitled "Rationale and Requirements for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control." This study was co-authored by, among others, Stephen J. Hadley, Bush's current National Security Adviser, and Stephen A. Cambone, currently the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and this is what it said about the need for the United States to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against potential threats from China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya:

Under certain circumstances very severe nuclear threats may be needed to deter any of these potential adversaries.

I think that says it all, don't you?

Update [2006-4-13 12:46:56 by Steven D]: For those of you who would like to do something other than just wring your hands, please go read my diary from yesterday, Sign My Petition to General Pace Not to Attack Iran. If you agree with its premise, go sign my petition asking all members of our armed forces to disobey any order to attack Iran from Bush until he first obtains a Declaration of War from Congress.

The link to the petition is HERE.


The Neo-con Misunderstanding of Democracy and Why It Will Undo Them

by Philip Slater

The Bush administration talks a lot about democracy, but it doesn't seem to have a clue what it's really about--why it's more efficient in today's world. The neo-cons don't see democracy as a system of de-centralized organization. For the neo-cons it's just a way of selecting a dictator by plebescite. But democracy hasn't been spreading throughout the world because some woolly idealists thought it would be a sweet thing to do.

Nor have corporations been busy decentralizing power and flattening their hierarchies--especially in the electronics industry--because their CEOs all got religion. What they've all come to realize is that in today's world of chronic, rapid, technological and social change, authoritarianism is maladaptive.

Decentralization is a way of speeding up adaptation to changing conditions. Authoritarian systems are too slow, rigid, and clumsy. People in the field need to be able to make decisions quickly without referring everything up the line to people who know less than they do about what's going on. It's why--as Dan Baum reported from Iraq--junior officers there created their own web site to exchange knowledge and ideas, since by the time their questions had gone up through the army hierarchy and the advice or information had come back down again, what they got back was usually dated, ignorant, and irrelevant.

The inefficiency of authoritarian systems is the reason the Soviet Union collapsed--Warren Bennis and I predicted that collapse in 1964, in an article in the Harvard Business Review called "Democracy Is Inevitable.

Much of the private sector got the message. So did many nations around the world. But the Bush administration has responded to every crisis by creating mammoth, topheavy, centralized bureaucracies headed by a "czar". (To be fair, they didn't invent this particular piece of stupidity--it's been standard Washington practice for decades.) And the response to each crisis has been characteristically dated, ignorant, and irrelevant.

But inefficiency isn't the worst defect of authoritarian systems. The truly fatal flaw is their tendency to insulate their leaders from negative feedback. Yesmen are rewarded, and anyone who suggests that the ship of state's current course is on target for an iceberg is considered "disloyal".
When Liu Shaoki told Chairman Mao that the Great Leap Forward was leaping backward he was regarded as an enemy. And anyone who--like Chief White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsey or Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki--suggested to Bush that invading and rebuilding Iraq might not be a slam dunk was fired or marginalized. Bush created, as Ron Suskind observed, "an echo chamber of his own making".

Such echo chambers are lethal. Ideology trumps facts, facing problems becomes disloyalty, dissent becomes treason. Since there's no way to correct mistakes, the system spins out of control, and eventually crashes. Mao initiates the Cultural revolution, Hitler invades Russia, Nixon authorizes a break-in, Bush invades Iraq. The 'inner circle' becomes narrower and narrower and more and more homogeneous until its members suddenly wake up one day to discover--as Nixon did--that everyone who matters is outside it.



U.S. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a bill today that would authorize President Bush to Immediately Drop Nuclear Weapons on Iran and would also fund an aggressive campaign to send 100,000 Southern Baptist missionaries to Convert the Infidels to Christianity. It was dubbed the “Ann Coulter Peace Plan Act.”

Democrats immediately announced they would oppose the bill.

Majority Leader Boehner and the Republican leadership then announced that they would offer an amendment to the bill. The Amendment would authorize President Bush to Immediately invade and occupy Iran with conventional forces. It was dubbed “Occupation Save Our Dismal Approval Ratings.”

The Democrats announced they would also oppose this Amendment to the original bill.

The Republican controlled Congress then voted to pass the bill as it was originally introduced.

When asked to Comment on the Bill, the Republican Leadership of Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist issued the following statement. “The Democrats have no compassion. When we introduced an Amendment that could have prevented the use of Nuclear Weapons on Iran and saved all those children’s lives, the Democrats opposed us. Our Amendment also would have removed the provision calling for the forced Conversion of Infidels to Christianity. The Democrats also opposed us. Therefore, the Democrats voted to Nuke Iran and Convert them to Christianity.”



Katherine Harris (R-Florida) introduced a bill today that would authorize the United States Government to round up and kill every African American child under the age of 18 in America. It was dubbed the “Bill Bennett Heritage Foundation Crime Reduction Act.”

The Democrats immediately came out in opposition to the bill.

Rep. Harris and the Republican Leadership then added an Amendment to the bill, authorizing the United States Government to Round Up and Send To Africa every African American child under the age of 18 in America. It was dubbed the "African American Repatriation Amendment."

The Democrats voted against this Amendment as well. The Republican controlled Congress then voted to pass the bill as it was originally introduced.

When asked to Comment on the Bill, the Republican Leadership of Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist issued the following statement. “The Democrats have no compassion. When we introduced an Amendment that could have saved all those African American children’s lives, the Democrats opposed us. Therefore, the Democrats voted to kill black children.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


This Week In Bullshit: Hastert and Frist blame Democrats for allowing the Republicans to pass a bill making illegal immigrants felons.

I wish I was kidding....

Let me get this straight. A Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman, drafts and sponsors a bill that would make it a FELONY to be an undocumented immigrant in the United States. That bill, making it a FELONY to be an undocumented immigrant, PASSES the REPUBLICAN controlled House of Representatives in December.

And somehow in the Fantasy Land of the Republican Blame Game, this is DEMOCRATS fault?

Here's how it goes:

Before the House approved the legislation, Sensenbrenner offered an amendment that would have reduced the infraction from a felony to a misdemeanor. At the time he said he was making the change at the request of the Bush administration to ease court procedures: A felony would require a grand jury indictment, a jury trial and give the defendant the right to a public defender, but a misdemeanor would not.

Democrats, and 65 Republicans voted against this amendment because it would have still made it a criminal offense for violating immigration laws rather than a civil offense as is the current law. Violation of the law leads to deportation, not jail.

Yet somehow, the Republicans are trying to spin this to make it the Democrats fault.

In their statement Tuesday, Hastert and Frist cited the amendment vote, accusing Democrats of opposing the Sensenbrenner amendment because of a "lack of compassion." Remember, the REPUBLICANS voted to PASS this bill even with the Felony Provision still a part of the bill.

"There were 191 House Democrats who voted to oppose House Republican efforts to reduce the crime of unlawful presence in the United States from a felony to a misdemeanor," Hastert and Frist said. "Instead, they voted to make felons out of all those who remain in our country illegally."

Notice the disconnect, “they voted to make felons” because they opposed an amendment that STILL WOULD HAVE MADE BEING UNDOCUMENTED A CRIME. The democrats then voted AGAINST THE BILL while the Republicans VOTED TO PASS THE BILL MAKING IT A FELONY TO REMAIN IN THE COUNTRY WITHOUT DOCUMENTATION. Yet, somehow, in Hastert and Frist Fantasy Land, it’s the Democrats fault that the Republicans passed this bill.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. If you don’t understand the bullshit grandstanding by Frist and Hastert and the Amazing level of HYPOCRISY they displayed with this statement, you need to get a basic civics lesson. Or at least go watch School House Rock.


Iran Can Now Make glowing Mickey Mouse Watches

by Juan Cole

Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.

The crisis is not one of nuclear enrichment, a low-level attainment that does not necessarily lead to having a bomb. Even if Iran had a bomb, it is hard to see how they could be more dangerous than Communist China, which has lots of such bombs, and whose Walmart stores are a clever ruse to wipe out the middle class American family through funneling in cheaply made Chinese goods.

What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.

Bush and Ahmadinejad could be working together toward the Perfect Storm


Whitey's Jihad Part IV: Fox News Brit Hume on Pro-Immigrant Demonstrations "a repellent spectacle."

P.S. Just for the Record. Fuck You Brit Hume and Fox News.


Immigrant Bill Fallout May Hurt House GOP

Strict Provisions Are Uniting Critics

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2006; A01

In the wake of this week's massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.

House Republicans rushed through legislation just before Christmas that would build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, require that businesses verify the legality of all employees' status through a national database, fortify border patrols, and declare illegal immigrants and those who help them to be felons. After more lenient legislation failed in the Senate last week, the House-passed version burst into the public consciousness this week, as hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country turned out to denounce the bill.

Yesterday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) issued a joint statement seeking to deflect blame for the harshest provisions of the House bill toward the Democrats, who they said showed a lack of compassion. "It remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony," Hastert and Frist said.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) fired back that "there's no running away from the fact that the Republican House passed a bill and Senator Frist offered one that criminalizes immigrants."

House Democrats acknowledged they helped block Republican efforts on the floor in December to soften the Republican-crafted section declaring illegal immigrants to be felons, but they said ultimate responsibility for the bill rests with the Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly for its passage.

"The Democrats were not going to do anything to make it easier for Republicans to pass an atrocious bill," said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Yesterday's maneuvering underscores how the immigration issue has mushroomed into a fierce political debate with potentially large stakes heading into the November congressional elections. The hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets Monday vividly demonstrated the power of the issue, which some strategists say threatens to undercut President Bush's long-standing hope of making Hispanic voters a GOP constituency.

"There was political calculation that they could make this the wedge issue of 2006 and 2008, but it's not playing out that way," said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "This has galvanized and energized the Latino community like no other issue I have seen in two decades, and that's going to have electoral consequences."

Republicans say they could accept that sentiment if they believed they had won political points from the GOP's restive base. But for all the negatives, they don't have many positives to show for their efforts.

"From the standpoint of those who would applaud the House's stand, I'd say we have not gotten sufficient credit," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a reliable supporter of House leaders. "I'm somewhat distressed that they have not gotten word of what we've done."

The politics of the issue have shifted markedly since the House acted. Republican lawmakers are increasingly saying they will now consider some avenue to grant illegal immigrants access to lawful employment. And Democrats who voted for the House bill with an eye on their political futures or to preempt feared attacks from conservatives are rethinking their position.

Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), a supporter of the bill, was greeted by protesters and shouts of "Migration is not a crime" in February when he opened his Ohio gubernatorial campaign office in Cleveland. Now, he regrets his vote, campaign spokesman Jess Goode said.

The 36 Democrats who voted for passage included Rep. John T. Salazar (Colo.) -- whose brother, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), has railed against the House measure -- and Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (Tenn.), who may find it difficult to tap into the mobilizing Latino vote in his run for the Senate this year.

Although much has been made of the failed efforts in the Senate last week to forge a bipartisan measure to toughen border security while creating a system to allow many of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants here to achieve legal status or citizenship, the actions in the House late last year have received little attention until now.

House GOP leaders had rushed lawmakers back to Washington for a rare December session to vote on the immigration measure, hoping to give their members an accomplishment to brag about over the long winter recess. But it was the deft maneuvering of Democrats that preserved the bill's most infamous provision, declaring illegal immigrants felons, and that provision has helped turn the bill into a political albatross for some Republicans, Democrats say.

The bill, written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), was passed in a matter of hours, nine days before Christmas. Just seven amendments were allowed to come to a vote, none of them fundamentally altering the legislation.

Sensenbrenner's committee bill included the felony provision, but when he took it to the House floor Dec. 16, he offered an amendment to downgrade the offense of being an undocumented worker from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The Democratic leadership pushed its members to vote against the amendment, and 191 Democrats did. Only eight Democrats voted with Sensenbrenner.

"It was an ugly bill in most respects, the felony stuff, the wall and no amendments," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who tried to add a guest-worker provision but was not allowed a vote. "The leadership saw this more as a statement than a policy, but I think in the end we would have been better off had we been more deliberative."

With so little debate, media coverage was minimal, and what coverage there was got little notice in the holiday bustle, Republicans say.

"We're victims of our own success," said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).

Sensenbrenner's bill is getting attention now, not so much from Republican-base voters but from Spanish-language radio shows and Latino activists who have made it the focus of marches that have drawn more than a million protesters. One sign on the Mall Monday read "Sense, not Sensenbrenner."

In a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week, Sensenbrenner charged that all but eight Democrats "decided to play political game by voting to make all illegal immigrants felons."

But Democratic votes alone did not seal the defeat. Sixty-five Republicans voted against it, too, including anti-immigrant firebrands such as Rep. J.D. Hayworth (Ariz.) and moderates such as Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.). Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio) voted against the amendment and the bill just weeks before he was elected majority leader.


On Rummy, Meaningful Hallucinogenic Experiences, and Ending the Drug War

by Arianna Huffington

"How many people here have had a meaningful hallucinogenic experience?" So asked one of the speakers at a fundraising dinner for the Drug Policy Alliance held last night in Los Angeles.

Only a few hands went up in an audience that was surprisingly light on youthful stoner-types. It was much more of a pro-justice, pro-human rights, anti-drug war crowd.

The event, honoring anti-drug war activists Jodie Evans and Max Palevsky (and, truth in blogging, me), and billed as "An Evening of Comedy and Music to Benefit the DPA," certainly delivered on that promise, with funny and topical performances by John Fugelsang, Beth Lapides, Jeffrey Ross, singer Jill Sobule, and an Andy Kaufman-eque appearance by Andy Dick featuring a wheelchair, a broken guitar, and a hash pipe. All hosted by Bruce Vilanch, who joked that he only got the gig "because they couldn't find an illegal immigrant to do the job."

When it was my turn to speak, I confessed that I have never had a meaningful hallucinogenic experience -- indeed that I have never even had a meaningless hallucinogenic experience. Other than the time I was seated next to Don Rumsfeld at a Washington dinner party.

"It was a long, hard slog," I told the crowd. "But, as you know, you have to go to dinner with the dinner companion you have, not the dinner companion you want."

The Rummy riff was more than a punchline -- it was a way of highlighting the many similarities between the debacle in Iraq and America's disastrous war on drugs. Both are wildly expensive, counterproductive, and underreported wars that have left tens of thousands of ruined lives in their wake.

And both wars are laying waste to the MSM's musty right-wing-vs.-left-wing frame, as more and more conservatives are taking stands against the Bush administration's failed war in Iraq and failed war on drugs.

Let's face it, it's not exactly left-wing to come out against a $40-billion-dollar-a-year War on Drugs that has unfairly targeted people of color, siphoned resources from the war on terror, and pitted the government against its own people.

Nor is it left-wing to want to put an end to a War on Drugs that has turned into a war on America's minority communities. While blacks make up 13 percent of drug users, they account for 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. And the average prison term for black drug offenders is 69% longer [pdf] than for whites.

It's not left-wing. It's not right-wing. It's common sense. And it's why people from all parts of the political spectrum are finally speaking out on the issue.

As I've said before, on how many issues do Jesse Jackson, George Soros, Walter Cronkite, the ACLU, Cato, Bill Buckley, George Shultz and the Heritage Foundation agree?

We saw this left/right realignment played out on the issue of drug treatment vs. incarceration for nonviolent offenders here in California back in 2000 when Prop. 36 passed despite being solidly opposed by the state's Democratic political establishment, including Diane Feinstein and Gray Davis. The measure was supported by Republican Tom Campbell, then a member of the House, who until recently served as Gov. Schwarzenegger's finance director.

Campbell's influence is likely one of the reasons the Governor has thankfully earmarked another $120 million to continue funding of Prop. 36 in his next budget.

The other reason, of course, is that treatment flat-out works -- as a new study from UCLA proves. According to the study, diverting nonviolent first and second time drug offenders from jail into rehab has saved the taxpayers of California $800 million over the last five years.

What could be more conservative than that?

The only ones who don't seem convinced are our political leaders, who continue to hide on the issue -- just as so many of them are hiding on the war in Iraq. And they're doing it for the same reason: they are terrified of being seen as soft on defense, soft on the military, soft on terror, and soft on crime and drugs.

And their fear is making them soft in the head -- and soft in the spine.

Aren't you sick and tired of politicians who are supposed to be on your side betraying you -- and betraying common sense -- because of their fears?

And it's not like they even need to worry about offending voters, who have shown time and again that, by a large majority, they see drug abuse as a medical problem best handled through treatment, rather than as a crime best handled by incarceration.

So, once again, the public, which has been leading the way in opposing the war in Iraq, is also leading the way in opposing the war on drugs.

Bottom line: both when it comes to Iraq and when it comes to America's War on Drugs, it's time for our troops to stand down.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Mutually Assured Dementia

by Billmon

Maybe it's just me, but I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran – plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?

I suppose I could understand it if all we had was Sy Hersh's word that the administration is planning another "pre-emptive" war in the Middle East. After all, we're talking about the same reporter who peddled all those crazy, unsubstantiated allegations about torture at Abu Ghraib prison. You can't be too careful with a journalistic loose cannon like that.

But now that Sy's Iranian nightmare – including the nuclear aspect of it – has been confirmed by the semi-official media, you'd think we could expect a little more ruckus about it from someone other than Helen Thomas. (No disrepect intended to Thomas, but she's probably the media personality the White House would most like to see taking point on this story.)

Even by the corrupt and debased standards of our times, this is a remarkable thing. The U.S. government is planning aggressive nuclear war (the neocons can give it whatever doublespeak name they like, but it is what it is); those plans have been described in some detail in a major magazine and on the front page of the Washington Post; the most the President of the United States is willing to say about it is that the reports are "speculative" (which is not a synonym for "untrue") and yet as I write these words the lead story on the CNN web site is:

ABC pushes online TV envelope

ABC is going to offer online streams of some of its most popular television shows, including "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," for free the day after they first air on broadcast TV.

It appears our long national journey towards complete idiocy is over. We've arrived.

Idiots, of course, don't need a reason to be idiots. But to the extent there is a rational excuse for treating a nuclear strike on Iran as the journalistic equivalent of a seasonal story about people washing their cars, it must be the cynical conviction that the Cheneyites aren’t serious – they're just doing their little Gen. Jack Ripper impression to let the Iranians know they really mean business.

This may seem plausible – that is, if you were in a catatonic stupor throughout 2002 and the early months of 2003 (which is just another way of saying: if you were a member in good standing of the corporate media elite.) But the rest of us have learned that when Dick Cheney starts muttering about precious bodily fluids, you'd better pay attention. He really does mean business, and when Dick Cheney means business, bombs are likely to start falling sooner rather than later.

Maybe the idea of the United States would launch a nuclear first strike – albeit a "surgical" one – is too hard for most Americans, including most American journalists, to process. (I'm talking about normal people here, not the genocide junkies over at Little Green Footballs) It's even harder to square with our national self-image than the invasion of Iraq. We're the global sheriff, after all – Gary Cooper in a big white hat. And while Gary Cooper might shoot an outlaw down in a fair fight at High Noon, he wouldn't sneak into their camp in the middle of the night and incinerate them with nuclear weapons. That's not how the Code of the West is supposed to work.

Even my own hyperactive imagination is having a hard time wrapping itself around the idea. I'm familiar enough with Cold War history to know the United States has at least considered the first use of nuclear weapons before – in Korea and even in Vietnam – and I know it was long-standing U.S. strategic doctrine never to rule out a nuclear response to a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe. But the current nuclear war gaming strikes me as much more likely to end in the real thing – partly because the neocons appear to have convinced themselves a "tactical" strike doesn't really count, partly because of what Hersh politely refers to as Bush's "messianic vision" (Cheney may have his finger on the bureaucracy, but Shrub is still the one with his finger on the button) but mostly because I think these guys really think they can get away with it. And they might be right.

I've been trying to picture what the world might look like the day after a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran, but I'm essentially drawing a blank. There simply isn't a precedent for the world's dominant superpower turning into a rogue state – much less a rogue state willing to wage nuclear war against potential, even hypothetical, security threats. At that point, we’d truly be through the looking glass.

One can assume (or at least hope) that first use of nuclear weapons would turn America into an international pariah, at least in the eyes of global public opinion. It would certainly mark the definitive end of the system of collective security – and the laws and institutions supporting that system – established in the wake of World War II. The UN Security Council would be rendered as pointless as the old League of Nations. The Nuremberg Principles would be as moot as the Geneva Conventions. (To the neocons, of course, these are all pluses.)

Nuclear first use would also shatter (or at least, radically transform) the political alliances that defined America's leadership role in the old postwar order. To the extent any of these relationships survived, they’d be placed on roughly the same basis as the current U.S. protectorate over Saudi Arabia – or, even worse, brought down to the level of the old Warsaw Pact. They would be coalitions of the weak, the vulnerable and the easily intimidated.

In other words, the current hegemony of American influence and ideas (backed by overwhelming military force) would be replaced by an overt dictatorship based – more or less explicitly – on fear of nuclear annihilation. U.S. foreign policy would become nothing more than a variation on the ancient Roman warning: For every one of our dead; 100 of yours. Never again would American rulers (or their foreign counterparts) be able to hide behind the comfortable fiction that the United States is just primus inter pares – first among equals. A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that they may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world’s other tyrants. To call that a watershed event seems a ridiculous understatement.

But I can't even begin to guess what such an event would mean in immediate, tangible terms (other the creation of a large, radioactive hole about 200 miles south of Tehran). It’s entirely possible the near-term consequences wouldn't appear as cataclysmic as you might expect from such a world-shaking event – except, of course, for those poor souls unlucky enough to be living near or downwind from one of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons facilities.

Yes, the price of oil could go to $150 a barrel, and yes, Iran could retaliate with a terrorist offensive that would light Iraq and the Persian Gulf up like Roman candles. We can't rule out a major attack on American soil. (A recent report based on Saudi intelligence sources claims the al-Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps – probably the most capable terrorist support organization in the world – already has a box on its organizational chart labeled "North America.")

But, barring another 9/11, or a worldwide financial meltdown, the day after a nuclear strike on Iran might not look that much different than the day before, at least to the folks back home. The impact on oil prices – and even more importantly, on prices at the pump – might be containable, at least in the short-term, if the Straits of Hormuz remain open and the strategic oil reserve does what it's supposed to do. (Very big ifs, to be sure, but not impossible ones. Neither of the last two wars in the gulf turned into the energy catastrophes everyone had feared when they started.) Financial markets might actually rally if Wall Street judges the strike to have been a "success." As for an Iranian-backed terror offensive in Iraq, at this point you have to wonder if anyone would notice.

For most Americans, then, the initial impact of war with Iran could play out in the same theatre of the absurd as the first Gulf War and the opening phases of the Iraq invasion – that is to say, on their living room TVs. And if there's one place where a nuclear first strike could be made to appear almost normal, or even a good thing, it's on the boob tube.

After all, the corporate media complex has already shown a remarkable willingness to ignore or rationalize conduct that once would have been considered grossly illegal, if not outright war crimes. And the right-wing propaganda machine is happy to paint any atrocity as another glorious success in the battle for democracy (that is, when it's not trying to deny it ever happened.) Why should we expect something as transitory as a nuclear strike to change the pattern?

Let's be honest about it: For both the corporate and the conservative media, as well as for their audiences, an air campaign against Iran would make for great TV – a welcome return to the good old days of Desert Storm and Shock and Awe. All those jets soaring off into the desert twilight; the overexposed glare of cruise missiles streaking from their launch ships; the video game shots of exploding aircraft hangers and government buildings, the anti-aircraft tracers arcing into the night sky over Tehran – it would be war just the way we like it, far removed from the dull brown dust, raw sewage and multiple amputees of the Iraqi quagmire.

And to keep things interesting, we’d have the added frisson of nuclear weapons – a plot twist that would allow blow-dried correspondents to pose in borrowed radiation suits, give Pentagon flacks the opportunity to try out new euphemisms for killing people, and encourage retired generals to spice up their on-air military patter with knowing references to blast effects, kilotons, roentgens and fallout patterns.

What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully – thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president – for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.

More to my point, though, I think it's possible that even something as monstrously insane as nuclear war could still be squeezed into the tiny rituals that pass for public debate in this country – the game of dueling TV sound bites that trivializes and then disposes of every issue.

We’ve already seen a lengthy list of war crimes and dictatorial power grabs sink into that electronic compost heap: the WMD disinformation campaign, Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, the de facto repeal of the 4th amendment. Again, why should a nuclear strike be any different? I can easily imagine the same rabid talk show hosts spouting the same jingoistic hate speech, the same bow-tied conservative pundits offering the same recycled talking points, and the same timid Beltway liberals complaining that while nuking Iran was the right thing to do, the White House went about it the wrong way. And I can already hear the same media critics chiding those of us in left Blogostan for blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It’s just a little bunker buster, after all.

Why should anyone or anything change? When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don’t think it’s absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime – the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide – could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads. When everything is just a matter of opinion, anything – literally anything – can be justified. It’s only a matter of framing things so people can believe what they want to believe.

In his New Yorker article, Sy Hersh suggests that there are some, at least, in the military who can still recognize evil when they see it, and who aren’t willing to follow their Commander in Chief any deeper into the pits of hell:

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.”

At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it and not before. We’ve already seen the preferred course for most of our military dissenters: retire, remain silent, then write an op ed a couple of years later (far too late to change anything) explaining how it wasn’t their fault because they knew all along that Rumsfeld was an asshole. Excuse me for not being impressed.

But even if it’s possible to make the American people – or at least a majority of them – swallow a nuclear first strike, and even if most of our warrior bureaucrats are willing to emulate their German counterparts and obey orders handed down by criminals in power, surely the reaction abroad would be swift and violently negative.

No doubt, and God help the American tourist or business person who finds himself or herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when the balloon goes up. But while popular outrage would at least send a needed message to America that nuking other countries is not OK, I wouldn’t be surprised if it left major U.S. strategic interests relatively unharmed – or at least less harmed than one would expect if the aggressor were any other nation.

If America has few real friends, Iran has even fewer, at least among the world’s ruling regimes. It’s hard to imagine Russia or China challenging the U.S. diplomatically – much less militarily – over an attack on Iran, oil or no oil. Russia doesn’t need the oil (and in fact would reap windfall profits from any disruption in the Iranian supply.) China would have to balance its need for Iranian oil (currently about 15% of its total imports, which in turn are about half of total oil consumption) against its overall military weakness, its lucrative U.S. export trade and its enormous investment in U.S. debt. Those countries that do rely heavily on Iran oil – Europe, Japan – are still notional allies, and in any case completely under the American military thumb. Finally, most of America’s allies (protectorates) in the Middle East would welcome a strike on Iran, since they either share our paranoia about Iranian nukes, or dread the rise of Shi’a influence in the region.

The bottom line is that most of the world’s powers – and nearly all of its weak countries – have a vested interest in sucking up to the hegemon, or at least in not antagonizing it. And this would still be true even if the hegemon turns out to be a full-fledged nuclear war criminal. If the realists are correct (and their batting average has been pretty high lately) neither morality nor democracy are likely to change that fact. States run by religious lunatics and self-appointed messiahs are still the exception, not the rule, in the global cockpit. Most states are as single-minded and relentless in the pursuit of their interests as your average Renaissance pope – like sharks, in other words, although not as warm and cuddly.

It’s possible, of course, that I’m dead wrong about the short-term effects of a strike on Iran. It could quickly lead to economic catastrophe and a wider war, or evolve into a full-fledged U.S. invasion and occupation of Iran – i.e. “regime change.” This may be the entire essence of the neocon plan. The resulting quagmire could make the Vietnam War look like a minor colonial skirmish with the natives. But even if none of these nightmares come to pass, it’s still a fair bet – based on recent experience – that the long-term consequences of war with Iran would be wholly bad, both for America and the world.

But my thought exercise – What if we started a nuclear war and nobody noticed? – is still useful, if only as a reminder of how easy it can be to lead gullible people down a path that ends in a place no sane human being would ever want to go. A nation that can live with the idea of launching a nuclear first strike isn’t likely to have much trouble with the rest of the program – particularly when its people, like their leader, are convinced they’ve been chosen to save the world.

What’s truly scary, though, is the possibility that even though the other members of what we jokingly refer to as the international community don’t share Bush’s delusions, they may be willing to humor them as long as it is in their own narrow self-interest to do so (in other words, as long as they’re not the ones being nuked.) Maybe power really is all the justification that power needs. In which case the downhill path for America – the most powerful country that ever was – is likely to be very steep indeed.

Update 5:25 PM: I wrote above that I believed most of America's "allies" in the Middle East would welcome a strike on Iran as a counter to the Islamic Republic's strategic influence in the Sh'ia world. AFP says I'm wrong:

Saudi Arabia, fearing that US military action against Iran would wreak further havoc in the region, has asked Russia to block any bid by Washington to secure UN cover for an attack, a Russian diplomat said on Tuesday . . . A Gulf diplomat, who also requested anonymity, said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries were worried about the possibility of US military action against Iran at a time when Iraq is engulfed in what is increasingly turning into civil war.

Perhaps this is true. Having seen the consequences of the neoncons' last military master stroke, the House of Saud may have decided it's better to reach an accommodation with Tehran rather than rely on the infidels to flatten it.

Even if that's true, however, the Saudis and their fellow Gulf princelings will have little choice but to go with the neocon flow. Indeed, one ironic result of the havoc the Cheney administration is creating in the Middle East is that it has left America's oil protectorates even more dependent on the hegemon to defend them from the forces it has unleased. From an imperial point of view, on other words, failure can be as good as success -- and maybe even better.

I'm reasonably confident this thought has never occurred to Shrub. I wouldn't say the same about Cheney.


Breaking The Code

by Digby

It’s always interesting to see how the right wing deals with its inherent racism. They used to wear it proudly and openly, but since we have managed to make some progress in the last 40 years or so, they have had to become much more creative in the way they convey their solidarity with the racist among us. The patron saint of Republican operatives (and Karl Rove’s Godfather) Lee Atwater discussed the GOP’s dilemma way back in 1980:

‘’You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

‘’And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”’

He was wistful about it. Racism was getting harder to sell; the message had to be abstract. Shucks. But abstract or not, it still resonated. Even tax cuts — the raison d’etre of modern Republicanism, was actually a coded racist issue — "blacks are gonna get hurt by ‘em." (This was actually a very old story in America and may even be the reason why we’ve never had the kind of social services and safety net that other first world economies have — a fair number of people refuse to pay for anything that might benefit minorities.)

Atwater was a master of the southern strategy and this admission signaled a new generation of racist code that the Republicans had to adopt to keep the south in the GOP column. Too many southerners and others around the country had had their consciousness’ raised about the issue and racism was forced to go underground.

But it still rears its ugly face in all its glory from time to time as when RedState commenters write things like this:

Actually, I can’t wait for the unsealing of the secret FBI King files in 2027 to reveal the truth about MLK and his less than honorable life and legacy (thanks to a liberal judge and the King family they have bought time preventing their release under FOIA… hmm, you think they have something to hide?). In the mean time, the country remains held hostage to the unbalanced and intellectually dishonest legacy of this man and his family. Pardon me if I choose not to worship at their phony altar.

Also, I can see clearly why blacks just love the Democratic party for all its done for them in perpetuating their continued pride in their own sense of victimhood. Bravo!

Notice how polite the racism has become? No "nigger, nigger, nigger" anywhere. And yet I think we can all agree that the racial hostility is quite evident, although I’m sure the writer would tell you that he was only talking about MLK or certain "Afro-Americans" (one of their favorite codes) and that they just love black people; it’s the Democratic "race hustling victim pimps" they are against:

Those who follow leaders like Dr. Lowry deserve to be marginalized.

Funny, but I recall that African-Americans are losing political clout in America, as the Hispanic population increases in size.

So, explain to me again why the NAACP and other "mainstream" African-American organizations should be accorded respect, if they refuse to be respectful– or even polite themselves?

As I’ve written before, it’s always something:

1955 - They are an inferior race

1965 - They aren’t good workers

1975 - They make old white customers uncomfortable

1985 - Affirmative action means their diplomas are bogus

1995 - They are a litigation risk for discrimination

2006 - They don’t know how to behave in public.

During Katrina we saw a different face of coded racism: the "fear of the black mob," the history of which goes all the way back to the early years of American history and the slave revolts. This is the racism that led Peggy Noonan, Jonah Goldberg and others on the right to lead the shrill cries to shoot first and ask questions later, based on the unconfirmed stories of marauding gangs of African American criminals. The hysteria to which they and the mainstream media succumbed was a significant factor in the sluggish relief and evacuation effort. It wasn’t that Bush didn’t "care about black people." (although I doubt he cares much.) It’s that whites were afraid of black people. That’s just another side of the same bigoted coin.

This particular coded racist code has bee quite useful. It flies surreptitiously under the rightwing battle flag of "law ‘n order" (George Wallace’s latter day code for "nigger, nigger, nigger") that was adopted wholesale by the GOP after 1968. It served the Republicans very, very well for more than 30 years and has probably only been temporarily shelved for their current obsession with "islamofascism." It is being half-heartedly revived for the immigration debate today although they haven’t been able to integrate it very smoothly with their economic and national security arguments quite yet.

They are making some progress with this new blanket designation of "illegals," whom Jack Cafferty on CNN today suggested be dealt with by having the INS bring buses to the protests and shipping out anyone who can’t produce a green card. (I don’t have one myself, so I suppose I could be shipped out right along with all the other Americans who don’t carry "papers.")

Perhaps the most obscure form of racist code speech is rampant neo-confederate homophobia. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Anti-gay language, crude or not so crude, can be found in many neo-confederate tracts and articles. They often use the traditional language of anti-semitism. (All that "disease" talk. )I was confused by this for a while, wondering if the antebellum south had had an underground gay sub-culture that had been scorned as a southern tradition. But it is actually just another code for traditional bigotry which they base on this:

When I served on the State Textbook Committee, I asked each publisher, "what is your definition of family?" Almost without exception, the publishers, out of deference to the homosexual, lesbian, and feminist movements, define family as two or more people living together who care for one another. By their definition, any two people living together – men, women, married, unmarried – are now defined as a family.

The antebellum South was a society founded on the traditional family of husband, wife, and children. Even today, more than the rest of the US, the South is still more family oriented. Southerners still do not move as often as other people do. More than 75% of the people living in Alabama today were born in Alabama.

Because the South was, and is more family oriented, and because our definition of family is increasingly unacceptable to many Americans, all things Southern, including our concept of family, are attacked.

This convenient conflation of "traditional" southern culture and family, of course, ignores the fact that slave families were ruthlessly broken up. And anyway the slaves had a mental defect that made them want to run away. But, no matter. You can see how easily the neoconfederates have incorporated this "family values" rhetoric and substituted their overt racism with overt homophobia.

The neoconfederates are a marginal group. Even most conservative southerners aren’t members of such organizations as League of the South. But, as David Niewert explained last week, this language makes its way into the mainstream through the right wing noise machine until it becomes mainstream. The codes are still understood by those at whom they are aimed and the rhetoric itself becomes a normal part of the discourse. While not everyone who hates gays is also racist, you can probably feel fairly comfortable in assuming that if somebody is talking about their Christian, southern antebellum heritage and they hate gays — it’s code. For gays, sure. But also for blacks, for Mexicans, the whole kaleidoscope of colors and cultures they hate.

It is no surprise then that loaded terms such as "the homosexual agenda" have emanated from the usual racist rightwing suspects. As Jack Balkin explained:

There has been considerable discussion about Justice Scalia’s accusation that the Lawrence majority had signed on to "the so-called homosexual agenda." I believe what has irked some people is that the expression "the homosexual agenda" has a history. It is a form of code often used by Jesse Helms and other social conservative politicians to whip up resentment against moderates and liberals who support gay rights. The use of the term "homosexual agenda" has been a shrewd way of intimating without overtly stating that people who supported gay rights were somehow disloyal to the country (like the hidden communist agenda) because they were assisting in the destruction of America by destroying its moral fibre, or extremist, because they supported a deeper, hidden agenda whose real goals cannot be openly announced and are instead disguised in the plausible sounding garb of equal rights.

Here’s a representative quote from Sen. Helms in support of a bill he introduced to roll back President Clinton’s executive order prohibiting discrimination against gays in federal employment:

" Mr. President, for many years the homosexual community has engaged in a well-organized, concerted campaign to force Americans to accept, and even legitimize, an immoral lifestyle. This bill is designed to prevent President Clinton from advancing the homosexual agenda at the expense of both the proper legislative role and the free speech rights of Federal workers."

And, of course, it’s a matter of states’ rights, don’t you know.

The Mighty Rightwing Wurlitzer and its little volume pedal, the bigotsphere, are continuing the long tradition of American intolerance. The good news is that they are largely forced to find ways other than overt racist language to convey their hatred and intolerance. The bad news is that they manage to do it so very well. In case anyone has missed their latest brilliant rhetorical twist, here it is: if you call them on their racism, you are a racist. It’s one of the more successful applications of the GOP epistemic relativism of the "I know you are but what am I" variety. It’s quite frustrating, just as the Orwellian "losing means winning" rhetoric is. But don’t mistake it for anything but what it is. It’s not just a lame riposte. It’s not a defense. It’s code to others who think as they do. Racists.

Previous posts in the series:

Educating Wolfie by Pam Spaulding
Right Wing Racism: Steve Sailer by Armando
Let’s Go Real Far Right… by Matt Stoller
Tramsmitting Extremism by David Neiwert
The Fork in the Road — The Right and Race Online by Steve Gilliard
Late Night FDL: A Thin Candy-Coat of Legitimacy by TBogg
What Lies Beneath by Matt O.

Matt O. has also been compiling racist quotes from right-wing websites over at The Great Society.

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