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June 20, 2008

Bomb Iran? What's to Stop Us?

by Ray McGovern

Unlike the attack on Iraq five years ago, to deal with Iran there need be no massing of troops. And, with the propaganda buildup already well under way, there need be little, if any, forewarning before shock and awe and pox – in the form of air and missile attacks – begin.

This time it will be largely the Air Force's show, punctuated by missile and air strikes by the Navy. Israeli-American agreement has now been reached at the highest level; the armed forces planners, plotters and pilots are working out the details.

Emerging from a 90-minute White House meeting with President George W. Bush on June 4, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the two leaders were of one mind:

"We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat. I left with a lot less question marks [than] I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions, and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on that matter before the end of his term in the White House."

Does that sound like a man concerned that Bush is just bluff and bluster?

A member of Olmert's delegation noted that same day that the two countries had agreed to cooperate in case of an attack by Iran, and that "the meetings focused on 'operational matters' pertaining to the Iranian threat."  So bring 'em on!

A show of hands please. How many believe Iran is about to attack the U.S. or Israel?

You say you missed Olmert's account of what Bush has undertaken to do? So did I. We are indebted to intrepid journalist Chris Hedges for including the quote in his article of June 8, "The Iran Trap."

We can perhaps be excused for missing Olmert's confident words about "Israel's best friend" that week. Your attention – like mine – may have been riveted on the June 5 release of the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding administration misrepresentations of pre-Iraq-war intelligence – the so-called "Phase II" investigation (also known, irreverently, as the "Waiting-for-Godot Study").

Better late than never, I suppose.

Oversight?

Yet I found myself thinking: It took them five years, and that is what passes for oversight? Yes, the president and vice president and their courtiers lied us into war. And now a bipartisan report could assert that fact formally; and committee chair Jay Rockefeller could sum it up succinctly:

"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed."

But as I listened to Senator Rockefeller, I had this sinking feeling that in five or six years time, those of us still around will be listening to a very similar post mortem looking back on an even more disastrous attack on Iran.

My colleagues and I in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) issued repeated warnings, before the invasion of Iraq, about the warping of intelligence.  And our memoranda met considerable resonance in foreign media.

We could get no ink or airtime, however, in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) in the U.S. Nor can we now.

In a same-day critique of Colin Powell's unfortunate speech to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003, we warned the president to widen his circle of advisers "beyond those clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic."

It was a no-brainer for anyone who knew anything about intelligence, the Middle East, and the brown noses leading intelligence analysis at the CIA.

 Former U.N. senior weapons inspector and former Marine major, Scott Ritter, and many others were saying the same thing. But none of us could get past the president's praetorian guard to drop a memo into his in-box, so to speak. Nor can we now.

The 'Iranian Threat'

However much the same warnings are called for now with respect to Iran, there is even less prospect that any contrarians could puncture and break through what former White House spokesman Scott McClellan calls the president's "bubble."

By all indications, Vice President Dick Cheney and his huge staff continue to control the flow of information to the president.

But, you say, the president cannot be unaware of the far-reaching disaster an attack on Iran would bring?

Well, this is a president who admits he does not read newspapers, but rather depends on his staff to keep him informed. And the memos Cheney does brief to Bush pooh-pooh the dangers.

This time no one is saying we will be welcomed as liberators, since the planning does not include – officially, at least – any U.S. boots on the ground.

Besides, even on important issues like the price of gasoline, the performance of the president's staff has been spotty.

Think back on the White House press conference of Feb. 28, when Bush was asked what advice he would give to Americans facing the prospect of $4-a-gallon gasoline.

"Wait, what did you just say?" the president interrupted. "You're predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?...That's interesting. I hadn't heard that."

A poll in January showed that nearly three-quarters of Americans were expecting $4-a-gallon gas. That forecast was widely reported in late February, and discussed by the White House press secretary at the media briefing the day before the president's press conference.

Here's the alarming thing: Unlike Iraq, which was prostrate after the Gulf War and a dozen years of sanctions, Iran can retaliate in a number of dangerous ways, launching a war for which our forces are ill-prepared.

The lethality, intensity and breadth of ensuing hostilities will make the violence in Iraq look, in comparison, like a volleyball game between St. Helena's High School and Mount St. Ursula.

Cheney's Brainchild

Attacking Iran is Vice President Dick Cheney's brainchild, if that is the correct word.

Cheney proposed launching air strikes last summer on Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases, but was thwarted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff who insisted that would be unwise, according to J. Scott Carpenter, a senior State Department official at the time.

Chastened by the unending debacle in Iraq, this time around Pentagon officials reportedly are insisting on a "policy decision" regarding "what would happen after the Iranians would go after our folks," according to Carpenter.

Serious concerns include the vulnerability of the critical U.S. supply line from Kuwait to Baghdad, our inability to reinforce and the eventual possibility that the U.S. might be forced into a choice between ignominious retreat and using, or threatening to use, "mini-nukes."

Pentagon opposition was confirmed in a July 2007 commentary by former Bush adviser Michael Gerson, who noted the "fear of the military leadership" that Iran would have "escalation dominance" in any conflict with the U.S.

Writing in the Washington Post last July, Gerson indicated that "escalation dominance" means, "in a broadened conflict, the Iranians could complicate our lives in Iraq and the region more than we complicate theirs."

The Joint Chiefs also have opposed the option of attacking Iran's nuclear sites, according to former Iran specialist at the National Security Council, Hillary Mann, who has close ties with senior Pentagon officials.

Mann confirmed that Adm. William Fallon joined the Joint Chiefs in strongly opposing such an attack, adding that he made his opposition known to the White House, as well.

The outspoken Fallon was forced to resign in March, and will be replaced as CENTCOM commander by Gen. David Petraeus – apparently in September. Petraeus has already demonstrated his penchant to circumvent the chain of command in order to do Cheney's bidding (by making false claims about Iranian weaponry in Iraq, for example).

In sum, a perfect storm seems to be gathering in late summer or early fall.

Controlled Media

The experience of those of us whose job it was to analyze the controlled media of the Soviet Union and China for insights into Russian and Chinese intentions have been able to put that experience to good use in monitoring our own controlled media as they parrot the party line.

Suffice it to say that the FCM is already well embarked, a la Iraq, on its accustomed mission to provide stenographic services for the White House to indoctrinate Americans on the "threat" from Iran and prepare them for the planned air and missile attacks.

At least this time we are spared the "mushroom cloud" bugaboo. Neither Bush nor Cheney wish to call attention, even indirectly, to the fact that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last November that Iran had stopped nuclear weapons-related work in 2003 and had not resumed it as of last year.

In a pre-FCM age, it would have been looked on as inopportune, at the least, to manufacture intelligence to justify another war hard on the heels of a congressional report that on Iraq the administration made significant claims not supported by the intelligence.

But (surprise, surprise!) the very damning Senate Intelligence Committee report got meager exposure in the media.

So far it has been a handful of senior military officers that have kept us from war with Iran. It hardly suffices to give them vocal encouragement, or to warn them that the post WW-II Nuremberg Tribunal ruled explicitly that "just-following-orders" is no defense when war crimes are involved.

And still less when the "supreme international crime" – a war of aggression is involved.

Senior officers trying to slow the juggernaut lumbering along toward an attack on Iran have been scandalized watching what can only be described as unconscionable dereliction of duty in the House of Representatives, which the Constitution charges with the duty of impeaching a president, vice president or other senior official charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

Where Are You, Conyers?

In 2005, before John Conyers became chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, he introduced a bill to explore impeaching the president and was asked by Lewis Lapham of Harpers why he was for impeachment then. He replied:

"To take away the excuse that we didn't know. So that two, or four, or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, 'Where were you, Conyers, and where was the U.S. Congress?' when the Bush administration declared the Constitution inoperative...none of the company here present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity [or] say that 'somehow it escaped our notice.'"

In the three years since then, the train of abuses and usurpations has gotten longer and Conyers has become chair of the committee. Yet he has dawdled and dawdled, and has shown no appetite for impeachment.

On July 23, 2007, Conyers told Cindy Sheehan, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, and me that he would need 218 votes in the House and they were not there.

A week ago, 251 members of the House voted to refer to Conyers' committee the 35 Articles of Impeachment proposed by Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who sat on Judiciary with Conyers when it voted out three articles of impeachment on President Richard Nixon, spoke out immediately: "The House should commence an impeachment inquiry forthwith."

Much of the work has been done. As Holtzman noted, Kucinich's Articles of Impeachment, together with the Senate report that on Iraq we were led to war based on false pretenses – arguably the most serious charge – go a long way toward jump-starting any additional investigative work Congress needs to do.

And seldom mentioned is the voluminous book published by Conyers himself, "Constitution in Crisis," containing a wealth of relevant detail on the crimes of the current executive.

Conyers' complaint that there is not enough time is a dog that won't hunt, as Lyndon Johnson would say.

How can Conyers say this one day, and on the next say that if Bush attacks Iran, well then, the House may move toward impeachment.

Afraid of the media?

During the meeting last July with Cindy Sheehan, Rev. Yearwood and me, and during an interview in December on "Democracy Now," Conyers was surprisingly candid in expressing his fear of Fox News and how it could paint Democrats as divisive if they pursued impeachment.

Ironically, this time it is Fox and the rest of the FCM that is afraid – witness their virtual silence on Kucinich's very damning 35 Articles of Impeachment.

The only way to encourage constructive media attention would be for Conyers to act.  The FCM could be expected to fulminate against that, but they could not afford to ignore impeachment, as they are able to ignore other unpleasant things – like preparations for another "war of choice."

I would argue that perhaps the most effective way to prevent air and missile attacks on Iran and a wider Middle East war is to proceed as Elizabeth Holtzman urges – with impeachment "forthwith."

Does Conyers not owe at least that much encouragement to those courageous officers who have stood up to Cheney in trying to prevent wider war and catastrophe in the Middle East?

Scott McClellan has been quite clear in reminding us that once the president decided to invade Iraq, he was not going to let anything stop him. There is ample evidence that Bush has taken a similar decision with respect to Iran – with Olmert as his chief counsel, no less.

It is getting late, but this is due largely to Conyers' own dithering. Now, to his credit, Dennis Kucinich has forced the issue with 35 well-drafted Articles of Impeachment.

What the country needs is the young John Conyers back. Not the one now surrounded by fancy lawyers and henpecked by the lady of the House.

In October 1974, after he and the even younger Elizabeth Holtzman faced up to their duty on House Judiciary and voted out three Articles of Impeachment on President Richard Nixon, Conyers wrote this:

"This inquiry was forced on us by an accumulation of disclosures which, finally and after unnecessary delays, could no longer be ignored...Impeachment is difficult and it is painful, but the courage to do what must be done is the price of remaining free."

Someone needs to ask John Conyers if he still believes that; and, if he does, he must summon the courage to "do what must be done."


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Ray McGovern's Bio

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years – from the John F. Kennedy administration to that of George H. W. Bush.

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