Friday, March 17, 2006
President Bush is on the road again, this time with a new dog and pony show about Iraq and Iran. According to David Sanger of the New York Times, when the president whistle-stopped around to friendly venues in December explaining his strategy for victory, his dropping poll numbers stopped dropping -- for about a month. Then they resumed their slide down that well-known slippery slope.
(A slippery slope differs from, say, a rocky slope in that a slippery slope is a lot harder to climb back up. Not that the president seems to be in any mood to reverse course -- everyone believes him when he says he's going to "stay the course." Staying the course on a slippery slope is easy -- it's what's at the bottom of the slope that's the problem.)
"We expect the enemy will try again and they will continue to sow violence and destruction designed to stop the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq." Again, I believe him. I think "the enemy" (which may have a lot in common with "the friend" or "the acquaintance" or "the people in the village you guys bombed three years ago") will continue to slaughter people and disrupt orderly government and generally carry on in the appalling jihadist way -- which, come to think of it, is a little like the appalling American way, except that we use NIEDs (non-improvised exploding devices). So the president's vision is us killing them and them killing us until someone gets tired.
This is in contrast to Vice President Cheney's remark 10 months ago that "they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." Gosh, if they can throe that well, there's a place for them in the outfield of the Chicago Cubs.
But this boilerplate cheerfulness about the war was not the real reason for the speech. Nope, having so clearly gotten that Iraq thing under control, Bush is now lashing out at our new worst enemy, Iran. Today: Iran and IEDs. "Some of the most powerful IEDs we are seeing in Iraq include components that came from Iran. Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran."
Does anyone believe him? Seriously, do even the people who support him because of his stands on abortion and gay marriage, people who cheer him because of his Supreme Court appointments -- do they believe him? I have no idea whether what he's saying is true, and I have a suspicion that he has no idea whether what he's saying is true. The takeaway message -- IRAN BAD -- is all he cares about, and the people around him have turned the White House into a giant disinformation machine.
This situation is even getting to conservatives, because they at least did not expect to be lied to. Sure, George, say what you need to get elected, but we know, wink wink. Except no one knows; there may not even be anything to know. A person could drive himself crazy reading expert opinions about the plans and preoccupations of the Iranian government -- I've been trying; I'm crazy -- and if scholars who've spent their careers concentrating on Iran differ, what chance is there that the White House knows what's going on -- or would tell us, come to that?
Here's what I'm sure of: No one actually wants nuclear war. Iran has long been a country that says what it needs to say in public, and does what it needs to do in private. It is an oppressive regime, and yet it tolerates all sorts of un-Islamic behaviors as long as they happen behind closed doors. The citizens of Iran are not cut off from the international information flux the way, say, the citizens of China are. There are deals to be cut. Do you have any confidence that the Bush administration employs wily, sophisticated diplomats? Me neither.
Not that I think Iran getting nuclear capability would be a good thing. The more bombs there are, the more danger we are all in. But Iran feels threatened, quite possibly because we are threatening it. Its sworn enemy Israel has the bomb. Russia, to its immediate north, has the bomb. The United States has more bombs than anyone. If this were a big game of Risk -- and it is -- who would you say was in the most danger, the country with 8 gazillion bombs and an equal number of delivery systems, or the country that has yet to make its first one?
Meanwhile ... there is no end to that sentence. Meanwhile.
We have hard evidence that Iran is developing sophisticated -- what? We just know, that's all. We have reports. People tell us things. We listen in. We're the government.