Friday, April 28, 2006

Maybe Dubya Should Tell Them They Can Stop Bringing it On

Way back in 2003 when the President told the insurgents to "bring it on" they were apparently listening closely and ready willing and able to oblige him. Over two thousand Americans and countless tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed since then.

Maybe it's time for the President to tell them it is time to stop. They proved their point. They no longer need to bring it on. In fact he'd really be happy if they'd turn it off. They really heeded his words back then maybe they'd do the same now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tony Snow Agrees To Interdepartmental Transfer

The White House announced today that Tony Snow will be transferring from the Fox Division of White House press operations to the Home Office. This is actually a return to the Home Office where he worked under GHWB before getting some field experience at the Fox Division.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

John Kerry's Speech At Faneuil Hall

John Kerry spoke at Faneuil Hall on April 22, giving an eloquent rebuttal to those who criticize opponents of this Administration's war policy and explaining why it is time to bring our involvement in Iraq to an end. It would have been better if he had displayed the courage and/or wisdom to say these same things three, two or even one year ago. However late, he has added a powerful voice to that of Jack Murtha and others who who recognize the Iraq debacle for what it is.

I would not normally print the whole text of a speech like this, but I do so in this case because it is highly recommended reading. (You may even note some echoes of what appeared on this site on July 1, 2005.)

* * * * * * * *

Thirty-five years ago today, I testified before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, and called for an end to the war I had returned from fighting not long before.

It was 1971 - twelve years after the first American died in what was then South Vietnam, seven years after Lyndon Johnson seized on a small and contrived incident in the Tonkin Gulf to launch a full-scale war--and three years after Richard Nixon was elected president on the promise of a secret plan for peace. We didn't know it at the time, but four more years of the War in Vietnam still lay ahead. These were years in which the Nixon administration lied and broke the law--and claimed it was prolonging war to protect our troops as they withdrew--years that ultimately ended only when politicians in Washington decided they would settle for a "decent interval" between the departure of our forces and the inevitable fall of Saigon.

I know that some active duty service members, some veterans, and certainly some politicians scorned those of us who spoke out, suggesting our actions failed to "support the troops"--which to them meant continuing to support the war, or at least keeping our mouths shut. Indeed, some of those critics said the same thing just two years ago during the presidential campaign.

I have come here today to reaffirm that it was right to dissent in 1971 from a war that was wrong. And to affirm that it is both a right and an obligation for Americans today to disagree with a President who is wrong, a policy that is wrong, and a war in Iraq that weakens the nation.

I believed then, just as I believe now, that the best way to support the troops is to oppose a course that squanders their lives, dishonors their sacrifice, and disserves our people and our principles. When brave patriots suffer and die on the altar of stubborn pride, because of the incompetence and self-deception of mere politicians, then the only patriotic choice is to reclaim the moral authority misused by those entrusted with high office.

I believed then, just as I believe now, that it is profoundly wrong to think that fighting for your country overseas and fighting for your country's ideals at home are contradictory or even separate duties. They are, in fact, two sides of the very same patriotic coin. And that's certainly what I felt when I came home from Vietnam convinced that our political leaders were waging war simply to avoid responsibility for the mistakes that doomed our mission in the first place. Indeed, one of the architects of the war, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, confessed in a recent book that he knew victory was no longer a possibility far earlier than 1971.

By then, it was clear to me that hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen--disproportionately poor and minority Americans--were being sent into the valley of the shadow of death for an illusion privately abandoned by the very men in Washington who kept sending them there. All the horrors of a jungle war against an invisible enemy indistinguishable from the people we were supposed to be protecting--all the questions associated with quietly sanctioned violence against entire villages and regions--all the confusion and frustration that came from defending a corrupt regime in Saigon that depended on Americans to do too much of the fighting--all that cried out for dissent, demanded truth, and could not be denied by easy slogans like "peace with honor"--or by the politics of fear and smear. It was time for the truth, and time for it all to end, and my only regret in joining the anti-war movement was that it took so long to succeed--for the truth to prevail, and for America to regain confidence in our own deepest values.

The fissures created by Vietnam have long been stubbornly resistant to closure. But I am proud it was the dissenters--and it was our veterans' movement--and people like Judy Droz Keyes--who battled not just to end the war but to combat government secrecy and the willful amnesia of a society that did not want to remember its obligations to the soldiers who fought. We fought the forgetting and pushed our nation to confront the war's surplus of sad legacies--Agent Orange, Amer-Asian orphans, abandoned allies, exiled and imprisoned draft dodgers, doubts about whether all our POWs had come home, and honor at last for those who returned from Vietnam and those who did not. Because we spoke out, the truth was ultimately understood that the faults in Vietnam were those of the war, not the warriors.

Then, and even now, there were many alarmed by dissent--many who thought that staying the course would eventually produce victory--or that admitting the mistake and ending it would embolden our enemies around the world. History disproved them before another decade was gone: Fourteen years elapsed between the first major American commitment of helicopters and pilots to Vietnam and the fall of Saigon. Fourteen years later, the Berlin Wall fell, and with it the Communist threat. You cannot tell me that withdrawing from Vietnam earlier would have changed that outcome.

The lesson here is not that some of us were right about Vietnam, and some of us were wrong. The lesson is that true patriots must defend the right of dissent, and hear the voices of dissenters, especially now, when our leaders have committed us to a pre-emptive "war of choice" that does not involve the defense of our people or our territory against aggressors. The patriotic obligation to speak out becomes even more urgent when politicians refuse to debate their policies or disclose the facts. And even more urgent when they seek, perversely, to use their own military blunders to deflect opposition and answer their own failures with more of the same. Presidents and politicians may worry about losing face, or votes, or legacy; it is time to think about young Americans and innocent civilians who are losing their lives.

This is not the first time in American history when patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation.

In the infancy of the Republic, in 1798, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts to smear Thomas Jefferson and accuse him of treason. Newspapers were shut down, and their editors arrested, including Benjamin Franklin's grandson. No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: "Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism."

In the Mexican War, a young Congressman named Abraham Lincoln was driven from public life for raising doubts about official claims. And in World War I, America's values were degraded, not defended, when dissenters were jailed and the teaching of German was banned in public schools in some states. At that time it was apparently sounding German, not looking French, that got you in trouble. And it was panic and prejudice , not true patriotism, that brought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II--a measure upheld by Supreme Court Justices who did not uphold their oaths to defend the Constitution. We are stronger today because no less a rock-ribbed conservative than Robert Taft -- "Mr. Republican" himself -- stood up and said at the height of the second World War that, "the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur."

Even during the Cold War--an undeclared war, and often more a war of nerves and diplomacy than of arms--even the mildest dissenters from official policy were sometimes silenced, blacklisted, or arrested, especially during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s. Indeed, it was only when Joseph McCarthy went through the gates of delirium and began accusing distinguished U.S. diplomats and military leaders of treason that the two parties in Washington and the news media realized the common stake they had in the right to dissent. They stood up to a bully and brought down McCarthyism's ugly and contrived appeals to a phony form of 100% Americanism.

Dissenters are not always right, but it is always a warning sign when they are accused of unpatriotic sentiments by politicians seeking a safe harbor from debate, from accountability, or from the simple truth.

Truth is the American bottom line. Truth above all is fundamental to who we are. It is no accident that among the first words of the first declaration of our national existence it is proclaimed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident...".

This hall and this Commonwealth have always been at the forefront of seeking out and living out the truth in the conduct of public life. Here Massachusetts defined human rights by adopting our own Bill of Rights; here we took a stand against slavery, for women's suffrage and civil rights for all Americans. The bedrock of America's greatest advances--the foundation of what we know today are defining values--was formed not by cheering on things as they were, but by taking them on and demanding change.

And here and now we must insist again that fidelity, honor, and love of country demand untrammeled debate and open dissent. At no time is that truer than in the midst of a war rooted in deceit and justified by continuing deception. For what is at stake here is nothing less than life itself. As the statesman Edmund Burke once said: "A conscientious man should be cautious how he dealt in blood."

Think about that now--in a new era that has brought old temptations and tested abiding principles.

America has always embraced the best traditions of civilized conduct toward combatants and non-combatants in war. But today our leaders hold themselves above the law--in the way they not only treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but assert unchecked power to spy on American citizens.

America has always rejected war as an instrument of raw power or naked self-interest. We fought when we had to in order to repel grave threats or advance freedom and self-determination in concert with like-minded people everywhere. But our current leadership, for all its rhetoric of freedom and democracy, behaves as though might does make right, enabling us to discard the alliances and institutions that served us so well in the past as nothing more now than impediments to the exercise of unilateral power.

America has always been stronger when we have not only proclaimed free speech, but listened to it. Yes, in every war, there have been those who demand suppression and silencing. And although no one is being jailed today for speaking out against the war in Iraq, the spirit of intolerance for dissent has risen steadily, and the habit of labeling dissenters as unpatriotic has become the common currency of the politicians currently running our country.

Dismissing dissent is not only wrong, but dangerous when America's leadership is unwilling to admit mistakes, unwilling to engage in honest discussion of the nation's direction, and unwilling to hold itself accountable for the consequences of decisions made without genuine disclosure, or genuine debate.

In recent weeks, a number of retired high-ranking military leaders, several of whom played key combat or planning roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, have come forward publicly to call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And across the administration, from the president on down, we've heard these calls dismissed or even attacked as acts of disloyalty, or as threats to civilian control of the armed forces. We have even heard accusations that this dissent gives aid and comfort to the enemy. That is cheap and it is shameful. And once again we have seen personal attacks on the character of those who speak out. How dare those who never wore the uniform in battle attack those who wore it all their lives--and who, retired or not, did not resign their citizenship in order to serve their country.

The former top operating officer at the Pentagon, a Marine Lieutenant General, said "the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results." It is hard for a career military officer to speak those words. But at a time when the administration cannot let go of the myths and outright lies it broadcast in the rush to war in Iraq, those who know better must speak out.

At a time when mistake after mistake is being compounded by the very civilian leadership in the Pentagon that ignored expert military advice in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, those who understand the price being paid for each mistake by our troops, our country, and Iraq itself must be heard.

Once again we are imprisoned in a failed policy. And once again we are being told that admitting mistakes, not the mistakes themselves, will provide our enemies with an intolerable propaganda victory. Once again we are being told that we have no choice but to stay the course of a failed policy. At a time like this, those who seek to reclaim America's true character and strength must be respected.

The true defeatists today are not those who call for recognizing the facts on the ground in Iraq. The true defeatists are those who believe America is so weak that it must sacrifice its principles to the pursuit of illusory power.

The true pessimists today are not those who know that America can handle the truth about the Administration's boastful claim of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. The true pessimists are those who cannot accept that America's power and prestige depend on our credibility at home and around the world. The true pessimists are those who do not understand that fidelity to our principles is as critical to national security as our military power itself.

And the most dangerous defeatists, the most dispiriting pessimists, are those who invoke September 11th to argue that our traditional values are a luxury we can no longer afford.

Let's call it the Bush-Cheney Doctrine.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, alliances and international institutions are now disposable--and international institutions are dispensable or even despicable.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, we cannot foreswear the fool's gold of information secured by torturing prisoners or creating a shadow justice system with no rules and no transparency.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, unwarranted secrecy and illegal spying are now absolute imperatives of our national security.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, those who question the abuse of power question America itself.

According to the Bush-Cheney doctrine, an Administration should be willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the Iraq war, but unwilling to spend a few billion dollars to secure the American ports through which nuclear materials could make their way to terrorist cells.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, executive powers trump the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

According to the Bush-Cheney Doctrine, smearing administration critics is not only permissible, but necessary--and revealing the identity of a CIA agent is an acceptable means to hide the truth.

The raw justification for abandoning so many American traditions exposes the real danger of the Bush-Cheney Doctrine. We all understand we are in a long struggle against jihadist extremism. It does represent a threat to our vital security interests and our values. Even the Bush-Cheney Administration acknowledges this is preeminently an ideological war, but that's why the Bush-Cheney Doctrine is so ill-equipped to fight and win it.

Our enemies argue that all our claims about advancing universal principles of human rights and mutual respect disguise a raw demand for American dominance. They gain every time we tolerate or cover up abuses of human rights in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, or among sectarian militias in Iraq, and especially when we defiantly disdain the rules of international law.

Our enemies argue that our invasion and occupation of Iraq reflect an obsession with oil supplies and commercial opportunities. They gain when our president and vice president, both former oil company executives, continue to pursue an oil-based energy strategy, and provide vast concessions in Iraq to their corporate friends.

And so there's the crowning irony: the Bush-Cheney Doctrine holds that many of our great traditions cannot be maintained; yet the Bush-Cheney policies, by abandoning those traditions, give Osama bin Laden and his associates exactly what they want and need to reinforce their hate-filled ideology of Islamic solidarity against the western world.

I understand fully that Iraq is not Vietnam, and the war on terrorism is not the Cold War. But in one very crucial respect, we are in the same place now as we were thirty five years ago. When I testified in 1971, I spoke out not just against the war itself, but the blindness and cynicism of political leaders who were sending brave young Americans to be killed or maimed for a mission the leaders themselves no longer believed in.

The War in Vietnam and the War in Iraq are now converging in too many tragic respects.

As in Vietnam, we engaged militarily in Iraq based on official deception.

As in Vietnam, we went into Iraq ostensibly to fight a larger global war under the misperception that the particular theater was just a sideshow, but we soon learned that the particular aspects of the place where we fought mattered more than anything else.

And as in Vietnam, we have stayed and fought and died even though it is time for us to go.

We are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.
Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion. We want democracy in Iraq, but Iraqis must want it as much as we do. Our valiant soldiers can't bring democracy to Iraq if Iraq's leaders are unwilling themselves to make the compromises that democracy requires.
As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their ethnic and political differences.

Our call to action is clear. Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines--a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections. It was the most intense 11th hour pressure that just pushed aside Prime Minister Jaafari and brought forward a more acceptable candidate. And it will demand deadline toughness to reign in Shiite militias Sunnis say are committing horrific acts of torture every day in Baghdad.
So we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.

Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to deal with these intransigent issues and at last put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren't willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they're probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.

If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end. Doing so will actually empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country.

So now, as in 1971, we are engaged in another fight to live the truth and make our own government accountable. As in 1971, this is another moment when American patriotism demands more dissent and less complacency in the face of bland assurances from those in power.

We must insist now that patriotism does not belong to those who defend a President's position--it belongs to those who defend their country. Patriotism is not love of power; it is love of country. And sometimes loving your country demands you must tell the truth to power. This is one of those times.

Lives are on the line. Lives have been lost to bad decisions - not decisions that could have gone either way, but decisions that constitute basic negligence and incompetence. And lives continue to be lost because of stubbornness and pride.

We support the troops--the brave men and women who have always protected us and do so today--in part by honoring their service, and in part by making sure they have everything they need both in battle and after they have borne the burden of battle.

But I believe now as strongly and proudly as I did thirty-five years ago that the most important way to support the troops is to tell the truth, and to ensure we do not ask young Americans to die in a cause that falls short of the ideals of this country.

When we protested the war in Vietnam some would weigh in against us saying: "My country right or wrong." Our response was simple: "Yes, my country right or wrong. When right, keep it right and when wrong, make it right." And that's what we must do again today.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A New Name

Frequent readers will note that this site has a new name, "September 1787." Those words were always in the url for the site and it was decided they more closely tie to the subject matter of this site than the old name, "Thoughts To Consider." For those who are new comers, please go to the very first post for an explanation of what this site is trying to promote.

Goodbye old friend. We trust that our thoughts will still be considered.

Retired Generals Have a Right and Obligation to Speak Out

Six retired Generals have so far decided to speak out on the Iraq War fiasco, criticizing the run up, planning and/or execution of this tragedy. As expected most of the administration's blowback against these patriots is not focussed on the merits of their arguments. Rather Administration flacks have tried to argue that it is inappropriate for the Generals to have spoken up after they retired. They should have gone public while still in uniform and resigned if necessary.

What a joke. To begin with, of course they have the right to speak up now. They did not surrender their First Amendment rights when they put on the uniform?

While still on active duty, there were some constraints on their right to speak freely. They worked under a strict chain of command. Yes, even generals have to suffer under the chain like you see in every day room. They are expected to speak their minds to the next person on the chain up from them, and not violate the chain, especially not by speaking out publicly. They are expected to provide their input and then implement the decision, regardless of whether they agree with it or not.

There are some exceptions to the constrains on speaking out publicly while on active duty. Members of the Joint Chiefs have a statutory obligation to speak to the Secretary of Defense and the Congress, even when they disagree with their other Chiefs. Also, any General testifying before Congress has the right to truthfully express an opinion. Doing the latter though, can be unhealthy for your career or your effectiveness in the remainder of your career, i.e.., General Eric Shinseki.

Some commentators have criticized the Generals for not speaking out and resigning in protest while still on active duty. Yes, a General has the right to resign in protest against a policy or an action with which they disagree. However that is a heavy price to pay and one rarely seen. In most cases, as with these Generals, people in their position try to work within the system as long as possible in the hope that a bad situation can be made better. Also, it should be noted that one of these Generals, John Batiste, did the functional equivalent of resigning in protest. After serving as the Commanding General of the First Infantry Division in Iraq from 2004-2005, General Batiste turned down the offer of a third star and the position of the Deputy in charge of all military forces in Iraq.

Some war hawks have said that the Generals' criticism undercuts troop morale. This is yet another make weight argument. Soldiers aren't stupid. They want to get the job done and get home as soon as possible. They see what is working and what isn't. And the Generals are merely highlighting what is plain to see and has been so from the inception of this disaster. If their criticism shortens this war by even a day, the troops and our nation will be better off.

The argument against the Generals that is most steeped in hypocrisy is that as military men they must confine themselves to military matters and avoid commenting on broader policy question. Funny, I never hear that criticism when Generals Myers or Pace or others doing the Administration's bidding defend the Iraq policy. Of course they can speak up on policy matter. They are American citizens and we still have a First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

I applaud the Generals.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Medicare Part D - The Drug And Insurance Company Dream

Many have suspected that while Medicare Part D provides some benefit to seniors the largest beneficiaries of the program are the drug and insurance companies. I did a little experiment, the results of which seem to suggest the truth behind that concern.

I priced the four prescriptions my wife and I take on Medicare's website in order to identify the cheapest provider. They are two generic and two name brand drugs. I then did the same thing on the Costco website, which is a non-Medicare pharmacy known to have some of the lowest drug prices in the United States. Lastly, I priced those same drugs on one of the largest Canadian on-line pharmacies, (Interestingly, it turns out that in Canada one of the name brand drugs is available as a generic.)

The results were illuminating. The cheapest Part D coverage was with a provider called Yourx. The annual Yourx cost for all four drugs, including premium, copay and deductible, was $1088. The unsubsidized Costco price was considerably more expensive, with an annual cost of $2719. The big surprise was canadadrugs, where an annual supply of those same drugs could be purchased for $1666.

Now Medicare won't let us know how many Federal tax ( and borrowed dollars) are used to subsidize the Yourx cost, but it is a safe bet that Yourx is not buying its drugs and administering its plan at a lower cost than Costco. That suggests that the Government is giving Yourx and the drug companies who are supplying it with drugs about $1631 in tax dollars (the difference between $1088 and $2719) for those four prescriptions.

However, since Canadadrug is not saddled with our insurance bureaucracy and and can more aggressively negotiate through the Canadian Government with the drug companies it is able to sell those same drugs (except one being a generic) for only $543 more than Yourx. That means that if Medicare Part D participants could buy their drugs from Canada the U.S. government would only have to provide a $543 subsidy rather than gouging the taxpayers for $1631.

Alternatively we could scrap the Rube Goldberg complexity of Part D and just have it administered like Medicare Parts A and B, and give Medicare the full authority to negotiate for the lowest possible prices. I'm betting Medicare could do at least as well as the Canadians and save taxpayers about two thirds of the current cost of the program.

But then, that wouldn't be the dream program engineered by the drug and insurance companies.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Iran - A Short History

Michael Kinsley has a short history of Iran since 1950 which deserves reading even if you vaguely remember some of it. It reinforces what I suggested earlier about the need for the U.S. to once again engage the Iranians, and to do so with a little humility. We have obvious greivances against the Iranian regime but they also have some against us. From staging the coup that brought the Shah to power to supporting Sadaam Hussein in his eight year war of aggression against Iran our behavior has often been short sighted and certainly not above reproach.

Isn't it time for us to act like grown ups?

Lugar Recommends Talking To Iran

On Sunday, Senator Lugar said we should talk to Iran about its nuclear program. What an innovative idea. And while we are at it, why don't we talk with them about all the issues that divide us. It really is time for the War Party to realize that diplomacy trumps bluster. That is of course unless their only goal is to keep Americans in a constant state of fear. That couldn't possibly be the case.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nuclear Iran

In yesterdays post, I questioned the legal and moral authority of the United States to assert the unilateral right to go to war to prevent Iran, or any country for that matter, from developing nuclear weapons. In the case of Iran, my premise was far ahead of the facts.

Whether one believes the assertions of the Iranians that they only intend to develop nuclear generating capacity as opposed to weapons is almost beside the point. Iran is years away from developing nuclear power and probably a decade away from developing a bomb. However, it would not be totally farfetched to believe their assertions. There are dozens of countries that have considerable commercial nuclear generating capacity that are not believed to have developed nuclear weapons. While no one doubts that Brazil, Germany, and Japan, to name a few, could not develop such weapons, they are all believed to be complying with their nonpriferation obligations

All that notwithstanding, some would say that an Iran with nuclear weapons is only a matter of time. That may be so, but we should always remember - THE PASSAGE OF TIME CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING. In the absence of hostile intent, a real threat, and actual capacity to do us serious harm it is dumb, immoral and illegal for us to start a war.

The U.S. was at the forefront of helping other nations develop nuclear power and, working through the United Nations, has been largely successful in limiting the proliferation of weapons beyond the five nation nuclear club that included us, the USSR (now Russia), France, Great Britain, and China. (Two of the three known cheaters who have since acquired nuclear weapons are discussed below.). This was done by getting most countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran signed the NPT and, because of that, has been the recipient of legal nuclear power development assistance. They continue to largely comply with the NPT but the IAEA has recently raised concerns, which have been the subject of the current diplomatic dustup. But the inspectors are still there and there has not been a total breakdown of the NPT regime.

Iran's nuclear history started when Iran was our ally, under the Shah. When the Shah was overthrown in. 1979 our relations with Iran soured (an understatement), beginning with the hostage standoff and continuing largely because successive Iranian regimes began and continued to support Palestinian groups, some of which perpetrated acts of terror. So we continue not talking to each other, officially, and limit our contacts to subjects like trading arms for hostages. (OOPS, I digressed.) But does the animosity between our two countries have to continue in perpetuity?

If history is any guide, the answer is no. As with many other countries in the past we could seek to establish normal relations with Iran and try to resolve our differences peacefully. If we were able to have diplomatic relations with the USSR while fighting several proxy wars against each other and with each living under the constant threat of being blown up by the other, certainly we can deal with Iran. Similarly, we were able to normalize relations with a nuclear China, notwithstanding having fought them in the Korean War, competing for power and influence against each other throughout Asia, and nearly going to war over the independence of Taiwan.

Some would say those examples are different, they weren't "rogue regimes." Well, if that term has any meaning in the context of nuclear proliferation it must refer to countries that are not part of the NPT regime. Two of those rogues are India and Pakistan, neither of which signed and has ever complied with the NPT and both of whom have developed nuclear weapons.

When India began its nuclear ambitions it was nominally a "third world" (nonaligned) country but in reality orbited the Soviet sphere. And now it is a new found friend to whom this administration wants to provide U.S. nuclear technology. Are we asking that they join the NPT? No. Are we asking that they open up their military reactors and facilities to inspection? No. They are our friends now so what's the need?

And then there is Pakistan, also a non-signer of the NPT. We turned a blind eye to their nuclear development plans because they were viewed as a counter force to India. They were a friend in name only though, because they were one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and checkmated our desire to take forceful action against that regime during the nineties. Only after 9/11 did they change their position and thereby pave the way for the military intervention that unseated that Taliban and temporarily defeated Al Qaeda.

All of which says - times change. We have no irreconcilable differences with Iran and no differences justifying war. The only real enemy the Iranians had - Sadaam Hussein - is gone. Someday in the future, they will again be our friend. Let's hold off the bombing for a while.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Attacking Iran Isn't Just Dumb, It's Illegal and Wrong

Almost all the discussion about the Administration's plans to attack Iran focus on how stupid that action would be. Success is doubtful, there is no threat, it will inflame the region, our troops in Iraq will be placed in further jeopardy, it will drive the Iraqi Shia further into the arms of the Iranians, etc.

But maybe the starting point should be that such an attack would be illegal, immoral and just plain wrong. How have we become a nation so eager for war. The U.N. charter does not sanction this type of action. Iran has not threatened us. We do not have the right to simply declare that a nation cannot develop nuclear weapons. Our posture is insane. It is difficult to find an apt historical analogy for this Administration's assertion of the right to fight aggressive war.

If we do this, we will truly be the world's foremost Pariah Nation.

Wild Speculation

The President, his press spokesman, and everyone else speaking for the administration responds to the Seymour Hirsh article about intensive planning for an attack on Iran as "wild speculation."

Those words reveal two things. They are, in a phrase coined during Watergate, a perfect example of a "non-denial denial." The President does not say the article is not accurate. Not at all. He only says that Hirsh is speculating. Given Hirsh's track record and the history of war mongering by this crowd, there is no reason to believe the speculation is not accurate.

Additionally, the fact that everyone in the Administration is using the same words to respond to the story is a clear indication that it strikes close to the truth and that the White House felt it necessary to frantically came up with that phrase to respond to the story.