Saturday, April 15, 2006

U.S. Building Massive Embassy in Baghdad


By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special CorrespondentFri Apr 14, 4:58 PM ET

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.

The Republican Palace, where U.S. Embassy functions are temporarily housed in cubicles among the chandelier-hung rooms, is less than a mile away in the 4-square-mile zone, an enclave of American and Iraqi government offices and lodgings ringed by miles of concrete barriers.

The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism.

"The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here.

"It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several years," he said in Washington.

Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission — hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments.

They sleep in hundreds of trailers or "containerized" quarters scattered around the Green Zone. But next year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion — the actual embassy offices.

Higgins declined to identify those builders, citing security reasons, but said five were American companies.

The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.

Higgins said the work, under way on all parts of the project, is more than one-third complete.


Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

Zarqawi, al Qaeda are heading out, U.S. general says�-�World�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper


Zarqawi, al Qaeda are heading out, U.S. general says

By Sharon Behn
April 14, 2006

Al Qaeda in Iraq and its presumed leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, have conceded strategic defeat and are on their way out of the country, a top U.S. military official contended yesterday.
The group's failure to disrupt national elections and a constitutional referendum last year "was a tactical admission by Zarqawi that their strategy had failed," said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commands the XVIII Airborne Corps.
"They no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism," he said in an address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Gen. Vines' statement came as news broke that coalition and Iraqi forces had killed an associate of Osama bin Laden's during an early morning raid near Abu Ghraib about two weeks ago.
Rafid Ibrahim Fattah aka Abu Umar al Kurdi served as a liaison between terrorist networks and was linked to Taliban members in Afghanistan, Pakistani-based extremists and other senior al Qaeda leaders, the military said yesterday.
In the past six months, al Kurdi had worked as a terrorist cell leader in Baqouba. Prior to that, he had traveled extensively Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and formed a relationship with al Qaeda senior leaders in 1999 while in Afghanistan.
He also had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, formed while he was in Iran and Pakistan, and joined the jihad in Afghanistan in 1989, the military said. He was killed March 27.
Gen. Vines said the foreign terrorists had made a strategic mistake when they tried to intimidate and deny Iraqis a way to vote.
"I believe Zarqawi discredited himself with the Iraqi people because of his willingness to slaughter Iraqi people," he said.
Huthayafa Azzam, whose father was seen as a political mentor of bin Laden, told reporters in Jordan in early April that Zarqawi had been replaced as head of the terrorist fight in Iraq in an effort to put an Iraqi at the head of the organization.
Azzam said Zarqawi had "made many political mistakes," including excessive violence and the bombing last November of a Jordanian hotel, and as a result was being "confined to military action."
Gen. Vines, who from January 2005 to January 2006 led all coalition forces in Iraq, did not comment on those reports. But he did caution that although the foreign extremists were leaving Iraq "looking for more fertile ground," they could come back.
"The question now is what kind of government is going to be formed and is it going to be credible," he said, acknowledging that Iran had significant influence over Iraq's religious Shi'ite population.
"Iran wants us out, but not too soon -- after a Shi'ite government friendly to Iran is established," Gen. Vines said. "Iran's view is that the current government is not strong enough, and if we pulled out now, there would be a low-level civil war."

On the ground, it's a civil war

On the ground, it's a civil war

On the ground, it's a civil war
The debate over what to call Iraq's war is lost on many Iraqis as shadowy Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents wage their deadly conflict
By Aamer Madhani
Tribune staff reporter

April 14, 2006

BAGHDAD -- The conflict in Iraq is not marked by front lines or raging battles between warring Iraqi factions. There is no Green Line separating sectarian militias, as in Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, nor are there clearly defined armies and commanders. But by any measure, Iraqis will tell you that their country is embroiled in what amounts to civil war.

Since the Feb. 22 bombing of the al-Askari mosque, a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, waves of suicide bombers have struck other Shiite targets, killing hundreds of civilians. They have been followed by reprisals in the forms of assassinations and kidnappings, with hundreds of Sunni Muslims bound, gagged and shot in the head across Baghdad and surrounding towns.

"We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the British Broadcasting Corp. last month. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

The dictionary definition says a civil war involves war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation. An estimated 30,000 Iraqis have died in violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. There are no accurate figures of how many were killed by U.S. troops, but slayings of Iraqis by fellow Iraqis have increased dramatically as the war has progressed.

Many U.S. and Iraqi officials insist that the violence engulfing the country does not constitute civil war. But by any reasonable standard, "the conflict in Iraq is a civil war," said James Fearon, a Stanford University political scientist who specializes in the study of civil conflict. "The rate [of killings] is comparable to Sri Lanka, the Lebanese war and Bosnia," all of which were widely regarded as civil wars.

Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, said the question is only one of semantics. "You can use whatever language you want to describe it, but the violence is increasing and it is becoming more vengeful and polarized," Diamond said.

Thousands of Iraqi families--about 60,000 people--have fled their homes in the face of intimidation campaigns by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, most of them since the al-Askari bombing, according to the nation's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

Mubarak warns of civil war

The cycle of sectarian violence has put the entire region on edge. Last weekend, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that Iraq was close to full-scale civil war, questioned whether the Shiite-dominated government had an unhealthy relationship with Iran and speculated that the situation could further destabilize the already troubled Middle East.

On the ground in Baghdad, U.S. commanders responsible for training and equipping Iraqi security forces acknowledge that the Iraqi police rolls are riddled with members of Shiite militias. These militias are allied with such powerful clerics as Motqada Sadr, who controls the Madhi Army which twice in 2004 fought street battles against U.S. troops in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

U.S. officials say the militias have a major role in the sectarian attacks.

"We're not stupid. We know for a fact that they're killing people," said Lt. Col. Chris Pease, deputy commander of the U.S. military's police training programs in eastern Baghdad. "We dig the damn bodies out of the sewer all the time. But there's a difference between knowing something and proving something."

Pease said he recently had a conversation with an Iraqi police officer that underscored how vexing the militias have become. Out of earshot of the police officer's commander, Pease said, he asked the young cop to give him an honest analysis of what's going on in the street.

"He said to me, `Do you want me . . . to tell you the truth?'" Pease recalled. "His assessment was that the militias are everywhere ... and his officers weren't going to do anything about that because their units are infiltrated and they know what the cost would be for working against the militias."

Sunni-oriented television stations run messages on news programs, warning viewers not to cooperate with the Shiite-dominated security forces unless the Iraqis are accompanied by U.S. troops. Shiite leaders accuse Sunni politicians of being complicit in insurgent attacks.

The violence is fueled by years of resentment among Shiites for their persecution under the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein and by fears among Sunnis that they would be persecuted in turn under a Shiite government.

In a recent internal staff report jointly written for Congress by U.S. Embassy and military officials in Iraq, seven of Iraq's 18 provinces were listed in serious or critical condition in regard to the political, security and economic situation, The New York Times reported Sunday. The U.S. government report, written before the al-Askari bombing, stands in stark contrast with U.S. officials' public assertions that instability is isolated in a few hot spots.

After an attack on the Buratha mosque in Baghdad last week killed more than 80 Shiites, Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, leader in the Shiite political party Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, accused Sunni leaders of spreading lies about Shiite militias, including allegations that renegade security forces within the Interior Ministry were using the mosque as a torture center.

Since the attack, mourners have gathered daily in the mosque's courtyard. They mourn in front of memorials fashioned from blood-spattered turbans, a burned wheelchair and photographs of men who died in the bombing.

Haji Haider, a spokesman for al-Sagheer, said Sunni leaders are testing the patience of the Shiite masses. "[Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's leading Shiite cleric] has told the people to show restraint, but the Sunni politicians are motivating their people to violent action against the Shiite mosques and neighborhoods," Haider said. "How long will the [Shiite] people show restraint?"

For Raad Taha, a Sunni taxi driver, the civil war began when a Shiite acquaintance from his favorite tea shop falsely accused him of being an insurgent responsible for the car bombing deaths of several Shiites.

Eight armed men from the Mahdi Army stormed Taha's apartment about three weeks ago and dragged him away in front of his wife and three young children. They told his terrified wife that they were only taking him to their office to ask him a few questions and would have him back within an hour.

Instead, they held Taha for more than 24 hours in which they beat him and interrogated him. Then they ran him and his family out of their home.

"The Shiites don't want us to live together [with them]," Taha said. "They've made a war against the Sunnis."

Hopes for unity government

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the civil strife would be eased by the quick formation of a national unity government followed by the disarming of the Shiite militias. But four months after the election of parliament, no government has been formed. Sunnis, Kurds and secular politicians have objected to the Shiite coalition's nominee for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Rival factions within the Shiite coalition have also turned against al-Jaafari, publicly stating that he has become too divisive while privately maneuvering to push their own candidates for the top position.

Meanwhile, the Shiite militias have asserted their will.

Along with the Mahdi Army, there is the Badr Organization, founded in Iran and affiliated with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sunnis accuse both militias of directing much of the sectarian violence that has plagued the country since the Samarra bombing.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said that militias are now a bigger problem than the Sunni-led insurgency. On a recent visit to Baghdad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that solving the militia problem must be the new government's priority.

But from top officials to the lowest street cop, there appears to be no will to disband the militias.

"It's not the time to ask the militias to put down their arms when we cannot properly provide security," said Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Abdul Rahman al-Yusuf, a Sunni. The general said his national police brigade is 87 percent Shiite and includes some members aligned with the Badr Organization. "When the Iraqi army and police can provide security, then we can tell the militias that it is time to stop."

Despite the obstacles, U.S. troops working with the Iraqi interior forces remain optimistic that they can reduce the influence of militias in the force.

"Training and equipping a force, while knowing that at least some element is infiltrated by militias, is a difficult situation," said Capt. Ryan Lawrence, an intelligence officer with the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade Special Police Transition Team. "They are putting themselves at great risk and, overwhelmingly, most of these guys are here for the right reason. The younger [police officers] are eager for training and want to be taught to do it the right way."

Other armed Shiites, however, are not doing it the right way. Taha, the Sunni taxi driver, said he was lucky to be freed by his captors.

He said the Mahdi Army militiamen drove him around the capital for several hours before finally taking him to a house in the militia's bastion of Sadr City, a neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad. There they beat him with wood planks and their fists and feet while screaming at him to confess that he was a Sunni terrorist involved in car bombing plots.

During the pummeling, Taha tried to explain that he is indeed a Sunni but not a terrorist. He lived with his Shiite wife in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bayaa for the past 15 years. He was struggling to make ends meet as a taxi driver but he would never kill anyone for all the money in the world, Taha said he told his captors.

His captors brought in a bottle of bleach and razor blades. They told him that if he didn't confess, they would tear him apart and pour the bleach over his wounds. Taha said he told the Mahdi men that they might be able to get him to confess through torture but none of it would be true.

Taha said his hands were bound and he was forced to lie on his side and his captors turned him toward a wall so he could not see them. One of the militiamen told him they were bringing in a witness who had been secretly monitoring him.

The witness said Taha was regularly traveling to a Sunni neighborhood and meeting with insurgents. How was it possible, the voice implored, that a poor man could purchase a car, implying that he was earning money by working for the insurgency.

"It was a man named Hassan that I knew from the tea shop," Taha said. "I screamed out his name and said, `Why are you telling all these lies?' He knows that I was born on Haifa Street [a famous street that runs through a Sunni neighborhood] and was meeting with my old friends. I only had money for the car because I had sold a piece of land that was distributed by Saddam many years back to all the workers at the phone company where I worked."

Taha said the leader among his captors soon determined that he was telling the truth. The Mahdi men turned their questioning on Hassan and sent Taha home in a hired taxi.

As soon as he walked into his apartment, his cell phone rang. One of his Mahdi Army captors was on the line and told Taha to hand the phone to his wife.

Abductors' apology

"He said to her he was sorry that they kept me longer than one hour as they promised her, and we should tell no one about the incident," said Taha, with tears streaming as he recalled the incident. "When she hung up the phone, I told her that we had to leave [the apartment]."

Taha's wife took the three children and is living with her parents in eastern Baghdad. Taha has been staying at the homes of friends and family in western Baghdad, sleeping on their floors. In fear of the Mahdi Army, he won't stay anywhere for more than a couple of nights.

Other families have fared even worse in their run-ins with militias.

Mohammed al-Jubouri, 40, said two nephews were killed by suspected Mahdi Army members in a matter of days last month.

The first, Essa al-Ani, 20, was riddled with bullets only 500 yards from his family home in western Baghdad on March 17, when men wearing the signature black outfits of the Mahdi Army drove through his neighborhood and randomly emptied gun magazines at pedestrians.

The next day, after al-Ani's funeral, al-Jubouri's nephew Ahmed al-Jubouri asked a cousin to drop him across town at a garage where his car was being repaired. It was the last time he was seen alive.

Mohammed al-Jubouri said he and other relatives combed the police stations and hospitals. Finally, at one police station, an officer said he recalled manning a checkpoint with some Mahdi Army officials who had taken a young man matching Ahmed's description into custody.

Three days after he was last seen, Ahmed al-Jubouri's body was found in the morgue. His corpse, with a bullet wound to the head and markings on his inner thighs that appeared to be caused by an electric drill, had been recovered in a trash heap.

"We need to divide the country into three," Mohammed al-Jubouri said. "We cannot live with these people."

- - -

Violence escalates in wake of mosque bombing

The Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra triggered a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq that some are calling a civil war. However, Bush administration officials disagree with that assessment.


Feb. 22

A bomb destroys the golden dome of al-Askari, one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines, in Samarra. At least 25 Sunni mosques in the city are attacked in retaliation.

Feb. 23

More than 100 people die in sectarian violence triggered by the Samarra bombing. Among those killed are several Sunni imams.

Feb. 25

At least 45 are killed in continuing sectarian violence, including the massacre of 13 members of a Shiite family in Baqouba.

Feb. 26

Mortar shells strike a Shiite area of Baghdad, killing at least 10.

Feb. 28

At least 60 die in Baghdad, most of them killed when five bombs detonate in Shiite neighborhoods.

March 3

Suspected Sunni Arab insurgents kill 10 Shiite factory workers near Baqouba.

March 8

The bodies of 18 Sunni men are found stuffed into an abandoned truck in western Baghdad. Many of the victims show signs of torture.

March 12

Bombings at two markets in Baghdad's heavily Shiite Sadr City

Neighborhood kill at least 58.

March 14

Iraqi police announce the discovery of 87 bodies in Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.

March 17

Nineteen Shiite pilgrims are killed or wounded by bombings and drive-by shootings in Baghdad while traveling to the holy city of Karbala.

March 5

"I do not believe that they're on the verge of civil war."

--Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on NBC's "Meet the Press"

March 13

"I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle, and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come."

--President Bush

March 19

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. ...

If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

--Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, to the BBC

March 21

"We all recognize ... that there's sectarian violence. But the way

I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war. ...

This is a moment where the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart, and they didn't."

--President Bush

April 6

At least 10 are killed in a car bombing at a Shiite cemetery outside the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf.

April 7

Suicide bombers kill more than 80 at the Shiite Buratha mosque in Baghdad.

April 8

"Is there a civil war? Yes, there is an undeclared civil war that has been there for a year or more.

All these bodies that are discovered in Baghdad, the slaughter of pilgrims heading to holy sites, the explosions, the destruction, the attacks against the mosques are all part of this."

--Iraqi Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal

Thursday (April 13)

A Shiite shrine in Baqouba is destroyed by three explosions. A Sunni Arab politician's brother is assassinated in Baghdad.

Sources: Tribune reports, The White House, Associated Press

Chicago Tribune



How the U.S. role in Iraq's war raises troubling legal questions.

- - -

About the reporter

Tribune staff reporter Aamer Madhani has made eight reporting trips to Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, spending more than a year in the country in the process. He has covered the hand-over of sovereignty by the United States, the trial of Saddam Hussein, two national elections and the referendum on the new Iraqi Constitution. He also has covered U.S. troops in the field. Madhani, a native of Forest Park, joined the Tribune in 2001. News - UK - Blair refuses to back Iran strike


Blair refuses to back Iran strike

TONY Blair has told George Bush that Britain cannot offer military support to any strike on Iran, regardless of whether the move wins the backing of the international community, government sources claimed yesterday.

Amid increasing tension over Tehran's attempts to develop a military nuclear capacity, the Prime Minister has laid bare the limits of his support for President Bush, who is believed to be considering an assault on Iran, Foreign Office sources revealed.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling on the United Nations to consider new sanctions against Tehran when the Security Council meets next week to discuss the developing crisis. Blair is expected to support the call for a "Chapter 7" resolution, which could effectively isolate Iran from the international community.

But, in the midst of international opposition to a pre-emptive strike on Tehran, and Britain's military commitments around the world, the government maintains it cannot contribute to a military assault. "We will support the diplomatic moves, at best," a Foreign Office source told Scotland on Sunday. "But we cannot commit our own resources to a military strike."

Meanwhile, a new report on the Iran crisis has warned that neo-conservatives in the Bush administration are on "collision course" with Tehran.

The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), often referred to as Blair's "favourite think-tank", will appeal for a greater effort to find a diplomatic solution in a report to be published later this week. FPC director Stephen Twigg, formerly a Labour minister, explained: "It is essential UK policy on Iran is well informed... We want to engage with the various reformist elements in Iran, both inside and outside the structures of power.

"There is potential for political dialogue, economic ties and cultural contacts to act as catalysts for the strengthening of civil society in Iran."

While the sense of crisis over Iran has been escalated by the fiery rhetoric between Tehran and the West - particularly Washington - many within the British government are now convinced that the impasse can be resolved by repeating the same sort of painstaking diplomatic activity that returned Libya to the international fold.

The approach contrasts sharply with the strategy employed during the run-up to the war in Iraq, when ministers repeatedly issued grim warnings to Saddam Hussein over the consequences of not falling in line with their demands.

"The only long-term solution to Iran's problems is democracy," said Alex Bigham, co-author of the FPC report. "But it cannot be dictated, Iraq-style, or it will backfire. Iran may seem superficially like Iraq but we need to treat Iran more like Libya. Diplomatic engagement must be allowed to run its course. There need to be bigger carrots as well as bigger sticks."

However, the conciliatory language was not reflected in the approach from Washington, where senior figures in the Bush administration remain keen to stress the danger of Tehran's intentions.

In a declaration aimed at America's allies as much as Iran, Rice claimed the Security Council's handling of the Iranian nuclear issue would be a test of the international community's credibility. "If the UN Security Council says: 'You must do these things and we'll assess in 30 days,' and Iran has not only not done those things, but has taken steps that are exactly the opposite of those that are demanded, then the Security Council is going to have to act."

Rice dismissed Iran's declaration that it is only interested in enriching uranium for use in civil nuclear power facilities, saying the international community must remain focused on the potential military applications of this technology.

"The world community does not want them to have that nuclear know-how and that's why nobody wants them to be able to enrich and reprocess on their territory, getting to the place that they can produce what we call a full-scale nuclear plant to be able to do this," she said.

Rice reiterated that President Bush has not taken any option off the table, including a military response, if Iran fails to comply with the demands of the international community.

The Pentagon Preps for Iran

The Pentagon Preps for Iran

The Pentagon Preps for Iran

By William M. Arkin
Sunday, April 16, 2006; B01

Does the United States have a war plan for stopping Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons?

Last week, President Bush dismissed news reports that his administration has been working on contingency plans for war -- particularly talk of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against Tehran -- as "wild speculation." Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld chimed in, calling it "fantasyland." He declared to reporters that "it just isn't useful" to talk about contingency planning.

But the secretary is wrong.

It's important to talk about war planning that's real. And it is for Iran. In early 2003, even as U.S. forces were on the brink of war with Iraq, the Army had already begun conducting an analysis for a full-scale war with Iran. The analysis, called TIRANNT, for "theater Iran near term," was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass de struction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for "major combat operations" against Iran that military sources confirm now exists in draft form.

None of this activity has been disclosed by the U.S. military, and when I wrote about Iran contingency planning last week on The Washington Post Web site, the Pentagon stuck to its dogged position that "we don't discuss war plans." But it should.

The diplomatic effort directed at Iran would be mightily enhanced if that country understood that the United States is so serious about deterring the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons that it would be willing to go to war to stop that quest from reaching fruition.

Iran needs to know -- and even more important, the American public needs to know -- that no matter how many experts talk about difficult-to-find targets or the catastrophe that could unfold if war comes, military planners are already working hard to minimize the risks of any military operation. This is the very essence of contingency planning.

I've been tracking U.S. war planning, maintaining friends and contacts in that closed world, for more than 20 years. My one regret in writing about this secret subject, especially because the government always claims that revealing anything could harm U.S. forces, is not delving deeply enough into the details of the war plan for Iraq. Now, with Iran, it's once again difficult but essential to piece together the facts.

Here's what we know now. Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change.

The core TIRANNT effort began in May 2003, when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran. TIRANNT has since been updated using post-Iraq war information on the performance of U.S. forces. Meanwhile, Air Force planners have modeled attacks against existing Iranian air defenses and targets, while Navy planners have evaluated coastal defenses and drawn up scenarios for keeping control of the Strait of Hormuz at the base of the Persian Gulf.

A follow-on TIRANNT Campaign Analysis, which began in October 2003, calculated the results of different scenarios for action against Iran to provide options for analyzing courses of action in an updated Iran war plan. According to military sources close to the planning process, this task was given to Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, now commander of CENTCOM, in 2002.

The Marines, meanwhile, have not only been involved in CENTCOM's war planning, but have been focused on their own specialty, "forcible entry." In April 2003, the Corps published its "Concept of Operations" for a maneuver against a mock country that explores the possibility of moving forces from ship to shore against a determined enemy without establishing a beachhead first. Though the Marine Corps enemy is described only as a deeply religious revolutionary country named Karona, it is -- with its Revolutionary Guards, WMD and oil wealth -- unmistakably meant to be Iran.

Various scenarios involving Iran's missile force have also been examined in another study, initiated in 2004 and known as BMD-I (ballistic missile defense -- Iran). In this study, the Center for Army Analysis modeled the performance of U.S. and Iranian weapons systems to determine the number of Iranian missiles expected to leak through a coalition defense.

The day-to-day planning for dealing with Iran's missile force falls to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha. In June 2004, Rumsfeld alerted the command to be prepared to implement CONPLAN 8022, a global strike plan that includes Iran. CONPLAN 8022 calls for bombers and missiles to be able to act within 12 hours of a presidential order. The new task force, sources have told me, mostly worries that if it were called upon to deliver "prompt" global strikes against certain targets in Iran under some emergency circumstances, the president might have to be told that the only option is a nuclear one.

Contingency planning for a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack, let alone full-fledged war, against Iran may seem incredible right now. But in the secretive world of military commands and war planners, it is an everyday and unfortunate reality. Iran needs to understand that the United States isn't hamstrung by a lack of options. It needs to realize that it can't just stonewall and evade its international obligations, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes that it will "win" merely because war is messy.

On the surface, Iran controls the two basic triggers that could set off U.S. military action. The first would be its acquisition of nuclear capability in defiance of the international community. Despite last week's bluster from Tehran, the country is still years away from a nuclear weapon, let alone a workable one. We may have a global strike war plan oriented toward attacking countries with weapons of mass destruction, but that plan is also focused on North Korea, China and presumably Russia. The Bush administration is not going to wait for a nuclear attack. The United States is now a first-strike nation.

The second trigger would be Iran's lashing out militarily (or through proxy terrorism) at the United States or its allies, or closing the Strait of Hormuz to international oil traffic. Sources say that CENTCOM and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have developed "flexible deterrent options" in case Iran were to take such actions.

One might ask how these options could have any deterrent effect when the government won't talk about them. This is another reason why Rumsfeld should acknowledge that the United States is preparing war plans for Iran -- and that this is not just routine. It is specifically a response to that country's illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, its meddling in Iraq and its support for international terrorism.

Iran needs to know that the administration is dead serious. But we all need to know that even absent an Iranian nuke or an Iranian attack of any kind, there is still another catastrophic scenario that could lead to war.

In a world of ready war plans and post-9/11 jitters, there is an ever greater demand for intelligence on the enemy. That means ever greater risks taken in collecting that intelligence. Meanwhile, war plans demand that forces be ready in certain places and on alert, while the potential for WMD necessitates shorter and shorter lead times for strikes against an enemy. So the greater danger now is of an inadvertent conflict, caused by something like the shooting down of a U.S. spy plane, by the capturing of a Special Operations or CIA team, or by nervous U.S. and Iranian forces coming into contact and starting to shoot at one another.

The war planning process is hardly neutral. It has subtle effects. As militaries stage mock attacks, potential adversaries become presumed enemies. Over time, contingency planning transforms yesterday's question marks into today's seeming certainty.

William M. Arkin writes the Early Warning blog for and is the author of "Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World" (Steerforth Press).
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

US Colonel Apologizes to Iraq for Devastation of Babylon


By Rupert Cornwell
The Independent UK

Saturday 15 April 2006

In an act of at least partial contrition, an officer in charge of the US military occupation of Babylon in 2003 and 2004 has offered to make a formal apology for the destruction his troops wrought on the ancient site.

Colonel John Coleman, former chief of staff for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, said yesterday that if the head of the Iraqi antiquities board wanted an apology, "if it makes him feel good, we can certainly give him one".

For more than a millennium, Babylon was one of the great cities of antiquity. It reached its greatest glory in the early 6th century BC, as the capital of Nebuchadnezzar II, builder of the celebrated Hanging Gardens.

Babylon declined and fell into ruin after it was conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in around 538BC. But no devastation seems to have matched that inflicted by US troops and their Polish allies after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam himself had not helped. He had much of the ancient site rebuilt and developed as a tourist site as part of efforts to portray himself as Nebuchadnezzar's modern successor and turn Mesopotamia once more into a regional superpower. He built a contemporary ziggurat-shaped palace nearby and carved out an underground car park among archeological deposits.

But after entering Babylon in April 2003, coalition forces turned the site into a base camp, flattening and compressing tracts of ruins as they built a helicopter pad and fuel stations. The soldiers filled sandbags with archeological fragments and dug trenches through unexcavated areas, while tanks crushed slabs of original 2,600-year-old paving.

"All of these things have combined to do a lot of damage to what is one of the most important, sensitive archeological sites in the whole world," John Curtis, curator of the British Museum's Near East department, said last year.

Col Coleman's repentance was qualified. "If it wasn't for our presence," he told the BBC, "what would the state of those archeological ruins be?" - a repeat of the US claim that had its forces not occupied ancient Babylon, the site would have been laid waste by looters.

"Is there a price for the presence? Sure there is," he declared. "I'll just say that the price, had the presence not been there, would have been far greater."

After US and Polish troops left in 2004, the first restoration plans for Babylon were drawn up. Last November Unesco, the United Nations' cultural and scientific organisation, said it would be carrying out some initial repair work, and setting up a photographic registry of the site.

The work, in which France, Britain, Poland, the US, Iraq, Japan, Italy and the Netherlands are also involved, is being co-ordinated by the German Archaeological Institute, under the direction of the Iraqi authorities and Unesco.

But Babylon is not the only point of archaeological controversy in a country with an estimated 10,000 sites. In a separate complaint, the Iraqi Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities has demanded that US troops pull out of the city of Kish, which dates back 5,000 years, accusing American forces of damaging the precious archaeological site.

It accused the soldiers of preventing anyone from entering the city to assess damage. There has been no comment from the US military.

At least six Iraqi policeman died and up to 39 others were missing yesterday after insurgents ambushed a police convoy near a US base, officials said. Separately, a suicide car bomber outside Basra wounded four British soldiers at the Shuaiba military base, and killed at least one civilian.

Archaeological Cost of Invasion

* US Marines from the First Expeditionary Force first set up camp in Babylon in April 2003

* Soldiers filled protective sandbags with sand containing ancient artefacts

* 2,600-year-old pavements were crushed by heavy military vehicles

* Landing helicopters caused structural damage to some of the city's ancient buildings and sandblasted fragile bricks in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar

* Archaeologists say gravel brought in to build car parks and helipads has contaminated key sites

* US troops have also been accused of causing damage to the 5,000-year-old city of Kish by the Iraqi Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities


The Big Wink


"Advance and be recognized!" the recruit on sentry duty calls out when he hears somebody approaching. "Sergeant Johns!" comes the answer.

"Advance and be recognized!" the sentry calls again. "I told you already, I'm Sergeant Johns!" comes the answer.

"Advance and be recognized!" the sentry calls for the third time. "What do you think you are doing, you idiot!" the sergeant shouts.

"Those are my orders," the recruit replies, "To call 'advance and be recognized' three times and then to shoot."

This is an old British army joke. It also happens to be the program of the government that is being formed in Israel.

Every Israeli government must have "Basic Guidelines". True, they are not binding. All our governments have violated their Basic Guidelines on many occasions. But tradition and good manners demand that there be Basic Guidelines and that they be put on the table of the Knesset, together with the coalition agreements that set out the division of the spoils, the really important bit.

The true aim of the Basic Guidelines is to attract those whom the Prime Minister wants to have in his government, and to repel all others.

A true leader will want to set up a coalition that will enable him to realize his vision. But a Prime Minister who is a politician--and nothing but a politician--is simply interested in a coalition that makes life easier for himself.

Ehud Olmert is of the second kind. He wants to lie in the middle of the bed, between a rightist partner and a leftist one, preferably of roughly equal size. That will provide him with a stable government. When promoting a "leftist" cause, his party's ministers, together with the leftist ministers, will have a majority in the cabinet without their rightist colleagues; when promoting a "rightist' agenda, he will have a majority without the leftists. Simple logic.

At present, it's an easy matter. The leftist partner will be Labor (probably with 6 ministers), the rightist will be composed of Shas, the Orthodox and the Lieberman party (probably 7 ministers together). The Pensioners (probably 2 ministers) will be in the middle. The Kadima ministers (probably 10) will always be able to construct a majority for the government, sometimes with the rightists, sometimes with the leftists. Olmert hopes that this will make life easy for him for the entire period of the new Knesset, until November 2010.

The Basic Guidelines will reflect this goal. They must make it possible for Amir Peretz, Eli Yishai and Avigdor Liebermann to join a government that will include real leftists, extreme religious fundamentalists and complete fascists.

Even the prophet Isaiah did not dare to dream of that. His ambitions were satisfied by the wolf lying down with the lamb.

Isaiah knew that this vision could come true only after the appearance of the Messiah. Olmert, far from being a Messiah, is only a clever politician. He has to do without divine intervention.

Lieberman wants Israel to be free of Arabs--Araber-rein in German. For this end he is ready to relinquish whole areas of Israel which are inhabited by Arab citizens, annexing, in return, large stretches of the West Bank. Amir Peretz, in contrast, wants to accord full equality to Israel's Arab citizens. Peretz wants to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian authority, Lieberman wants to destroy it. The Orthodox demand that the state pay forever for the upkeep of tens of thousands of Yeshiva (religious seminary) students, who do not want to work at all. Labor wants to raise the wages of productive workers. And so on, infinitely. And Olmert himself wants, of course, to realize his "Convergence Plan", which means that Israel will "unilaterally" fix its "permanent borders", without agreement and partnership with the Palestinians.

What to do? One has to stitch together Basic Guidelines that everyone can agree to. Impossible? On the contrary. Nothing easier. One needs only a good Jewish lawyer--and we have plenty of these.

In the Basic Guidelines, no mention of the "Convergence Plan" will be made, neither will the word "unilaterally" occur. They will say only that the government will act according to the speech made by Olmert after the closing of the ballots on election day. That is supposed to satisfy everyone.

* * *

There are now three camps in Israel:

(a) Those who want real negotiations with the Palestinians in order to realize the Two-States solution.

(b) Those who want a "unilateral" withdrawal, with the intent of annexing parts of the West Bank and leaving what's left to the Palestinians, after removing any settlements there.

(c) Those who oppose such a "unilateral" withdrawal, under the pretext that it "gives" the Palestinians territories without getting anything in return. That doesn't mean that they actually want to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but, on the contrary, that they want to avoid giving up any territory at all.

Amir Peretz belongs to the first camp, Olmert to the second, Lieberman and Shas to the third. The Basic Guidelines must satisfy them all.

How? The answer lies in the British joke.

The Basic Guidelines will say that first of all, Israel will call upon the Palestinians to make peace based on the Two-State Solution. Only after it becomes clear that there is no partner for such a peace, will Israel take its fate in its own hands (meaning: fix its borders unilaterally). In his election day speech, Olmert addressed Mahmoud Abbas directly, with resounding pathos, offering to start peace negotiations.

(That reminds me of something: After the 1956 war, a friend of mine interrogated a high-ranking Egyptian prisoner, who told him that they used to listen to David Ben-Gurion's speeches on the radio. Every time Ben-Gurion announced that "We are stretching out our hands for peace", the Egyptians put their forces on high alert. In a way, it's an Israeli inversion of the Roman proverb si vis pacem, para bellum--if you want peace, prepare for war.)

Olmert's offer to Mahmoud Abbas is accompanied with a huge wink for the Israeli public. Everybody understands that this is a phase we have to pass through before coming to the real thing. It is a multi-purpose maneuver: to provide Peretz with a fig-leaf when he is asked to support unilateral steps, to satisfy the Americans when they are requested to agree to the annexation of large parts of the West Bank, and also to give Lieberman and Shas a year or two to enjoy themselves in the government, before Olmert starts implementing the Convergence Plan (if that ever happens).

Notice: Nobody, but absolutely nobody, is discussing the offer to Mahmoud Abbas, while everybody is talking about the annexation that will come afterwards.

Like that British sentry: Call once, twice, a third time--and then shoot.

* * *

Still, there remains the question: how can Amir Peretz and his colleagues sit in the government together with a person like Lieberman?

Lieberman is a man of the extreme-extreme Right. He could give lessons to Jean-Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider. He is the sole leader of his party, his talk is violent and brutal, his message racist. He openly proclaims that his aim is to get all the Arab citizens out of Israel.

Before the elections, Peretz promised that he would not sit in the government with Lieberman. Since then two things have happened:

First, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, invited Lieberman to a well-publicized breakfast at his home, consuming (according to the gleeful reporters) "juicy herrings" and enthusiastically lauding Lieberman's personal qualities. In this way he accorded legitimization to this person, who until then was considered beyond the political pale.

Then, after the elections, an even more disgraceful thing happened. Peretz' people declared that he, not Olmert, was going to head the next government. It was to be a "social coalition", without Kadima. Simple arithmetic shows that such a coalition must include not only Shas, but also the National Union, the settlers' party that competes with Lieberman in racism. This ploy conferred legitimacy on the entire racist right. If extremists like Benny Eilon and Effi Eitam are kosher, why not Lieberman?

How could this happen to Peretz? It was clearly a hasty reaction to the behavior of Kadima. Immediately after the elections, Olmert should have called Peretz and proclaimed him his favored partner. Instead, Olmert's people started to humiliate Peretz and declare him unfit for the post of Minister of Finance, which he craved. Furious, Peretz started the move in order to get back at Olmert and frighten him. Understandable, but unforgivable. It was a personal response, and one which has caused huge damage. It has legitimized Lieberman as a candidate for membership in the government. It has also infuriated the Arab citizens and created the impression that Peretz may not be such a staunch fighter for peace after all.

All this is worrisome. True, the next government could hardly be worse than the Likud government. The question is whether it will be much better. But surely it will be adept at winking in all directions.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at:

The Ghost of Shinseki--The General Who Was Sent Out to Pasture for Being Right


Close to three years have passed since he last roamed the corridors of the Pentagon's inner ring, but remnants of his leadership style and philosophy--standing up for what you believe in--can still be found in the military culture. Arguably, this trait should be present in all military leaders; however, as of late it appears to be in short supply.

In 2003, he bucked the trend of 'yes-men' and offered his own candid assessment of what was needed in Iraq. His prophetic predictions about Iraq were unfortunately ignored and now haunt those responsible for planning and executing the war.

If not for his disagreement with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he probably would have been relegated to a mere footnote in history, not that his career was unremarkable. Quite the contrary, anyone who rises to the rank of Army Chief of Staff has been truly a remarkable soldier, especially if you are the first Japanese-American to achieve this feat and have overcome a serious physical injury (while serving in Vietnam he lost a foot stepping on a land mine).

However, his dust-up with Rumsfeld is what most remember. While lacking the cinematic flair and drama associated with the Truman-McArthur firing, it rested on the same basic premise--civilian control of the military. Where McArthur was relieved for aggressively pushing the expansion of the Korean War, Shinseki was eased out early for not pushing the Iraq War aggressively enough.

As most will recall, Shinseki was one of the few, if not the only high ranking active duty military leader in 2003 to challenge the Department of Defense's assessment of Iraq. Knowing that the Army would be responsible for the brunt of any warfighting or peacekeeping, he questioned the proposed troop levels. In testimony before Congress, he stated that the Iraq operation would require "several hundred thousand troops."

Despite incurring the wrath of the civilian neocons, Shinseki never withdrew his statement and instead replied that "he responded with his best military judgment." Presumably, one based on 38 years of Active Military service to include a stint as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. In Bosnia, where Shinseki served as Commander of the Stabilization Force, NATO used 50,000 service members to police a population of 5 million people. Iraq's population in 2003 was over 26 million people.

Never one to willingly accept criticism, Rumsfeld responded to Shinseki's congressional testimony by saying that "the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces . . . is far off the mark." Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz went on to say that those numbers are "wildly off the mark," and offered the following reasons why:

(1) no history of ethnic strife in Iraq;

(2) Americans would be welcomed as liberators; and

(3) countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction.

Wolfowitz, wrong on all three points, was eventually promoted to the World Bank. Meanwhile, Shinseki was sent out to pasture early with the premature announcement of his replacement.

Had the President's May 1, 2003 mission accomplished statement been accurate, the falling out between Shinseki and his civilian bosses would have pretty much gone unnoticed. However, the mission wasn't accomplished. Iraq is worse off and continues along a path to Civil War. More and more questions are being raised about the war's execution and planning both inside and outside of the military.

Recently, several senior military officers have called for Rumsfeld's resignation. General Anthony Zinni, who previously led the Central Command, said that Rumsfeld and others should step down for their mistakes in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold expressed concern about Rumsfeld's influence on war planning, in particular his emphasis on assigning fewer troops to the invasion--echoing the 2003 sentiments of Shinseki. Maj. Gen. Batiste believes that by placing too few forces in the war zone, Rumsfeld helped create the Abu Grahib abuse scandal--putting too much responsibility on incompetent officers and undertrained troops.

While maybe not the panacea for this ill conceived modern-day Madison's War, it is now painfully obvious that more initial troops would have at the minimum: (1) increased stability in the fledgling government; (2) decreased looting; (3) diminished destruction of valuable infrastructure; and (4) lessoned the likelihood that militant clerics would fill the power vacuum left by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Clearly, all of Shinseki's ideas and decisions as Chief of Staff were not as prescient or on point as his prediction about Iraq. The jury is still out on the berets and the Crusader artillery system was not worth saving, despite his claims to the contrary. Nor is it accurate to say that Rumsfeld has failed in his duties as Secretary of Defense, few can argue with his skill in transforming and modernizing the military. However, on the biggest issue facing the military and the country Shinseki, not Rumsfeld, was right on the money.

Thaddeus Hoffmeister was an Active Duty Captain in the Army when General Shinseki was the Army Chief of Staff.

Exporting 'Democracy' – Importing Trouble- by Justin Raimondo


Exporting 'Democracy' – Importing Trouble
Why we ought to mind our own business
by Justin Raimondo

Editor's note: The following is the text of a speech delivered to the Yale Political Union on April 13. On this occasion, the Union debated the topic: "Resolved: America should not use force to export democracy."

I have to say, it's rather odd to be debating this point at such a late date. With Iraq falling to pieces in front of our eyes, with the death squads of the American-installed Shi'ite regime roaming the streets of Baghdad kidnapping and slaughtering their enemies, with the corrupt kleptocracy we helped install in Kurdistan imprisoning writers for criticizing the authorities – in the face of all this evidence, is the question even debatable?

Just as the claims of phrenology are no longer taken seriously by scientists or the thinking public, so the claims of the democracy-exporters ought to be thrown in the trash bin, along with the bones of "Piltdown Man." Why debate a theory, when the evidence of its complete failure is all around us?

"Democracy" is what the neoconservative ideologues who lied us into war talk about when they want to divert attention away from their real motives. The only question now is: what were their real motives? But we'll get to that later. Meanwhile, let us go back in a time machine and pretend, for a moment, that the idea of exporting democracy by force has not already been totally discredited. Let us take it seriously, if only for the sake of argument, and examine just why it never made sense to begin with.

The proposition breaks down into basically two issues:

(1) Is it possible? And (2) is it desirable?

I will focus, here, on the first question, because I assume I am not speaking to a libertarian audience. If I were speaking to such an audience, I would assume the absolute undesirability of democracy as an axiom, since libertarians, of course – believing as they do in a system of absolute private property rights and individual liberty – oppose democracy in all its forms. This axiom, however, is not shared by most of you, and I shall spare you a long lecture on the utter incompatibility of liberty and democracy, which, aside from its necessary length, would not be half as interesting as a discussion of how and why the neocons' democracy project failed, and had to fail.

It is more interesting, at least to me, because it demonstrates important philosophical differences between the neoconservatives and an earlier generation of Old Right conservatives who are appalled at the hubris of our foreign policy. The shared perspective of libertarians and conservatives on how societies work – or don't work – suggests the impossibility of treating political culture like a suit of clothing that can be worn by anyone – and even forcibly imposed – rather than a mindset that has to be, in large part, inherited.

The neoconservative foreign policy project – succinctly summed up by the president as the goal of "ending tyranny in our world" – is closer, in theory and in practice, to the spirit of Marxism than to anything vaguely resembling conservatism, or, indeed, any ideology born on American soil. That is entirely appropriate, of course, since the leftist roots of neoconservatism are well known, and it is clear that, as much as they talk about patriotism and "pro-Americanism," their real roots spring from a bulb planted not by Jefferson, but by Trotsky.

Libertarians and Old Right conservatives are also brought together by a common analysis of the potential economic consequences of a system of "benevolent global hegemony," as Bill Kristol characterizes the democratist ideal. The policy of exporting "democracy" by force overestimates the available resources we can devote to what is, by definition, a Sisyphean task. Empires are a losing proposition: as the now-forgotten Old Right author and polemicist Garet Garrett once pointed out, the American Empire represents a peculiar and historically unique form of imperialism, one in which "everything goes out, and nothing comes in." Unlike most empires of the past, which sought to extract wealth in the form of tribute from subject provinces, we pour money and resources into our conquests, a project that goes under the general rubric of "nation-building." And all of this, you can be sure, costs a pretty penny: playing God doesn't come cheap.

The cost of George W. Bush's global democratization project – $300 billion so far, and slated to surpass the $1 trillion mark before it's over – is so out of proportion to its possible benefits that it is hard to see how it could be justified on any terms. One is hard pressed to imagine how anyone who calls himself or herself a conservative could possibly endorse it. And yet this hardly begins to exhaust the myriad ways in which the neoconservative foreign policy project violates every known precept of conservatism.

The imperial project is the road to bankruptcy, not only financially but also in every other sense. It overestimates the available resources we can reasonably devote to the task, just as it underestimates the danger posed to the maintenance of our own liberal democracy here at home.

The central paradox of the democracy-exportation scheme is that as we ramp up attempts to spread our system to the far corners of the globe, we subvert the foundations of the constitutional order right here on the home front. War, as Randolph Bourne memorably put it, is the health of the state. The growth of state power always and inevitably makes a "great leap forward" as we prepare for the conflict. A state of perpetual war – in a struggle that will take, as the president avers, a full generation – means the exponential growth of government beyond anything we have experienced. We aren't just talking about "Big Government," as the conservatives like to term it: we are talking about humongous government. It's no accident, as the Marxists liked to say, that this supposedly "conservative" regime is claiming the power to read our e-mails and listen in on our phone conversations, and sees the president as having powers equivalent to a king. The absurdity of expanding state power in America while purporting to shrink it in, say, Iraq and Afghanistan, should be obvious – except, of course, to those who today call themselves "conservatives," and are anything but.

Another obvious point – at least, one that ought to be obvious to self-described "conservatives" – is that the cultural basis of democratic liberalism cannot be created overnight. As the neoconservative defector and former Iraq war cheerleader Francis Fukuyama has pointed out, the neoconservative hostility to government social-engineering projects on American soil somehow got lost in the rush to invade Iraq and transform the Middle East.

A core conservative principle is that culture reigns supreme: all efforts to override long-entrenched customs and mores by government fiat are bound to fail. This is as true in the Middle East as it is in Appalachia, and yet the neocons, who started out as critics of the "Great Society" projects of the 1960s, are now surpassing the Left in the naked ambition of their world-transforming foreign policy prescriptions. Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan want to achieve "benevolent global hegemony" – when we can't even assert hegemony over our own borders, or New Orleans at flood tide. We must protect the "government" of the Shi'ite theocracy in Baghdad when we can't even assure our own people that they are reasonably safe from a repeat of 9/11.

I trust you'll forgive me if I keep going back to Garet Garrett, a now largely unknown writer whose career as a writer spanned nearly the entire arc of American development, and two world wars – from the lighthearted days of the so-called New Era, in the 1920s, through the darkest days of the 1930s, to the first frost of the Cold War years. In 1951, as he surveyed the rise of an American Empire, he wrote a paragraph at the end of one of his last polemics that is so prescient, so on target, that it seems to mock us down through the years:

"How now, thou American, frustrated crusader, do you know where you are?

"Is it security you want? There is no security at the top of the world.

"To thine own self a liberator, to the world an alarming portent, do you know where you are going from here?"

That was written at the very moment the Cold War began to cast its long shadow over the world, and yet, today, it rings truer than ever. It could have been written yesterday. The only difference being that now we know there is no security at the top of the world – indeed, there is much less than in Garrett's day.

Good old Garrett. An early editor of the New York Times, a prolific novelist, and an editorial writer for the Saturday Evening Post, he saw what was coming, and tried to warn against it: he was defeated by his own obscurity, and by a conservative movement that was already morphing into a militaristic cult, under the leadership of the editorial staff of National Review and the Goldwater Right.

Like Cassandra, his clear-eyed vision of the future was fated to be met with universal skepticism and even disdain. Today, Garrett's writings – in 1956, fairly representative of conservative thinking – must seem positively subversive to "movement" conservatives, and certainly "anti-American" – the favorite epithet of the Rush Limbaughs, the Anne Coulters, the David Frums of today's lobotomized conservative movement. Large portions of the movement's brain – including especially those parts related to memory and self-concept – have been removed, and something else implanted. Here is not the place to analyze just what is going on there; suffice to say that Lew Rockwell of the Mises Institute calls it "red-state fascism," a characterization that neatly sums up the program and origins of neoconservatism in power.

The irony of a "conservative" regime that offers us Big Government at home and perpetual war abroad has been noted by more than a few. A number of conservative and libertarian writers have made the point that imperialism corrupts our political system, distorts the constitutional balance of power in favor of the imperial presidency, and otherwise intrudes on the constitutional protections that are the core of our system. And yet there is a deeper level of corruption that has set in here, a cultural decadence that is not just a question of personal mores and values, but one that permeates every aspect of American life.

The ancient Greeks rightly thought hubris a great sin, one always swiftly and cruelly punished by the gods, and yet this is the spirit that animates our rulers and energizes our elites. Since these people set the tone for the culture, their conceit and overweening arrogance trickles down, as it were, into popular culture, where it is absorbed and reflected in the cruelty and vulgarity of everyday life. Even the capacity for pleasure becomes coarsened, so that only the most extreme stimulation – shocking violence, outrageous ostentation, an exaggerated self-regard bordering on self-parody – has the power to move us. It may seem a bit of a stretch to attribute this to American foreign policy, and yet Empire is a mindset as well as a political and economic system. It has a certain way of looking at the world, a perspective unique to itself, and this generates a cultural ethos that shapes everything from late night television to the doctrine of preemptive war. The shopkeepers, artisans, and yeoman farmers of a Jeffersonian republic see the world very differently than the world-weary courtiers of an Imperial Court and their degraded and discontented plebeians. The stern republican virtues of patriotism and parsimony have given way to the extravagant corruption of the New Rome, and the public, immersed in their own private corruption, view it all with a cynical tolerance. In the general atmosphere of moral laxity, the seeds of corruption germinate quickly and in such luxuriant abundance that the effect is overwhelming. The old culture is swept away in no time, and the results aren't pretty to behold.

The cultural consequences of imperialism are all around us, some of them obvious – like the number of disabled vets begging in the streets, so zonked out on drugs and the memory of combat that they cannot care for themselves – and some of them less so. One heretofore unnoticed effect is the immigration crisis, which Congress is now wrestling with. Now, it makes perfect sense that a global empire – especially one committed to "democracy" – should have open borders. Imperial Rome conferred citizenship on its conquered subjects, with all the rights and privileges that entailed, and one wonders how America – which the neocons like to call an "empire of liberty" – can do less. So to those conservatives who are now saying that it's time to close the borders and crack down on immigration, one has to ask: how will you do it? How will you prevent the subjects of the Empire from aspiring to live in the imperial metropolis? How will you rule them and then turn them back?

Another paradox of Empire is that our best efforts to transform the culture of foreign peoples will result in our own transformation. We can have an Empire, or we can have secure borders: we cannot have both. This is one aspect of the foreign policy debate that most conservatives have not thought through. Do they want a multicultural empire with porous borders, or will they try to preserve the last remnants of their old, relatively homogenous republic? We will see.

There is another sense in which the paradox of American power works against the ambitions of "democratic" imperialism. A military campaign to impose democracy at gunpoint would undermine the very democratic forces we claim to support. By tying these forces to U.S. foreign policy and making them, in effect, elements of a "Democratic International" under Washington's leadership, we provoke a nationalist response and marginalize the proponents of liberalism.

If we look at the Soviet model – of a Communist International made up of servile national Communist parties in every country, which served as the Russian foreign ministry's amen corner – we can see that it pretty closely approximates how what George Bush calls his "global democratic revolution" operates. American commissars impose a party line on their local clients, as in the case of Iraq's prospective prime minister. If the American ambassador nixes his nomination to the post, Jaafari is out. And this, mind you, is being done in the name of exporting "democracy"! It sounds like something the Stalinists might have done in Eastern Europe 60 years ago: instead, it is happening in the American-occupied Middle East.

The tragedy of American foreign policy is that it lures and sucks in many of the most genuine advocates of freedom, who take the ideology of democratic imperialism seriously and at face value. They look to the U.S. government and those on its payroll for real leadership in the fight to free their own societies from the yoke of tyranny and the weight of centuries. The price of their allegiance is to be characterized – rightly, in many cases – as quislings, stand-ins for the Americans, who prop up their front men with money as well as force of arms. In Iraq, for example, nationalist opposition to the occupation is channeled into radical anti-liberal currents, such as the Sadrists. The process is similar to what is occurring on a worldwide scale, as American aggression swells the ranks of terrorist groupings, such as al-Qaeda.

The final paradox of American power, the one that piles irony on top of tragedy, is that it strengthens our enemies, and boomerangs. Speaking of the Palestinian insurgency, the military historian Martin van Creveld generalized the lesson that should have been learned by the Israelis but wasn't:

"Basically it's always a question of the relationship of forces. If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself. If you behave like a coward then you are going to become cowardly – it's only a question of time. The same happened to the British when they were here … the same happened to the French in Algeria … the same happened to the Americans in Vietnam … the same happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan … the same happened to so many people that I can't even count them."

And, as we see, the same thing is happening to the Americans in Iraq, where, he accurately predicted, the occupiers would be run out by jeering "liberated" Iraqis.

How, at this point, anyone can continue to have faith in the Bush Doctrine and its neoconservative version of "liberation theology" is a testament to the blinding power of ideology to sustain an illusion indefinitely, against all evidence and in the face of much suffering and bloodshed. Even the recanters, such as Fukuyama and Andrew Sullivan, refuse to take much responsibility for their advocacy of a futile crusade. The former never mentions the subject of personal responsibility, after having signed one of the earliest letters calling for an invasion. And while the latter admits he feels "shame," there is no humility accompanying his admission, no acknowledgment that the invasion and occupation are wrong in principle, and that the problems we've encountered are not due to imperfect implementation.

The inherent problems of a campaign to export democracy, either at gunpoint or by any other governmental means, are manifold, and yet one that has only recently begun to be discussed is particularly relevant to our present situation. If we look at what U.S. policy has actually wrought, rather than the abstract pronouncements of intent, we can see that "democracy" of any recognizable sort – recognizable, that is, to Americans – has absolutely nothing to do with our foreign policy. In Iraq, we have installed a Shi'ite theocracy that lionizes the late Ayatollah Khomeini and looks to Iran as a model for the region. Throughout the Gulf emirates, we have allied ourselves with tyrants, and in North Africa, too, we are backing the killers – in Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Pakistan. So what game are we playing? What's the objective behind the "democratic" rhetoric, which only a fool, an opportunist on the make – or a very desperate man – would take at face value?

The idea that we are trying to "drain the swamp" where terrorism breeds by injecting a healthy dose of democratic chlorine to cleanse the place of totalitarian vermin does not pass the empirical test, because the exact opposite is happening. In response to U.S. military intervention, the vermin are multiplying far beyond the numbers they would normally achieve. We are Osama bin Laden's best recruiting agents: as Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst and author of the best-selling Imperial Hubris, put it, we are al-Qaeda's "one indispensable ally."

Assuming, for the moment, that al-Qaeda has not successfully infiltrated the Bush administration and bent American foreign policy to bin Laden's nefarious purposes, we have to ask: why? Why is U.S. policy, not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East, in such obvious contravention to America's actual interests?

Two scholars who have recently asked this question have come up with a controversial, albeit incontrovertible, answer: the pro-Israel lobby, which has worked tirelessly and with remarkable success to shape American foreign policy as if Israeli and American interests were identical – which they are not. As John Mearsheimer, the noted "realist" professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a now-famous "working paper" for the Kennedy School:

"The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?"

Answer: The Lobby. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), now embroiled in a spy case, is rated the second heaviest hitter in the world of Washington lobbyists, second only to the AARP but ahead of the powerful gun lobby. Israel garners more foreign aid from the U.S. than any other recipient, and, what's more, enjoys near unconditional political and military support from the U.S., in return for – nothing. Instead, they sell arms to the Chinese, spy on us, and otherwise thumb their noses at all attempts to rein them in and effect some kind of peaceful compromise in the occupied territories.

Rather than follow the conventional wisdom, both left and right, and ascribe American behavior in the region exclusively or even primarily to the desire to control the oil fields, Mearsheimer and Walt point to the influence of the Lobby in making sure American policy serves Israeli interests. Indeed, in their view, the entire democracy-building project functions as little more than a bulldozing expedition designed to level as many Arab regimes in the Middle East as possible. In this view, the war in Iraq is part of a larger region-wide campaign to make the Middle East safe for Israel.

The authors of the Kennedy School paper trace the by now familiar genealogy of the neoconservative ascension to power, and detail how the neocons – devoted to Israel as a matter of high principle – honeycombed the present administration, taking key positions and insinuating themselves into the councils of state, particularly in the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President. The all-pervasive influence of the Lobby does much to explain the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the post-9/11 era, and this dominance, in order to be effective, had to be masked, at least somewhat.

Which leads us to another reason why the export of democracy is a bad policy, which does not serve our real interests: It lends itself too easily to manipulation by special interest groups with an agenda. Just as millions of immigrants will move to the imperial metropolis to seek their fortunes, so their governments won't be far behind: the same was true of Rome, which sent supplicants to petition the Emperor and arbitrate local disputes in favor of one or another of the disputants. Rhodes lobbied against Cappadocia, while Rome's allies took up the cause of civilizing the barbarians from Germany to Central Asia, in return for special privileges and payoffs. Eventually, barbarian mercenaries patrolled the frontiers of the Roman Empire, in place of Roman legionnaires, and, one day, they marched on Rome and sacked the place. Whether that is our destiny, too, remains purely speculative, of course – but the many uses of an imperialistic policy to various foreign lobbies ought to be fairly obvious.

The idea that the U.S. can or should impose its own system – or a local version of it, adapted to regional realities – is a dangerous fantasy dressed up to look like a policy, a snare and a delusion. It pretends to be a doctrine of the most exalted idealism, when, in reality, it masks the most venal motives, nearly all of them hidden, aside from being designed to enrich its advocates. It is no accident that the War Party's most outspoken champions, such as Richard Perle, stood to personally profit from the interventionist policies they fought for and defended. Follow the money is a reliable rule of thumb as far as these things go, and the democracy-promotion business is certainly no exception.

But that's just the gravy: the main course is regime change for its own sake, as a pure expression of American power. Whether it is done directly, by the exertions of the U.S. military, or indirectly, via such propaganda outfits as the National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. government agencies, the goal is the same: projecting American hegemony beyond its present frontiers, until all possible rivals are eliminated. A de facto global state, enforcing what the internationalists call a "new world order," as George Bush Sr. once put it, is the ultimate goal of our rulers. That this represents a threat to American patriots, as well as to the patriots of every other nation on earth, is a realization that may dawn too late on conservatives in the U.S. – but better late than never.

In gaining the whole world, will we lose our souls in the process, along with our national identity? This is the greatest danger of our present foreign policy, one that lies behind all the other questions and objections to interventionism. The temptation of Empire may prove irresistible to our elites, who are, in any event, too drunk with power and their own self-importance to care about the long-term consequences of their policies, and in no position to lead us out of our present crisis. We will, in the end, be struck down by our own hubris: pride, as the old saw put it, goeth before a fall. They can't say, however, that they weren't warned…

The Generals' Revolt - by Pat Buchanan


The Generals' Revolt
by Patrick J. Buchanan

In just two weeks, six retired U.S. Marine and Army generals have denounced the Pentagon planning for the war in Iraq and called for the resignation or firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who travels often to Iraq and supports the war, says that the generals mirror the views of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more.

This is not a Cindy Sheehan moment.

This is a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the U.S. armed forces by senior officers once responsible for carrying out the orders of that leadership. It is hard to recall a situation in history where retired U.S. Army and Marine Corps generals, almost all of whom had major commands in a war yet underway, denounced the civilian leadership and called on the president to fire his secretary for war.

As those generals must be aware, their revolt cannot but send a message to friend and enemy alike that the U.S. high command is deeply divided, that U.S. policy is floundering, that the loss of Iraq impends if the civilian leadership at the Pentagon is not changed.

The generals have sent an unmistakable message to Commander in Chief George W. Bush: Get rid of Rumsfeld, or you will lose the war.

Columnist Ignatius makes that precise point:

"Rumsfeld should resign because the administration is losing the war on the home front. As bad as things are in Baghdad, America won't be defeated there militarily. But it may be forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat by mounting domestic opposition to its policy. Much of the American public has simply stopped believing the administration's arguments about Iraq, and Rumsfeld is a symbol of that credibility gap. He is a spent force ..."

With the exception of Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former head of Central Command who opposed the Bush-Rumsfeld rush to war, the other generals did not publicly protest until secure in retirement. Nevertheless, they bring imposing credentials to their charges against the defense secretary.

Major Gen. Paul Eaton, first of the five rebels to speak out, was in charge of training Iraqi forces until 2004. He blames Rumsfeld for complicating the U.S. mission by alienating our NATO allies.

Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs up to the eve of war, charges Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith with a "casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results."

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Division in Iraq, charges that Rumsfeld does not seek nor does he accept the counsel of field commanders. Maj. Gen. John Riggs echoes Batiste. This directly contradicts what President Bush has told the nation.

Maj. Gen. Charles J. Swannack, former field commander of the 82nd Airborne, believes we can create a stable government in Iraq, but says Rumsfeld has mismanaged the war.

As of Good Friday, the Generals' Revolt has created a crisis for President Bush. If he stands by Rumsfeld, he will have taken his stand against generals whose credibility today is higher than his own.

But if he bows to the Generals' Revolt and dismisses Rumsfeld, the generals will have effected a Pentagon putsch. An alumni association of retired generals will have dethroned civilian leadership and forced the commander in chief to fire the architect of a war upon which not only Bush's place in history depends, but the U.S. position in the Middle East and the world. The commander in chief will have been emasculated by retired generals. The stakes could scarcely be higher.

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, dismissal of Rumsfeld in response to a clamor created by ex-generals would mark Bush as a weak if not fatally compromised president. He will have capitulated to a generals' coup. Will he then have to clear Rumsfeld's successor with them?

Bush will begin to look like Czar Nicholas in 1916.

And there is an unstated message of the Generals' Revolt. If Iraq collapses in chaos and sectarian war, and is perceived as another U.S. defeat, they are saying: We are not going to carry the can. The first volley in a "Who Lost Iraq?" war of recriminations has been fired.

In 1951, Gen. MacArthur, the U.S. commander in Korea, defied Harry Truman by responding to a request from GOP House leader Joe Martin to describe his situation. MacArthur said the White House had tied his hands in fighting the war.

Though MacArthur spoke the truth and the no-win war in Korea would kill Truman's presidency, the general was fired. But MacArthur was right to speak the truth about the war his soldiers were being forced to fight, a war against a far more numerous enemy who enjoyed a privileged sanctuary above the Yalu river, thanks to Harry Truman.

In the last analysis, the Generals' Revolt is not just against Rumsfeld, but is aimed at the man who appointed him and has stood by him for three years of a guerrilla war the Pentagon did not predict or expect.


Berlusconi\'s \'strange comedy\' leaves him out on a limb


From Monsters and

By Carola Frentzen
Apr 15, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was out on a limb Saturday in his ongoing fight to cling to power. The incumbent has been giving non-stop interviews to the Italian media, calling press conferences and even writing letters to the country\'s biggest selling newspaper, the Corriere della Sera.

But even Berlusconi\'s coalition partners seem weary and unwilling to support his lust for power any longer. Not a single one of his former ministers has made any comment on the wrangling: even Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who otherwise follows Berlusconi like a shadow and is considered his closest advisor, seemed to have been swallowed up by the ground.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has now gone so far as to criticize publicly the prime minister\'s behaviour. Berlusconi had proposed a short-term coalition with the centre-left alliance in his letter to the Corriere della Sera, following the motto, \'Better to have some power than none at all.\'

Castelli is annoyed that Berlusconi did not discuss the proposal with any of his coalition allies. With unilateral actions like these, the prime minister is dismantling the centre-right House of Freedoms coalition.

Meanwhile, the victorious centre-right coalition is taking the absurd situation very calmly: Romano Prodi merely said that Berlusconi should accept the left\'s win in the elections and cease this \'strange comedy.\'

\'It is time for our opponents without further uncertainties to acknowledge the victory of the coalition which has the honour of governing the country,\' Prodi said.

Although more recently Prodi has shown signs of being irritated at having a proper victory party ruined by Berlusconi\'s talk of \'electoral fraud.\'

In numerical terms, a victory for the right is no longer even possible: Prodi did indeed only take control of parliament by a margin of 25,000 votes, but a recount of 2,100 ballot papers currently underway could not change that result.

Where Berlusconi gets his proverbial self-confidence and perennial optimism from is a mystery to his coalition partners. \'I would be prepared to be prime minister once again, and I am waiting anxiously - like half of Italy - for the results to finally come out,\' was the last thing the multi-millionaire said, adding that his coalition was the \'moral victor\' in the elections.

A \'strange comedy\' indeed.

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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.