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No Room for Errors


The great game of diplomacy and war has played out over the centuries all over the globe, but never more fiercely than in the Middle East, Persia and Southwest Asia — between the Russians and the British, and to some extent the French, in the 1800s, and long before then, the dreams of conquest of Alexander the Great.  But despite the power and the wealth put behind all those imperial ambitions, the grasp on the imposed nation-states slipped through the hands of each imperial power like so many grains of sand through the neck of the hourglass.

The tribal rivalries in the Arab states, in Persia and in the Southwest Asian nation-states (today known as Afghanistan and Pakistan) bubble up and subsume their potential connections in Islam.  But the fierceness of the pride and the loyalty of these tribes against an outside invader has, time and again across history, proved to be a protection against any lasting attempt at a dynasty imposed from the outside. 

That the Bush Administration has chosen to ignore this history — and to take the long-discredited path of preemptive warfare in an already volatile region — is something we have known since the Iraqi invasion.  But the long-term effects of those choices, the ripples out into the whole of history and our future, we are only now beginning to reap.

Things are heating up with Iran.  The head of Iran’s nuclear program confirmed that they have enriched uranium at a press conference earlier in the week — and now there are multiple reports that Iran plans on large-scale enrichment of uranium.

Froomkin has an exceptional round-up of all sides of this issue and some great links to reporting on this story.  Well done, even by the high Froomkin standards, and worth a click-thru on each one.

The TPM Muckraker has a copy of Monday’s gaggle (yesterday, Scotty escaped much questioning, because they were on the road) — the Helen Thomas exchange portion is not to be missed.  This is one story that leaves me worried and speechless at the moment — wish I had some words of wisdom, but all I keep thinking is "holy crap, we can’t possibly make an even worse dumb ass mistake, can we?"  I don’t like the answer that keeps popping into my brain.

And that is all because of stories like this one:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories….

…The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

I have no idea whether the folks at the DoD Office of Special Plans for Iraq ever communicated this report to the President, or whether it was buried to hide evidence of their own failures along with that of the pro-war faction within the CIA that lapped up all the Curveball nonsense it could find.  But whether the President was made aware and chose to make false public statements anyway, or was not aware and made these statements having been given only a tiny window into the real situation — either option is terrifying in terms of its implications for war planning and the post-war occupational decisions, and for the state of the Presidency overall.

We charged into Iraq, knowing that Saddam Hussein was likely more than ten years away from being able to even enrich uranium, let alone build any feasible weaponry.  And even that turned out to be a generous estimate once we saw the state of things in his feeble arsenal of nuclear weapons possibilities.  (Despite all the hype from Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and others in the run-up to the war.)

But we did so knowing — KNOWING — that both Iran and North Korea were much, much closer to completion.  And knowing that if things went badly in Iraq, our military and economic resourcees would be drained to the breaking point, leaving us very little margin for error elsewhere around the globe.

Rep. Jane Harmon was recently quoted as saying that the intel on Iran was very thin, and not at all an accurate picture. All we have is the public posturing of two heads of state — the Iranian and the US — to go on, and frankly neither of them is exactly trustworthy at this point in terms of public statement reliability.   And how sad is that for a state of affairs?

There is no room for errors here.  And what we have is a President who refuses to own up to his past mistakes, and so is incapable of learning from them.  What we need are some adults to stand up and say "enough" and to demand that things be done carefully, methodically, and with an eye toward the long-term consequences of our choices.

I’ve said this time and again — "yee haw!" is not a foreign policy

In this case, it could be a prescription for all out warfare around the globe.  This is not the time for members of Congress to put party politics first and hunker down, hoping for the best.  The President’s advisors have all given him the advice that has led us into the quagmire in Iraq.  Do we want to risk that same quality of advice being all that he hears for his decision-making with regard to Iran?

There is no room for errors when you are talking about potential nuclear weapons usage.  None.  Someone must make the "man-child playing at being king" hear the sense of that — and talk him down off the ledge before we all reap his growing whirlwind.

This is very serious business with Iran.  And it is no time to play games or strut around posturing as to who has the biggest guns.  We have no room for errors, and I have no more patience for those who have been sitting back and allowing this President to do as he pleases.  It is past time for the grown-ups to step in and have the talk — and it is time for the President to be forced to act Presidential. 

This is no time for the madness of King George — our children deserve leadership, not posturing, and all of our futures depend on it.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com