Whoopee, we're all gonna die ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I say this over and over, but the genius of this administration is the impossibility of keeping up with both their evil actions and their evil intentions. Just when you've discovered one evil thing they're up to, you discover that they're plotting something else. Sometimes the thing they're plotting is so outrageous and obviously counterproductive that it requires an effort even to take them seriously. But then they do it.

I was at a dinner about a month ago for a lefty movie with smart people, and when I opined that I thought there was a 50/50 chance we'd attack Iran, nobody believed me. Nobody could bring themselves to take it seriously. But recently, if you've been paying attention, it's looking more and more possible. These people don't care that it will, undoubtedly, inspire terrorist attacks against Americans worldwide. (Iran is capable of this in a way Iraq never was.) It will also get a great many Americans in Iraq killed. It will further turn the Islamic world against us, destroy the ability of Iranian democrats to function at home, kill a bunch of them too, and it's unlikely to work against the alleged threat about which -- once again -- we have precious little reliable information. All systems go ...

Here's Wes Clark:

Think another war can't happen? Think again. Unchastened by the Iraq fiasco, hawks in Vice President Cheney's office have been pushing the use of force. It isn't hard to foresee the range of military options that policymakers face.

[...]

How might Iran strike back? Would it unleash Hezbollah cells across Europe and the Middle East, or perhaps even inside the United States? Would Tehran goad Iraq's Shiites to rise up against their U.S. occupiers? And what would we do with Iran after the bombs stopped falling? We certainly could not occupy the nation with the limited ground forces we have left. So what would it be: Iran as a chastened, more tractable government? As a chaotic failed state? Or as a hardened and embittered foe?

Tom Edsall reports, here:

The drumbeat for a military assault on Iran is getting louder at some conservative think tanks, in the offices of hawks on the Bush and Cheney staffs, and among ground forces in Iraq dealing with weapons and explosives constructed in Iran.

[...]

At the September 5 GOP debate in Durham, N.H., Rudy Giuliani declared:

"America has to have a clear position. The position should be that Iran is not going to be allowed to go nuclear. Senator McCain put it very well a few months ago. He said it would be very, very dangerous to take military action against Iran, but it would be even more dangerous if Iran were a nuclear power. And I think a president has to make that very clear."

In a September 3 blog post, The Weekly Standard's William Kristol, wrote:

"Why are terror training camps in Iran, camps that are directly training terrorists to attack U.S. troops, off limits? After all, if Khameini (to whom the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps reports) has already established the principle of cross-border attacks against accelerators of violence, who are we to disagree with the wisdom of the Supreme Leader?"

*On the same day, American Enterprise Institute fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote in Newsweek that Iran is "a radical revolutionary force determined to sow chaos beyond its borders. Assuming that normal negotiations can bring it around is, therefore, a grave mistake. The mullahs don't want peace in Iraq--just the opposite. War may come, but not because negotiations break down. The likely trigger is an Iranian provocation.

*On September 12, FOX News reported in a story based largely on pro-war sources in the administration and allied think tanks that there is a "consensus" among administration officials that attempts to peacefully persuade Iran to abandon development of its nuclear facilities have "come up empty... Consequently, according to a well-placed Bush administration source, 'everyone in town' is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely time frame for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections."

*The Heritage Foundation, in turn, maintains a web site titled "Iran: The Rising Threat" where the non-profit declares that it supports "a policy of aggressive diplomacy and the strongest possible economic sanctions, combined with the willingness to use force if necessary, to stave off Iran's becoming a nuclear power."

*During Senate Iraq hearings last week, Senator Joseph Lieberman asked Gen. David H. Petraeus if he had "all the authorities you need from a military point of view to deter, disrupt and respond to the Iranian attacks on our troops in Iran's efforts to destabilize Iraq?" Petraeus replied that he does have the authority he needs, while he claims that he does not have plans to go into Iran.

Lieberman, who himself does not preclude action against Iran, contended that "we have evidence that Iran is taking Iraqi extremists to three training camps outside of Tehran, training them in the use of explosives, sophisticated weapons, sending them back into Iraq, where they are responsible for the murder of American soldiers."

With the retirement of Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, Lieberman may well find that he has a new ally in the Democratic Senate caucus after the 2008 elections: Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey who is considered likely to seek regain the seat.

Kerrey is no dove on Iran. In a May 22 op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote:

"We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them."

The Democratic presidential candidate who has most explicitly addressed the question of military action against Iran is Barack Obama. In a September 12 speech in Clinton, Iowa, he said:

"Iran poses a grave challenge. It builds a nuclear program, supports terrorism, and threatens Israel with destruction. But we hear eerie echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq in the way that the President and Vice President talk about Iran.

"They conflate Iran and al Qaeda, ignoring the violent schism that exists between Shiite and Sunni militants. They issue veiled threats. They suggest that the time for diplomacy and pressure is running out when we haven't even tried direct diplomacy. Well George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear - loud and clear - from the American people and the Congress: you don't have our support, and you don't have our authorization for another war."

And look here:

Bush setting America up for war with Iran

[...]

Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.

Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.

Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.

In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq - arming and training militants - would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories.

News Jews (and Goyim) Can Use:

1) Jon Weiner interviews Sari Nusseibeh.

2) Jon Weiner interviews Saul Friedlander.

3) Jon Weiner interviews Michael Chabon.

4) Attachment to Israel Declining Among Young American Jews, here.

Too good not to steal from TNR, here. Trust me. (You can skip part II if you're pressed for time.)

I suppose on balance it's a good thing that Alan Greenspan is finally telling a partial truth about the awfulness of this administration after so many years of being a good boy and letting all of it happen without raising a peep. But let's not kid ourselves. Eight million bucks convinced him to belatedly level with the American people whose economy has been perverted with his silent cooperation. Just like the generals who finally manage to speak up about this war once they are ex-generals, I find them useful but hardly admirable.

Greenspan's memoir does allow me to tell this story, though, at some Washington event onceuponatime:

Andrea Mitchell: "This is Eric Alterman, Alan."

Eric: "Hello, Mr. Greenspan. You know I have a CD of you playing with Henry Jerome. Leonard Garment gave them out at his book party."

Alan: "How did you like it?"

Eric: "A lot better than your monetary policy ..."

It's true ...

From our sponsors:

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Read more here.

From CAP:

Know Your Sources: The Mainstream Press Keeps Finding Wacky Immigration Experts, here.

Alter-reviews: Songbird and San Francisco Nuggets

It's the most wonderful time ... of the year. Box set time, that is, and it's proving to be a really good year for such, so clip and save for all your holiday needs ... Today's entries are both from Rhino but otherwise have nothing whatever in common.

Box one is Emmylou Harris' Songbird, which is a handsome small box featuring four CDs and one DVD of some of the most beautiful country and country rock of the past 30 or so years, including difficult-to-find material and live performances from her days with Gram Parsons and, later, the Hot Band to her bluegrass material and her recent collaboration with Mark Knopfler, drawn from her 20-something records. There's also some previously unreleased material from the Dolly Parton/Linda Ronstadt sessions, and a new duet with George Jones, along with tributes to Tammy Wynette, Kate Wolf, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Webb Pierce, Merle Haggard, and Gram Parsons. It must be added that in addition to her golden voice and angelic demeanor, Emmylou's always had exquisite taste in material. The DVD has some wonderful historical moments including a pair of performances from the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test -- "Together Again" with The Hot Band featuring James Burton in 1975 and "Making Believe" with The Hot Band featuring Albert Lee, filmed in 1977.

Box two is different in every way: Love is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970, as Warren Zevon might say, unlike Emmylou, "ain't that pretty at all." Well, actually, the book is pretty pretty. It's a handsome production with just about all the contextual material you'd need to make sense of the material, which is heavy on one-not-quite-hit wonders. The four CDs and 77 songs are all drawn from the mid-late '60s in the land of free love and too many drugs, and we get the biggies like the Dead and the Airplane and Steve Miller and Janis, etc., but also bands with names like The Chocolate Watchband ("No Way Out"), Frumious Bandersnatch ("Hearts To Cry"), Butch Engle & The Styx ("Hey I'm Lost"), and Teddy & His Patches ("Suzy Creamcheese"). They are surprisingly good, as the folks at Rhino have done yeoman's work mining the good stuff from the seeds and stems. The historical material and production values are first-rate but the song-by-song histories and explanations make the experience of listening much more than just musical. The photos are funny too. It's ironic to have such a handsomely produced box of music that was mostly produced by stoned hippies, but again, it's not as if anyone could argue that drugs have not been intimately involved with the creation of some of the most significant musical -- indeed, artistic -- achievements of all time. Do me a favor, though: When you listen to San Francisco Nuggets, be sure not to wear some flowers in your hair ...

You can visit the good folks at Rhino here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dawn
Hometown: Orlando

I was struck most by how Petreaus's crystal ball was so murky when asked about what the situation would be even 6 months from now if we stay in Iraq and execute all his plans. How dare someone ask such a hypothetical!!! Then the picture miraculously cleared up when he was asked what would happen if we pulled out. He responded with the usual litany of very specific horrors. So, it seems to me that if he knows the results of pulling out, he can work to mitigate the possible bad effects, right? On the other hand he has no idea of what will happen if his plans are kept in place. By his own logic the less risky choice is to pull out. But what do I know ...

Name: Greg Hilliard
Hometown: Phoenix

Remember that Internet hoax in 2000 that had dumb quotes from Al Gore that actually had been voiced by Dan Quayle (such as "my fellow astronauts")? The Tribune-Review fell for that and ran a Sunday editorial mocking Gore. I called editorial page editor Colin McNickle that Monday, and he defended the piece, but he did say he would run a correction if I could prove it wrong. A librarian at The Republic helped me confirm at least nine cases that they were Quayle's, including one said at Phoenix Civic Plaza, but when I reached McNickle he wouldn't budge, saying, "I stand by my sources." He's still at the Tribune, by the way.

Name: Carl Conetta
Hometown: Project on Defense Alternatives

PDA has just updated its online Security Policy Libraries, adding 900 links to full-text articles on terrorism and homeland security, US defense strategy, military transformation, and the Chinese military. The libraries now link to more than ten thousand documents, all full-text and categorized. You can access them via the PDA home page (left column) or here.

We've also just posted a resource compilation on US Neoliberal and Neoconservative Security Policy: Views, Criticism, and Alternatives. This, too, is available at our home page (right column) or directly here.

Finally, given the interest in General Petraeus' recent report to Congress re: Iraq, we've collected relevant background reports and articles here.

These resources are meant to facilitate the work of journalists, academics, students, and policy analysts. I hope you'll find them useful.

Name: David Dennie
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Dear Eric,

In response to the question that followed your self-confessed bragging about live music in New York, here's how things are in my city (Norfolk, Virginia, about 3% the size of NYC -- repeat: that's 3% the size of New York):

Next week I'll be seeing Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Amos Lee on Tuesday evening, Shemekia Copeland on Friday, and John Lee Hooker Jr. on Saturday - all in Norfolk.

We do O.K. sometimes out here in the boonies, thanks for asking.

Eric replies: Um, dude, I believe the shows I mentioned were all free, save one which was in the beautiful Delacorte Theater inside Central Park. Yours?

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