Originally published in the Aug. 19 edition of The Moscow Times.
Now is the summer of discontent for President George W. Bush, a man beset on every side -- by a failing war and falling popularity, by scandal, suspicion and rising hostility, even in the red-state heartlands. With each passing day of his long vacation in the Texas wastes, his presidency is shrinking palpably before our eyes, his wildly inflated public image shrivelling like a punctured balloon.
The fountainhead of his trouble, of course, is the murderous quagmire he has created in Iraq. Some say he has no exit strategy, no way to escape the corrosive effects of this gargantuan disaster, which is draining his support and destroying the aura of the all-conquering "war leader" that he has used to impose his radical right-wing agenda on the country. The tide has turned against him at last, some say; he's a lame duck crashing to the ground.
But those writing Bush's political obituary have "misunderestimated" him once again. For it's becoming increasingly clear that Bush does have an exit strategy from Iraq -- and it runs through Iran.
For months, the Bush Faction has been conducting a low-key PR campaign to put Iran in the crosshairs for a military strike. Last week, Bush himself upped the wattage with a public declaration that "all options are on the table" for slapping down Tehran, Agence France Presse reports. He even alluded to the invasion of Iraq as an example of the kind of action he has in mind. Bush scarcely bothered to hide his disdain for peaceful solutions to the row with Iran. After mouthing the usual pious lies about "working feverishly on the diplomatic route," he immediately dismissed such efforts with a sneer: "As you know, I'm skeptical."
The chief angle of Bush's warmongering campaign has been Iran's nuclear energy program. Although Iran is allowed by international treaty to develop nuclear energy resources and has been proceeding under international supervision, there are concerns that Tehran might follow the example of U.S. allies such as Israel, India and Pakistan and use the technology to develop a secret nuclear weapons program. This has been the cue for a reprise of those "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" tropes that the Bushists used to such great fear-rousing effect in fomenting their aggression against Iraq.
But the latest investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapons program, The Independent reports. And Bush's own intelligence services say that even if Iran did start a weapons program, it would take at least 10 years to produce a bomb -- plenty of time for "feverish diplomacy" to work, you would think. So while "Iranian Nuke Threat" is still a good scare phrase for a cable news crawl, it might not be enough to sway an increasingly war-weary public to leap into another military adventure.
That's why the Bushists are throwing new tropes into the mix. In his chest-thumping bluster last week, Bush said pointedly that he would be willing to use military force to "provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies." That's a blank check for hitting Iran (and many other countries) any time he feels like it.
But such noble gasbaggery might still prove too vague to close the deal. So now they've waving the bloody shirt: "Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq." That's the charge currently percolating through the corporate media -- NBC, Time magazine, etc. -- from the usual anonymous "senior officials" and the never-anonymous but always mendacious Pentagon warlord Don Rumsfeld. "It's true that weapons clearly, unambiguously, from Iran have been found in Iraq," he announced last week, with same clinched-sphincter certainty he once displayed in declaring that he knew where Iraq's WMD were hidden: "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad, and east, west, south and north somewhat."
Left unexplained is why Shiite Iran would want to help Sunni insurgents overthrow a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government led by Tehran proteges (and employees) who are busy aligning the country with, er, Tehran. That's the kind of self-defeating stupidity one might expect from the Bush poltroons, who have spent $300 billion and almost 1,900 American lives to establish an unstable, terrorist-ridden, fundamentalist Islamic state in the center of the Middle East. But it's unlikely that the subtle Persians, with 3,000 years of statecraft behind them, would be foolish enough to kill the golden goose that Bush has handed them by destroying Saddam and installing their allies in power.
Still, a lack of sense and credibility in a casus belli has never hindered the Bush Faction before. And it won't now. The plain fact is that Bush doesn't want "diplomacy to work" against Iran. He wants the situation to reach a crisis point that will "justify" military action. It's the only form of politics he knows: You foment (or invent) a crisis, then use deceit, fear and brute force to impose your radical agenda. And the takedown of Iran is a long-held ambition of the corporate militarists behind the Bush Faction's relentless quest for "full spectrum dominance" over world affairs.
The "high" Bush got from his Iraq assault is now wearing off, politically and personally. He needs another hit of blood and destruction. And don't think he's worried about the prospect of a much wider conflagration arising from a bombing strike against Iran. After all, chaos and instability only mean more money for his war-profiteering family and cronies -- and greater authority for "war leaders" seeking to "secure the Homeland."
More war is the only way for the Bush Faction to maintain its power and keep advancing its rapacious agenda. So there will be more war.