On September 7, 2002, the New York Times reported an explanation how the Bush administration would sell the invasion of Iraq. The administration may be replicating this strategy for Iran.
Today I received a message from a friend whose information from his Washington connections has often been prescient. As in 2002, he claimed, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a kickoff on September 11. Someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions reported:
They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."
In 2002, the Times reported:
White House officials said today that the administration was following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein.This September 11, we will have the reports from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, filtered through a White House drafted report.
The rollout of the strategy this week, they said, was planned long before President Bush's vacation in Texas last month. It was not hastily concocted, they insisted, after some prominent Republicans began to raise doubts about moving against Mr. Hussein and administration officials made contradictory statements about the need for weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The White House decided, they said, that even with the appearance of disarray it was still more advantageous to wait until after Labor Day to kick off their plan.
''From a marketing point of view,'' said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, ''you don't introduce new products in August.''
A centerpiece of the strategy, White House officials said, is to use Mr. Bush's speech on Sept. 11 to help move Americans toward support of action against Iraq, which could come early next year.
I watched Vice-President Cheney's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 26, 2002, in the residence where I was staying in Kabul, Afghanistan. I heard Cheney deliver his famous falsehood:
The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.We know the results.
This year, on August 28, President Bush spoke to another veterans' group, the American Legion. He called Iran "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," whose "active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust." He concluded:
Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.But this may just be test marketing, like Cheney's 2002 speech. After all "from a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."
I cannot verify this report. But I also heard last week from a former U.S. government contractor. According to this contractor, someone in the Department of Defense called, asking for cost estimates for a model for reconstruction in Asia. The former contractor finally concluded that the model was intended for Iran. This anecdote is also inconclusive, but it would be consistent with the depth of planning that went into the reconstruction effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I hesitated before posting this. I don't want to spread alarmist rumors. The U.S. cannot mount a ground invasion or occupation of Iran, but it might be capable of an air attack and sea embargo. The administration has prepared a legal justification by floating its plan to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Since the IRGC is under the command of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the administration, with its usual legal acuity, could claim legal authority for an attack on Iran under Senate Joint Resolution 23 of September 18, 2001,which authorized the use of military force against "those who plan, authorize, commit, or aid terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests -- including those who harbor terrorists."
There are too many signs of another irresponsible military adventure from the Cheney-Bush administration to just dismiss these reports. Perhaps it is just a clever attempt to ratchet up pressure on Tehran, but the history of this administration does not allow me to believe that. I am putting these inconclusive reports into the public sphere in the hope of helping to mobilize opposition to a policy that would further doom the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and burden our country and the people of the Middle East with yet another unstoppable fountain of bloodshed.