The NIE Revisited

December 19, 2007

Multiple Pages

For the Cheney-Bush White House, the recent NIE concerning Iran’s nuclear capability was a bombshell. Its significance was recognized immediately by all interested parties. No doubt this is the reason Dick Cheney had it bottled up for a year. Putting aside articles by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, we first learned about this new National Intelligence Estimate from White House National Security Advisor Steven Hadley on December 3rd, just over two weeks ago. Right from the start, there has been some outstanding commentary about what it means—in addition to anguished squeals from the “neocons” who are incensed that they may not be getting a free pass to pursue their private Mideast agenda, as in the past.

I recall listening to Patrick Buchanan early the next morning, when he spoke with Joseph Scarborough on MSNBC. Buchanan was flummoxed, which was unusual. He kept repeating over the phone, “This is unbelievable!” He could not comprehend it. The revelation that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons research program in 2003 stunned him. As for Joe Scarborough, he seemed genuinely concerned and even angered by Bush’s wisecrack on October 17th, 2007 to the effect that we might be facing World War III, touched off by Israel and Iran, unless the U.S. were to bomb Iran’s nuclear research facilities. Scarborough, who is a former Republican congressman from Florida, urged Democratic Senator Joe Biden, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to quit the presidential campaign trail, return to Washington immediately, and launch a full-blown Senate investigation into what George Bush Jr. knew and when did he know it. Alas, nothing like that has materialized. Another prime example of the Democrats’ hands-off approach when it comes to U.S. Mideast policy in an election year.

Both Buchanan and Scarborough were outraged at the warmongering hype to which Cheney and his sidekick G.W. had subjected America, all by way of response to a non-existent Iranian atomic bomb threat. Later that same day, talk-show clown Rush Limbaugh was having a cow on the radio, going so far as to suggest that certain anti-Bush officials in the intelligence community may have committed treason “for whatever reason” through their efforts, as demonstrated by the NIE, to derail the President’s courageous agenda targeting Iran. I confess to listening to Limbaugh on odd occasions, while in the car, and when in need of comic relief from serious issues. This was a special occasion, and the comic relief was priceless.

Let me get to John Bolton’s and Norman Podhoretz’s reactions next. They and the “Rush Man” deserve to be bundled together somewhere in the 8th circle of Hell, the region designated by Dante for frauds, mountebanks and other incorrigibles. Out of the box, Bonkers Bolton was all over TV and radio. On December 6th in the Washington Post, (“The Flaws in the Iran Report”),  he blasted the NIE in print, charging its compilers with being driven by policy considerations, not intelligence. Can you stand it? This harks back to the modus operandi of the Communist nomenklatura in days of yore, whose favorite tactic was to loudly accuse anti-Communists of the exact crimes the Communists themselves had committed. You may not-so-fondly remember the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the niagara of bilge which went with it. Offhand, I do not recall that this former, unconfirmed U.S. Ambassador to the UN was engaged in lambasting the hyped WMD “intelligence” on Iraq back then, even though it was grotesquely distorted by policy considerations—do you? To get the Iraq project off the ground, Bolton’s fellow “neocon” apparatchiki were manufacturing false intelligence in the basement at the Pentagon and at the White House. Does the subsequent fiasco in Iraq bother operative Bolton today? Apparently not. John Bolton continues to be an unrepentant, in-your-face, “neocon” blowhard.

Of course, Bolton can never hope to outshine Norman Podhoretz, that “patriarch of neoconservatism”, to whom G.W. gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award, in 2004. As we all know, Podhoretz wants to bomb Iran yesterday, or maybe years ago, just on general principles. He had a private strategy session with Bush Jr.—as Bush’s Brain, Karl Rove, took notes—at which Norm made his pitch for war. Well, the NIE has cut the neoconservative patriarch off at the knees. And it did not exactly validate the wild assumptions of his latest book, World War IV, the Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, either.

All things considered, Podhoretz reaction to the NIE was muted. Perhaps it has landed him in a funk. He informed the faithful in Commentary on December 3rd, that the new NIE “has just dealt a serious blow to the argument some of us have been making that Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons and that neither diplomacy nor sanctions can prevent it from succeeding.” Then he took a few potshots at the report, of little consequence, and got down to what was bothering him. “But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.” Egads! Where are those cruise missiles?! Stop undermining the dauphin!

Podhoretz wants to buffer POTUS 43 from criticism and blasphemy, while the “Rush Man” wants to protect G.W. from “treason”. In neoconland, the dauphin must be kept cosseted and clueless, just like the Emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. I have said it before, and here it is again: ignorance is good. And why is that? Because certain parties benefit from it. Go back and read the original, unexpurgated fairy tale. Are not the two swindlers, who are strangers in town pretending to be tailors, comparable to the “neocons”? Does not the unwelcome message of the NIE correspond to the exclamation of the little child in the story when viewing the Emperor on parade: “But he has got nothing on!” The truth is also good, of course. We benefit from it.

Podhoretz’s mild reaction to the NIE bombshell indicates to me that Norm realizes the game is up, and he has been unmasked. His warmongering, alarmist arguments about the Iranian “threat”—which correspond to the “neocon”/Likud/Israel Lobby party line—are as solid as a house of cards. That house could not stand a cursory inspection. The NIE report came in; the house has been inspected; it has been condemned as unsound. No wonder the “Rush Man” was having a cow.

And now, by contrast, let’s consider some enlightened commentary on the NIE. Let’s start with William Pfaff in Paris and his two back-to-back articles on the subject. The first on December 4th, is entitled “The Iran NIE and the Eight-year Carnival of Lies”. Here’s a sample:

“One would like to believe that the appearance of one honest and professional public policy document in the Washington debate is harbinger of a springtime of truth and wisdom. Virtually nothing in the presidential primary season thus far would justify an assumption that the lies, mendacity and manipulation would end, whoever was elected president.

“The language of policy and political discussion and debate in the United States has been poisoned during the last seven years, in the U.S. and to a considerable extent abroad, where other governments, and the United Nations, automatically have adopted the vocabulary and concepts current in Washington.”

Two days later, on December 6th, Pfaff felt compelled to write a follow-up piece entitled “Squandered Confidence in the United States”. Here’s a sample:

“The official combined judgement of the American intelligence services is that there is no current Iranian nuclear military project. Four years ago those same services gave the Bush administration the answers it wanted to justify invading Iraq. As now is known, they integrated into their final analysis contrived evidence supplied by what amounted to a neo-conservative propaganda bureau specially created in the Pentagon, to promote Iraq’s invasion.

“The result was the humiliation of Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN Security council, and a war that by now may have uselessly killed hundreds of thousands, and possible more than a million, human beings, while inflicting terrible suffering on tens of thousands more.

“Such was the result of neo-conservative ideology and political ignorance or indifference. Ideology, and lies told to support it, murder people. Lies also make leaders into fools. Yet it seems all but impossible for elected leaders to grasp that they are strengthened by candor and truth-telling.”

So much for Pfaff in Paris. Let’s turn to the always-informative Uri Avnery in Tel Aviv and his column of December 8th, entitled “How They Stole The Bomb From Us”. Here’s a sample:

“In the last few years, a broad coalition against Iran has come into being. The Iranian bomb has become the heart of an international consensus, led by America, Queen of the World. With the consent of all its five permanent members, the UN Security Council has decreed sanctions against Tehran.

“Now, before our very eyes, this coalition is crumbling. President Bush is stammering. Gone is the excuse for an American military attack on Iran, the dream of the Israeli government and the neocons. Gone is even the pretext for more stringent sanctions. God knows, perhaps even the existing feeble sanctions will be abolished tomorrow…

“So what to do? One can instruct Israeli diplomats abroad to redouble their efforts to convince the governments that the situation has not changed, that one must fight against the Iranian bomb, whether it exists or not. But tell that to the Russians and the Chinese! The world’s governments are happy to see the end of Bush’s pressure—all except that happy couple, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, the new White House poodles now Tony Blair has gone.”

Next consider Eric Margolis in Toronto and his commentary “Revenge of the Spooks” of December 10th. Margolis seems as outraged as Buchanan and Scarborough, and who can blame them? Here’s a sample:

“Ironically, Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was telling the truth all along when he said Iran was not working on nuclear arms, while Bush & Company was lying through its teeth, just as it did over Iraq and Afghanistan. Just, in fact, as Saddam Hussein was also telling the truth while Washington was producing a litany of lies that would have made the old Soviet agitprop boys blush.

“This column has been reporting for two years growing opposition at CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to Bush/Cheney’s plans to launch a war against Iran. I repeatedly heard the term `fifth column’ used to describe the fanatical neocon ideologues pressing American into a second Mideast war.”

Also on December 10th comes an excellent, well-rounded report out of Berlin from Der Spiegel. The headline reads: “Intelligence Agencies Put Brakes on Bush’s Iran Plans”. Here’s a sample:

“With these new assessments, the CIA and other US intelligence agencies are not only contradicting their own, alarmist pronouncements from 2005, but are also essentially confirming, based on their own sources, the results of the inspections of Iran’s nuclear program by ElAbradei and inspectors with his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—precisely the conclusions for which John Bolton wanted to see ElAbradei ousted. According to both assessments—from the CIA and the IAEA—there are currently no indications that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program…

“For his part, Bush seemed lost as he tried to interpret the intelligence report at the White House. He struggled to find the right words, even more than usual, and he seemed distracted and dejected. “He looked as if he’d spent the night throwing chairs around the Situation Room,” a reporter at Time wrote. The president had little of substance to add to the issue. Nothing had really changed, he said, adding cryptically: ‘I understand what it’s about, and I see the problems clearly in front of me. I will use the report to continue to bring together the international community for peace.’”

From Cairo and the pages of Al-Ahram on December 13th came another good piece of work entitled “Tel Aviv Rocked” by Saleh Al-Naami. It shows how officials in Tel Aviv will counter the NIE in America. A real eye-opener. Here’s a sample:

“As for propaganda, it was decided during this meeting that a relentless campaign would be waged against the American report, but not by official Israeli agencies. It was agreed during the meeting that on official military and political levels in Israel it is prohibited to appear as though Israel wants to push the American administration towards military confrontation with Iran at any price. It was thus decided that this campaign would be undertaken by Israeli propaganda experts in cooperation with retired generals, atomic energy experts, and retired heads of intelligence agencies, and in coordination with the heads of Jewish groups in the United States and all American parties that have criticized the report.”

Backing up to December 7th, we have the indefatigable Justin Raimondo contributing his insight from San Francisco at Antiwar.com. The item is subtitled “Israel’s Amen Corner Tries to Spin the NIE Report”. Here’s a sample:

“What we are witnessing is a serious rebellion within key military, diplomatic, and intelligence circles against our Israel-centric policy in the Middle East. Critics of the status quo such as Michael Scheuer and professors Mearsheimer and Walt prefigured this realist “surge” by daring to break the taboo against stating the obvious: that our unconditional support for Israel has crippled our efforts to combat Islamist terrorism, threatened our security on account of our required access to oil, and cost us far more in moral and political capital than the “special relationship” was ever worth.”

There have been other excellent in-depth commentaries, e.g., ex-CIA agent Ray McGovern in CounterPunch on December 4th (“No-Nuke Iran”) and in the Weekend Edition of December 8/9th (“Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges”); Iranian expert Kaveh Afrasiabi in AsiaTimes on December 5th (“US Spies Concoct a Potent Iran Brew”) and on December 8th (“A Smart Side to US Intelligence”);  Khody Akhavi of the Inter Press Service, also in AsiaTimes on December 11th (“The Neocons Strike Back”);  Colonel Dan Smith in CounterPunch of December 7th (“Bush, Iran and the Politics of Doomsday”); and Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com on December 5th (“Iran NIE Validates 2003 European Diplomacy”) and December 18th (“Did Bush Get New Intel Last Winter?”).

Alas, amid all this excellent reporting, I feel compelled to point out what could be overlooked. The nuclear question with respect to Iran is, at the end of the day, just a hook on which to hang the wider, overarching U.S. policy—made in Tel Aviv and promoted by its Israel Lobby—which mandates regime change in Tehran. The alleged but non-existent nuclear arms program in Iran was simply an excuse used by the “neocons” to launch a campaign of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, all with the aim of demonizing and destabilizing the Islamic regime at any cost. What we have witnessed so far is essentially a rerun of what Washington did to Iraq, pre-invasion.

The White House mastermind of this overall strategy is probably Zionist ideologue David Wurmser, who was Dick Cheney’s Mideast advisor until the summer of 2007. Wurmser worked in tandem with Elliott Abrams, who is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz, and who remains in charge of the Mideast desk at the National Security Council. Iran is a boogeyman not because of its nuclear weapons program as such—which does not exist and probably never did exist—but because Iran champions the Palestinians, especially in Gaza (which has been embargoed by the U.S. and the EU) and provides aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon to counter Israeli occupation in the south. Then there is the Iranian alliance with Syria, which is adamant about a return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. All of this, of course, is an anathema to the “neocons” and an annoyance to their fellow travelers and front men in Washington. Admittedly, the fact that the President of Iran keeps pointing out that Palestinians should not pay the price in Palestine for what happened to Jews in Europe has not helped Tehran to de-target itself.

At any rate, Tehran is not a terrorist regime. We can be friends with it at any time we choose. A rapprochement is long overdue. Like Iraq in the days of Saddam Hussein, the regime in Tehran abhors Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The real problem is that Tehran does not play ball according to the Tel Aviv/Washington playbook as presently written. Hence, the manufactured brouhaha and the unnecessary specter of World War III, as proffered by the dauphin. Hopefully, the NIE will put a cork in it, at least through the end of the Cheney Regency. Now, if it could only put a cork in Rush Limbaugh and John Bolton, too!

 

 

 

 

  

 

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