The heart of the Bush philosophy, "The rules don't apply to me," could never
have been put into practice without the Cheney corollary: "Tear up the rules,
do what you want, and hide it." Iran will be their last field of exercise
Once again the president and vice president are ahead of us. Iraq is no longer
on their minds. That chapter closed when Petraeus and Crocker administered the
sedatives in Washington. Besides, Iraq had become tiresome to George W. Bush.
The committee hearings in September were a necessary cover to tie down American
soldiers in the Middle East. His excuse was signed by Congress, and now he is
The dates can only be guessed. November for the triggering incident, December
for the trip to the U.N., February for the ultimatum, perhaps March again for
the strikes. The repetition would suit his taste for boyish acts of defiance.
Diplomacy, to Bush, is one of those words you had to learn to say in school,
like "serious consideration" and "concerted effort." There isn't any glamour in
it, no kick. He intends to bomb Iran. He tells us so in every other speech and
in everything he doesn't say and doesn't do.
The signs of resistance have been appallingly modest. There was the pledge by a
few participants in a recent Democratic debate to withdraw all U.S. troops from
Iraq by 2013. But even 2013, six years from now, seemed too soon to say for the
front-runners Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. To stress his difference, Chris Dodd
followed his pledge with an op-ed impressive enough to show his position was not
Chris Dodd is "a good hater" -- an ability (in some settings identical with
honesty) that he might teach with profit to other members of his party. Three
years ago, he mounted a challenge to Harry Reid for the position of minority
leader of the Senate. It is curious to think where the opposition would stand
today if Dodd had won that contest. He would have become the majority leader,
and would be throwing all his reserves of energy into battle against a lawless
administration. A bracing and assertive opposition is beyond the psychological
means of Harry Reid. He lacks the mind, the heart, the eye for openings and
(though it seems unfair to say so) the voice for the part. He is
literal-minded. He cannot think on his feet.
Last week, like many other weeks, saw an irresolute flare of dissent from
Hillary Clinton. To give an appearance of qualifying her vote for the
Kyl-Lieberman amendment (which had approved executive action against Iran),
Clinton became the co-sponsor of the Webb-Clinton resolution. Though it
presents itself as a check on the president's war powers, Webb-Clinton (if it
follows the outline delivered by Jim Webb on March 27) differs only marginally
from the anti-constitutional resolutions of Joe Lieberman. It says that war
with Iran must be authorized. Yet it specifies that authorization is not
required to repel attacks, to thwart imminent attacks, or to engage in hot
pursuit into enemy territory. Considerate loopholes, through which the
president can drag three carriers and launch a satisfying number of missiles.
Such "prudent" measures supporting the president go on the pretense that they are
strengthening his hand for tough diplomacy. But the proof that Dick Cheney and
George W. Bush have no interest in diplomacy is that there are no talks. On the
contrary, all the moves they are calling are aimed at shutting down diplomacy.
Last weekend, General Petraeus accused the Iranian ambassador to Iraq of being
a member of the Quds Force. Perhaps he is. (No evidence was offered.) But this
is not the sort of thing you say unless you are running up to war. That
Petraeus was willing to commandeer a wider regional conflict was surely part of
the understanding he reached with the president when he was chosen to build the
walls in Baghdad and lend his name to the "surge."
The Republican party (now generally despised) is too dismal to speak of. With
the exception of Chuck Hagel, Ron Paul, and a few others, since 2001 it has
stood for abject servility to the president. The Democrats in a significant
minority, passing now and then into a bare majority, have, at least, voted
against some of the disastrous policies; in the recent vote to restore habeas
corpus, they fell just short of the necessary majority of 60. And yet (the fact
is palpable) the Democrats are paltering. They are fainthearted. The
consequences of their failure to draw down the war after November 2006 just
don't seem to strike them. When in doubt, they revert to social-democratic
family values, as if prescription drugs were a suitable antidote to torture,
massacre, and the destruction of cities.
They won a mandate to stop an illegal war, but they let the war be widened; and
they are about to consent to another war, before they ask for another mandate.
The president does not wait and he doesn't ask permission. In early February
2007, according to Robert Draper in his biography Dead Certain, Bush was
looking to the end of the year, and to Iran: "I'm an October-November man." He
had already factored in the pause for the summer, and the soothing September
explanations. "The danger," he told Draper, "is that the United States won't
stay engaged." But engagement means war: "People come to the office and say,
'Let us promote stability--that's more important.' The problem is that in an
ideological war, stability isn't the answer to the root cause of why people
kill and terrorize."
The only answer that goes to the root cause, Bush told his biographer, is to add
more instability, the right kind of instability. After two wars and a proxy
war, none of them yet successful, a lesser man might shrink from further
dealing in blood; but in February, Bush was prepared: "I'm not afraid to make
Soon he will decide again. It is going to happen unless the lawmakers, the
media, and those corporations that know they will find a war with Iran the
reverse of profitable, overcome their lethargy and admit that this is really
happening and decide to stop him.