The following piece is part of an ongoing series of OffTheBus reports by citizen policy experts critiquing different aspects of Campaign 08.
When George Bush and Dick Cheney talk about their plans to bomb Iran, they are told "You can't do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated"--that's what a Republican former intelligence official told legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "But," the former official went on, "Cheney doesn't give a rat's ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President."
I recently spoke with Hersh, whose new piece, "Target Iran," is featured in The New Yorker this week.
When I asked Hersh who wants to bomb Iran, he said, "Ironically there is a lot of pressure coming from Democrats. Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all said we cannot have a nuclear-armed Iran. Clearly the pressure from Democrats is a reflection of - we might as well say it - Israeli and Jewish input." He added the obvious: "a lot of money comes to the Democratic campaigns" from Jewish contributors.
But while Democrats argue that we must "do something" about an Iranian nuclear threat, Hersh says the White House has concluded their own effort to convince Americans that Iran poses an imminent threat has "failed." Apparently the public that bought the story of WMD in Iraq is now singing the classic Who song, "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Moreover, Hersh reports, "the general consensus of the American intelligence community is that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb" - so the public is right to be skeptical.
As a result, according to Hersh, the focus of the plans to bomb Iran has shifted from an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities to an emphasis on the famed "surgical strikes" on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere. The White House hopes it can win public support for this kind of campaign by arguing that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is responsible for the deaths of Americans in Iraq.
Why don't Bush and Cheney "give a rat's ass" about getting Republicans reelected to the Senate and the House in 2008? "Of course that was hyperbole to make a point," Hersh said. "When it comes to choice between bombing Iran and taking some political heat, the president will do what he wants. Look, no decision has been made, no order has been given, I've never said it's going to happen. But I had breakfast this morning in Washington with somebody who's close to a lot of military people, and there's a sense among them that the president is essentially messianic about this. He sees this as his mission. It could be because God is telling him to do it. It could be because his daddy didn't do it. It could be because it's step 13 in a 12-step program he was in. I just don't know."
The biggest problem in US relations with Iran, Hersh said, is that Bush refuses to "talk to people he doesn't like. . . . We dealt with China, we dealt with the Soviet Union in those bad days of Stalin and Mao. But there is no pressure whatsoever" coming from the leading Democratic presidential candidates demanding that Bush negotiate with the Iranians rather than bombing them.
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