The Next War | Harper's Magazine

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The Next War

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Just a short while ago, Dick Cheney went to the Middle East. He appeared on the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and delivered an incendiary speech, designed to provoke the Iranians into acts of hostility. We learned that when Condoleezza Rice proposed releasing the five Iranians who had traveled to Arbil, Iraq, at the invitation of Iraqi government officials, to set up a consulate–and then were seized by U.S. Forces, Dick Cheney shot the idea down. He apparently reasoned, “If they could hold our diplomats hostage, we can hold theirs.” Cheney also advocated the use of military means to free the fifteen British sailors and marines seized about two months ago by the Iranians–a move that most likely would have led to their deaths. To this the British replied, “No thanks.”

And this evening, ABC News reports that Cheney has been busily advocating unspecified military steps against the Iranians now.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions . . .

“Vice President Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a military strike,” said former CIA official Riedel, “but I think they have come to the conclusion that a military strike has more downsides than upsides.” The covert action plan comes as U.S. officials have confirmed Iran had dramatically increased its ability to produce nuclear weapons material, at a pace that experts said would give them the ability to build a nuclear bomb in two years.

So no military action for the moment, but a covert proxy war is already underway. These things have the habit of building into ever heavier levels in the sort of cycle that Barbara Tuchman described in The Guns of August.

Neither the Iranian people nor the American people want these juvenile antics. Both of us suffer under governments of delusional, dangerous men. We’ll be doing well at this point simply to survive the next two years.

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