Belaboring the Obvious

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is Bush the Unitary Executive...

... for the whole goddamned world? One wonders, sometimes, if this "leader of the free world" hype hasn't gone completely to his pointy little head. (Carol Coleman of RTE said that after her interview with Bush in June, 2004, White House staff berated her: "'You were given an opportunity to interview the leader of the free world and you blew it,' she [a White House PR staffer] began.

"I was beginning to feel as if I might be dreaming. I had naively believed the American president was referred to as the 'leader of the free world' only in an unofficial tongue-in-cheek sort of way by outsiders, and not among his closest staff.")

While it may come as a rude shock to citizens of the United States, it's pretty much only in our media that Presidents are referred to in that way. Western Europe has got its own preoccupations and doesn't need Bush's advice--or his demands. A healthy part of Latin America would describe him not as the leader of the free world but more likely as pendejo. The Japanese likely worry most about him inheriting his father's gastric tendencies. The Chinese smile in a slightly amused way and bow slightly and ignore him.

Thus, the uncertain response of the world to Bush's pronouncement that Iran was a "threat to world peace." Most countries now view Bush and his cohorts as the principal threat to world peace.

Now, make no mistake, an Iran with nuclear weapons is not a good thing--just as it's not a good thing for any country to go down that road--be that country Iran or France or the UK or Israel or Russia, or the United States. What the rest of the world is thinking now is that Bush's recent actions with regard to non-proliferation have stunk mightily of hypocritical self-interest. Because the Bush administration entered into a highly suspect deal with India (a deal enabling that country's weapons proliferation), has been treating Pakistan as a grand ally in Bush's "war on terror," and has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that one of the factors for Iran's interest in nuclear weapons is to counter Israel's clear regional advantage in that regard, it's no wonder that much of the rest of the world is looking askance at the seeming urgency in Bush's current saber-rattlings.

Let's for a moment disregard the tit-for-tat saber-rattling of Iran's president. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and estimates vary on a date of attainment of even one--between 2010 and 2020 (with many estimates tending toward the latter date). Much can be done in that period of time in terms of diplomacy, but not if the US will neither encourage regional talks or talk to Iran directly. Europe, by and large, is backing international institutions, such as the IAEA, to come to workable agreements with Iran, and to keep the country within the framework of the NNPT--precisely because there is plenty of time to do so. The only urgency in this matter is the one being promoted--for purely political purposes--by the Bushies.

What the rest of the world understands, and Americans do not, is that this is still a regional disagreement. Iran does not have the capability to threaten US territory in any meaningful military way with such weapons, and for that reason, Iran's neighbors, including Israel, should be the ones most concerned by this potential development and should be the countries most willing to engage Iran in talks, with the US in the background, offering negotiating assistance toward rational non-proliferation.

But, what about nuclear terrorism?, asks the careful reader. First, the Iranians would actually be spending (on a full nuclear fuel cycle) far more time, effort and money than necessary, if using a nuclear weapon in terrorist fashion were the primary objective. Buying one (or the necessary parts) would be far simpler and cheaper--especially in the days when A.Q. Khan was running his nuclear supermarket and when adequate controls on nuclear bomb fuel were largely absent in the former Soviet Union. Second, every country hoping to become a nuclear power understands one thing--mutually assured destruction. Hence, the need in the past few years for the Bushies to market to US news consumers the belief that countries such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran are controlled by madmen who, collectively, would not be rational enough to acknowledge that reality and that those countries are direct and immediate threats to the United States itself.

Last, what would be the Iranian motivation for such a brand of terrorism? Iran's previous efforts in that regard--Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad--have been principally specific to one task--removing Israeli troops from areas which they have occupied, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Any nuclear weapon (between blast effects and radiation) used as a terrorist weapon against the state of Israel would likely kill as many Arabs/Muslims as Israelis, and would certainly provoke a massive response from Israel, as that country's nuclear capability is now one of the largest in the world. As for a nuclear terror attack on the United States, the same would be true, to an even greater degree. What possible motivation might lead Iran to do such a thing? I can think of only one--that the United States would attack them first, either economically or militarily or both.

There are some simple facts which have been lost in the blustering and fear-mongering in which the Bushies are currently engaging. First, the United States did not openly threaten with attack other countries which have participated in bomb development, both inside and outside the framework of the NNPT--not South Africa, nor Brazil nor India nor Israel nor Pakistan. That should alert all observers that the Bushies have other motives in doing so in the case of Iran. Second, Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and as a signatory to the NNPT, has the right to engage in a peaceful nuclear power program, regardless of how the US currently wishes to describe the situation. The only concern that the IAEA has had is that Iran has withheld information on an experimental enrichment facility. That enrichment facility is not currently capable of producing fuel for either bombs or reactors in any meaningful time frame. The fact that Iran has done so is cause for reasonable suspicion, but, in itself, does not rise even close to the level of proof sufficient for military action by any entity. Third, Iran does not have a record of military aggression in modern history. Its only war was one forced upon it by Iraq.

Finally, the point with which I began--that Bush is tending, as with Iraq, to the view that he, under the auspices of the Presidency, is entitled to act militarily anywhere in world that he chooses, with an authority vested in him only by himself and his advisors. That Bush feels that Iran requires harsh treatment (I'll use that euphemism for the moment) out of all proportion to the actual context should be cause for warning flags to be thrown up everywhere--in the national press, in Congress, and amongst the public. If I were a psychologist, I'd call that a manifestation of megalomania.

If Bush decides, in the comfort and safety of that bubble which the White House has become, that he can justify an attack on Iran, let alone a nuclear one, it seems certain that his bubble will burst. With that rude rupture will come a further diminishment in the relative security of not just American citizens, but of many people around the world. The chickenhawks on the right can complain, in defense of megalomania, that to continue to negotiate with Iran would be tantamount to Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler (the current meme being spread by them like shit on the walls of their asylums), but, the facts are still the facts. If there's agression against Iran, as with Iraq, it will not be because the facts warrant it. It will be because George W. Bush wants it, and because he thinks no one can stop him from doing as he desires. It will happen because he believes, contrary to fact and worldwide opinion, that he's the unitary executive of the world.

(image © AFP)


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