As you may know — unless you rely on the corporate media for your news, of course — yesterday the U.S. Senate unanimously declared that Iran was committing acts of war against the United States: a 97-0 vote to give George W. Bush a clear and unmistakable casus belli for attacking Iran whenever Dick Cheney tells him to.
The bipartisan Senate resolution — the brainchild (or rather the bilechild) of Fightin’ Joe Lieberman — affirmed as official fact all of the specious, unproven, ever-changing allegations of direct Iranian involvement in attacks on the American forces now occupying Iraq. The Senators appear to have relied heavily on the recent New York Times story by Michael Gordon that stovepiped unchallenged Pentagon spin directly onto the paper’s front page. As Firedoglake points out, John McCain cited the heavily criticized story on the Senate floor as he cast his vote.
It goes without saying that all of this is a nightmarish replay of the run-up to the war of aggression against Iraq: The NYT funneling false flag stories from Bush insiders. Warmongers citing the NYT stories as "proof" justifying any and all action to "defend the Homeland." Credulous and craven Democratic politicians swallowing the Bush line hook and sinker.
To be sure, stout-hearted Dem tribunes like Dick Durbin insisted that their support for declaring that Iran is "committing acts of war" against the United States should not be taken as an "authorization of military action." This is shaky-knees mendacity at its finest. Having officially affirmed that Iran is waging war on American forces, how, pray tell, can you then deny the president when he asks (if he asks) for authorization to "defend our troops"? Answer: you can’t. And you know it.
This vote is the clearest signal yet that there will be no real opposition to a Bush Administration attack on Iran. This is yet another blank check from these slavish, ignorant goons; Bush can cash it anytime. This is, in fact, the post-surge "Plan B" that’s been mooted lately in the Beltway. As you recall, there was much throwing about of brains on the subject of reviving the "Iraq Study Group" plan when the "surge" (or to call it by its right name, the "punitive escalation") inevitably fails. Bush put the kibosh on that this week ("Him not gonna do nothin’ that Daddy’s friends tell him to do! Him a big boy, him the decider!"), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fall-back position — or rather, a spring-forward position: an attack on Iran, to rally the nation behind the "war leader" and reshuffle the deck in Iraq.
Of course, the United States is already at war with Iran. We are directing covert ops and terrorist attacks inside Iran, with the help of groups that our own government has declared terrorist renegades. We are kidnapping Iranian officials in Iraq and holding them hostage. We have a bristling naval armada on Iran’s doorstep, put there for the express purpose of threatening Tehran with military action. The U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly passed measures calling for the overthrow of the Iranian government. And now the U.S. Senate has unanimously declared that Iran is waging war on America, and has given official notice that this will not be tolerated. It is only a very small step to move from this war in all but name to the full monty of an overt military assault.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there is madness at work here. There is no other word for it. As I noted a few years ago:
Homo sapiens is the only species that dreams of its own total demise. Our brief history of conscious thought is replete with vivid scenarios of the end of life on earth….Religion has produced most of these — giddy, voluptuous nightmares of universal extinction, usually by fire, at divine order. A favored remnant is always saved in such tales, of course, but only after being transformed into some different, higher order of being. The gross human body — that bleeding, fouling, endlessly replicating sack of earth — is gleefully consigned to eternal oblivion.
It seems that some ineradicable nihilism pervades us, like a virus, now dormant, now flaring: something in us that wants to die, to be done with the long, overhanging doom of mortality — and to take the world with us. Our grandiose visions of the future seem to hide, at their core, a secret, desperate anxiety about the profound meaninglessness of existence — an anxiety that often disguises itself in elaborate fantasies of the afterlife, in dreams of "dominance" for one’s "own kind" (nation, tribe, faith, race, ideology, etc.), or in the eroticizing of death, war and destruction.
Instincts for preservation, sentiments of affection, the drive for pleasure — from the most basic bodily urges to the most sublime creations and apprehensions of the intellect — act as counterweights to this dark virus, of course. They provide for most of us, most of the time, enough fragments of meaning — or at least sufficient distraction — to get on with things, without too much resort to world-engulfing visions or the extremes of nihilistic anxiety.
On the individual level, the calibration of these competing impulses can be intricate, subtle, ever-shifting, because the individual mind is so complex and all-encompassing, yet also so enclosed, so unlockably private as well: an infinitely supple tool for managing the conflicts and contradictions of reality. But on the broader level — species, nation, group — human consciousness is, of necessity, a far more blunt and brutal instrument.
There, our brain-fevers and anxieties rage more virulently, lacking the counterweights of individual feeling and the quick, intimate responsiveness of the private mind. In the group-mind, the fantasies that root in the muddy fear of meaninglessness can emerge full-blown. Thought and discourse are reduced to broad strokes, slogans, codes and incantations, with little correspondence to reality. Awareness of this tendency can mitigate some of its effects; but the group-mind’s fundamental falsity and irreality almost invariably infects the thoughts and actions of group leaders — and eventually many of the group members as well.
Thus we can sometimes say, not entirely metaphorically, that nations "go mad," hurtling themselves toward ruin, embracing self-destruction, lusting for violence and death, sick with nihilism — although this sickness is always painted in the colors of patriotic fervor or religious zeal, or both…
Now draw these dangerous streams together, and you have a portrait of the blunt and brutal group-mind at work in the leadership of the world’s most powerful nation. The folly, fantasy and death-fetish of the Bush Regime — long evident to anyone who cared to see — were finally "revealed" in the mainstream media recently by the quasi-official Establishment oracle, Bob Woodward. His latest insider portrait, Plan of Attack, offers — in the usual, easily-gummed pabulum form — a few tastes of the bitter truth behind the Regime’s mad, ruinous war crime in Iraq.
The corrosive nihilism at the heart of the enterprise ate through the gaudily-painted surface most tellingly in a single anecdote. Woodward asks George W. Bush how he thinks history will regard his adventure in Iraq. Bush, gazing out the window, shrugs and waves the question away. "History, we don’t know," he says. "We’ll all be dead." No fine, faith-filled talk here about God and Jesus and the immortal soul responsible for its actions throughout all eternity — the kind of zealous patter Bush favors in public statements. This was just the cold, rotten, meaningless core of his grand vision: "We’ll all be dead." So who cares? Après moi, le deluge.
Who would have thought the floodwaters of this death vision would have risen so high again so soon? Yet here they are again, beating against the gates.
UPDATE: Jonathan Schwarz points out that all of the Senate’s Democratic candidates for president voted for Lieberman’s Iran War amendment: Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, and Joe Biden. Just in case you were expecting a saner foreign policy after the 2008 election.
UPDATE II: Meanwhile, George Milhouse Bush wants to make one thing perfectly clear: even in the highly unlikely (if not totally impossible) event that the Senate grows a rudimentary spine and tries to place the slightest obstacle in the way of a military attack on Iran, the Commander Guy will peremptorily veto it and instigate the mass murder anyway.
Spencer Ackerman at TPM Cafe found this gem of arrogant defiance in "a little-noticed letter from the White House to Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee." The main subject of the letter was a similar vow to veto any restrictions on Bush’s ability to continue his war crime in Iraq. The passage concerning Iran might seem redundant now, after the Senate’s vote on Lieberman’s "Persia delenda est!" measure, which puts a gun in Bush’s hand and screams for him to pull the trigger, but the President is obviously taking no chances.
Chris Floyd [send him mail] is the author of Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.