As crazy as it sounds, President George Bush might be planning to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.
There are two currents of speculation flowing through Washington these days. One current says that the Bush administration is planning the bombing campaign, but only as a bluff to force the Iranians to negotiate. The other current says that the Bush administration actually plans to launch the attack.
Unfortunately, I think the latter is the accurate one. So far, the Bush administration has eerily followed the exact same pattern it used to justify the attack against Iraq. Bush keeps insisting, without a shred of evidence, that Iran, despite its denials, is seeking nuclear weapons. Remember how he kept insisting that Iraq had huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?
Secondly, he has set up the diplomatic efforts to fail. By demanding that Iran suspend its uranium-enrichment program as a precondition for talks, he guarantees, of course, that Iran will reject that offer. It’s like a wife telling her husband, "Sign over the house, the car and half your income, and then we’ll talk about a divorce settlement."
Thirdly, Bush knows Russia and China will veto any U.N. effort to impose sanctions. Therefore, one night he will go on national television and say we tried diplomacy and that failed, we tried the U.N. and that failed, so I’m ordering American forces to take out Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities.
The scariest part of this scenario is that Bush and his war hawks seem to believe that the Iranian people will blame their own government for the American attack, overthrow it and install a new government that will be eager to jump into bed with the U.S and Israel. That’s really nuts.
It’s the old "They will greet us with flowers and sweets and dancing in the streets" routine. You would think that 2,600 dead Americans and 20,000 wounded in Iraq would have convinced even the most ideologically blinded that you can’t win hearts and minds by bombing bodies to bits. The Iranian people will do what human beings always do — rally around their government and prepare to fight the foreign invader. It will end all hope of a democratic reform movement.
There is no question that we have the air power to substantially damage Iran’s nuclear facilities, even though they are dispersed and some are underground. Iran doesn’t have much of an air force, and I doubt its air-defense system would last more than a day. We will kill a lot of civilians in the process.
What would be the consequences? I don’t know exactly, but I believe they would be very bad for us. According to polls, most of the world already thinks we’re a greater threat to world peace than either Iran or North Korea. I think it would reduce our influence in Europe and in other parts of the world to zero.
The price of oil would certainly hit $100 or more a barrel, and that would have a devastating impact on the world economy.
Iran would retaliate as best it can. It would launch its missiles at U.S. forces in the region, and probably at Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel. How effective they would be remains to be seen. Ernie Hemingway once quipped that the outcome of war is always uncertain unless, of course, you’ve decided to go to war against Romania. Iran might attack the oil facilities in the Arab countries or try to sink a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. Shiites in Iraq might attack U.S. forces.
Pakistan might break relations with us or see its government overthrown. I imagine the Muslim world would see an attack on Iran as "the last straw." Syria might figure it was next and launch against Israel. Ditto North Korea. If you were on Bush’s "axis of evil" list and you’d seen two countries also on the list pre-emptively attacked, what would you think?
The irony of it all is that despite the smear talk of Hitlers in the Middle East, the leader whose thinking process most resembles Hitler’s is our own president. Like Hitler, Bush’s ideological beliefs have blinded him to reality, and like Hitler, he seems impervious to advice that conflicts with his beliefs. There the resemblance ends, of course, but it is bad enough. Hitler learned that he couldn’t win a two-front war, and Bush will learn that he can’t democratize the Middle East with bombs and bullets.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.