Thursday, January 11, 2007

The hidden agenda (perhaps)

In all the flood of discussion following Bush's speech Wednesday night, I missed the following Machiavellian scheme. According to a plan ascribed to Dick Cheney, we should abandon any semblance of even-handedness in Iraq, and simply support the creation of a Shia state. In this new order the Sunni would be reduced to a helotry comparable to that of the Palestinians vis-a-vis Israel. Since al-Qaeda is Sunni, it would not flourish in a Shia state.

However, this strategy cannot be openly avowed for several reasons. First, it goes against the rhetoric of establishing Democracy--rhetoric that Bush feels he cannot retire, as it would remove the last figleaf of the invasion. Secondly, tilting decisively to the Shia would distress Saudi Arabia and others of our "friends" in the region. So we must appear to be following one policy, while actually promoting another.

In this view Bush was telling the truth (up to a point) when he said that he is supporting Maliki's plan. Maliki is of course entirely a creature of the Shia militias. Bowing to Realpolitik as the Cheney scheme appears to do, they are the ones who will constitute the new Iraqi army. They already control the police.

Bush has probably exacted a price for this gift to Maliki and his supporters. After they have consolidated their hold on Iraq--with our military continuing to provide a protective shield--they must stand aside while we attack their coreligionists in Iran. As several observers have noticed, the speech coincides with other statements of bellicosity towards Iran. A few days ago General Clark, echoing the well-informed reports of Seymour Hersh, sounded the alarm. Preparations for bombing Iran have not ceased, and indeed are well advanced.

In this way Bush will follow the path of every tyrant who finds himself in a losing war--start another war.

Eleanor Clift has astutely suggested that the reason for removing John Negroponte from his post as intelligence czar is that he refused to go along with cooking the intel data about Iran.

Faced with these dire circumstances, the Democrats have only "symbolic" votes to put into place. Such impotent tut-tutting will have no effect. Perhaps it is not intended to.

As with Vietnam, we have reached a point where the normal politics of the two-party system has failed. Now only massive demonstrations will work. If these are big enough, they might convince a substantial body of Republican Senators to go to Bush and tell him that the game is up. The country is becoming ungovernable. This step worked with Nixon. Yet there is only a slender hope that it will work now.


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