Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Ellsberg, one of the most principled, most courageous people in America in our lifetime, still commands our attention, because, despite all that he has experienced, his optimism is undiminished. He speaks to our personal idealism with a strongly held belief that people can be induced to do the right thing, the moral thing, and that by doing so, they can literally change history.
A hidden crisis is under way. Many government insiders are aware of serious plans for war with Iran, but Congress and the public remain largely in the dark. The current situation is very like that of 1964, the year preceding our overt, open-ended escalation of the Vietnam War, and 2002, the year leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In both cases, if one or more conscientious insiders had closed the information gap with unauthorized disclosures to the public, a disastrous war might have been averted entirely. . . .
We face today a crisis similar to those of 1964 and 2002, a crisis hidden once again from the public and most of Congress. Articles by Seymour Hersh and others have revealed that, as in both those earlier cases, the president has secretly directed the completion, though not yet execution, of military operational plans—not merely hypothetical “contingency plans” but constantly updated plans, with movement of forces and high states of readiness, for prompt implementation on command—for attacking a country that, unless attacked itself, poses no threat to the United States: in this case, Iran.
According to these reports, many high-level officers and government officials are convinced that our president will attempt to bring about regime change in Iran by air attack; that he and his vice president have long been no less committed, secretly, to doing so than they were to attacking Iraq; and that his secretary of defense is as madly optimistic about the prospects for fast, cheap military success there as he was in Iraq.
Even more ominously, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official, reported in The American Conservative a year ago that Vice President Cheney’s office had directed contingency planning for “a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons” and that “several senior Air Force officers” involved in the planning were “appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objection.” . . . .
Assuming Hersh’s so-far anonymous sources mean what they say—that this is, as one puts it, “a juggernaut that has to be stopped”—I believe it is time for one or more of them to go beyond fragmentary leaks unaccompanied by documents. That means doing what no other active official or consultant has ever done in a timely way: what neither Richard Clarke nor I nor anyone else thought of doing until we were no longer officials, no longer had access to current documents, after bombs had fallen and thousands had died, years into a war. It means going outside executive channels, as officials with contemporary access, to expose the president’s lies and oppose his war policy publicly before the war, with unequivocal evidence from inside.
Frankly, I'm not sure that I share his perspective, I have a more deterministic turn of mind, even as I hope that social movements in Venezuela, in China, in India and elsewhere around the world can transform a world dominated by US neoliberalism. I am more certain, however, that, in the absence of people like Ellsberg, there would be no hope at all.