'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Military Disobedience? 

From the Sunday Times:

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

Such a story is striking, because, if true, it is another indication of the profound dysfunctionality of American social life. The generals have come to the conclusion that others have already reached: there is no one or no institution outside the military capable of derailing the jingoistic plans of a rogue President.

Congress is entangled within procedural snares as it engages in mock debates about objecting to Bush's policy of escalation in Iraq. To the extent that anyone in Congress talks about Iran, they either enthusiastically support the use of military force, or, more politely, insist upon the necessity of keeping all options open, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons. A purported silent majority of members is alarmed about the prospect of war with Iran, but few express it publicly.

As for the media . . . well, let's go there, if we must. Michael Gordon of the New York Times, you know, Judith Miller's partner in crime in regard to promoting the presence of WMDs as a justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, promptly volunteered for duty with the administration's current propaganda operation. Gordon obligingly published an article indicating that the Iranians were responsible for the deaths of many American soldiers through the manufacture and supply of more sophisticated improvised explosive devices.

Other newspapers are more skeptical, especially, curiously enough, the Los Angeles Times, which has published a couple of articles which has found such claims unpersuasive, most recently on February 15th, when, unlike Gordon, it found some people in the military willing to go on the record, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. But if is rare to find any voice in the media, whether in print, on radio or on television, willing to confront the notion that an attack upon Iran would be an unprovoked one against a country that has suffered from the predations of the US for over 50 years.

As Noam Chomsky recently observed, Iran is independent and independence is not tolerated. This is clearly the line presented in much of the media, where the government of Iran is perpetually described as a threat to the US in amorphous terms related to its role in Lebanon, Iraq, and, of course, within its own boundaries. Negotiation is out of the question, because it would require the US to publicly acknowledge Iran's right to conduct its own foreign and domestic policies without receiving the approval of the US. Hence, there is no debate over whether the US has the right to attack Iran, rather the discussion is whether the US can launch such an attack without imperiling its control over the region.

So, that leaves the people, people like you and me. In addition to the obvious, we feel disempowered, worn down by a system that never seems to listen, as we try to cope with the pressures of day to day life, there is also disbelief. People really don't believe that an attack upon Iran is imminent. And, it does admittedly strike most rational people as absurd. Prior to the launching of the war with Iraq, there was a lot of discussion, you'd encounter people who would bring it up unsolicited in conversation, and there were large protests. Now, there are few protests, sparsely attended, and hardly anyone ever mentions the subject.

If this war is launched, the consequences could be catastrophic. It could spread throughout the region; it could escalate to the point that the US uses tactical nuclear weapons; it could be, despite the best efforts of US military planners, open-ended. Who is to say that the Iranians cannot fight an asymmetrical conflict against us indefinitely after absorbing the destruction of a brutal air campaign? Apparently, if the Sunday Times article is credible, the US military is equally frightened about these possibilities, if not more so, and, in the absence of any meaningful public domestic opposition, some of its most prominent officers are considering their own form of civil disobedience to prevent it from happening.

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