"The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft."— King Lear
Both men are increasingly unpopular leaders who have recently been stingingly rejected by vot ers in off-year elections. Both are supported by a "base" of religious fanatics and militarists. Both belong to apocalyptic sects that believe the world will end with the coming of a saviour who will obliterate all enemies of the sect and establish it as the sole determinant of a transformed reality, forever. And both are wretched incompetents at governing, ruling by bluster and PR ploys while their bungled policies – based on blind ideological zeal — wreak havoc in the lives of ordinary citizens and degrade their nation's standing in the world.
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Ahmadinejad is in the weaker position, of course. As noted here before, under the Iranian system he has far less power to influence events in his own country, much less abroad, than Bush. He commands no armies, directs no nuclear programs, cannot order a single soldier into battle or launch a single missile at another country. His nation is beset by deep structural problems, volatile ethnic minorities, and the presence of American covert operators in the country, colluding with insurgents and terrorist groups. He has singularly failed to deliver on the economic promises that gave him his surprise election to the presidency, and now his disillusioned base is shrinking. As the Los Angeles Times reports from Iran:
"One person says he voted for Ahmadinejad because he would create jobs. And there are no jobs. Another person says it was because he would build houses. No one can afford these houses," [said Farshid Bakhtieri, 21, a computer salesman.] "He is like all the other politicians in the history of Iran, all of them coming with lots of promises, but no one follows these promises. He is exactly like the others."
Yet now, in his Mahmoud's darkest hour, George has come to rescue him. The ever-more open, ever-more frenzied efforts of the Bush Administration to manufacture war fever against Iran has been a godsend for Ahmadinejad, say Iranian reformers. In the face of the looming attack, all criticism of Ahmadinejad is muted, and open resistance to the country's draconian religious regime is paralyzed, as dissidents fear being identified as collaborators with those who threaten to destroy their country. The LA times again:
…Many Iranians say the international dispute over Iran's nuclear program has become a rallying point for a president who otherwise would be facing substantial public dissatisfaction over soaring inflation, rising unemployment and widespread censorship. This has been a source of frustration to Iran's reformists, who dealt the president's party a blow at the polls in local elections in December, but complain that the Bush administration's threatening rhetoric has pulled the rug out from under them.
"You are harmful for us. We try to tell politicians in Washington, D.C., please don't do anything in favor of reform or to promote democracy in Iran. Because in 100 percent of the cases, it benefits the right wing," said Saeed Leylaz, a business consultant and advocate of economic reform and greater dialogue with the West. "Mr. Ahmadinejad tries to make the international situation worse and worse. And now with the U.N. Security Council resolution, he can say, 'Look, we are in a dangerous position, and nobody can say anything against us, because the enemy is coming into the country.' Exactly like George W. Bush in Washington, D.C. They are helping each other. They need each other, I believe."
Exactly. And for his part, Ahmadinejad has obligingly reciprocated, offering up sound bites that can be easily used – and distorted and mistranslated – for war porn in the West, while wasting his nation's money and prestige on Holocaust revision conferences, and even more religious draconia at home. All of this is made to order for the Bush Faction, which has brought the fine old American art of demonizing the enemy du jour to a new pitch of perfection. (Or ubiquity, at least.) It would have been well-nigh impossible to work the "new Hitler" trick on Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, the genuine moderate whose administration was undermined at every turn not only by the internal fanatics who now back Ahmadinejad, but also by the Bush Faction, which ruthlessly turned aside all of Khatami's efforts to forge a new relationship with the United States, including a wide-ranging offer in 2003 for "full cooperation on nuclear safeguards," helping establish security in Iraq, ending armed support for Palestinian militias, taking "decisive action" against terrorists and recognizing Israel and "accepting a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," as the Washington Post reported this week. (This wasn't news, of course; the offer has been known for a long time. It's only come up again in the context of Condi Rice's recent denials that she ever saw the offer in 2003 – a rather transparent falsehood, given that she has talked about it in public before, as the Post notes.)
In other words, Bush could have had almost everything that he supposedly wants from Iran years ago, for the asking, through the "diplomatic process" that he claims to favor, instead of the "last option" of military action. But this was not to be. He didn't need a reformer in Tehran talking of reason, security and peace. He had other fish to fry. As I noted here almost a year ago:
It is highly unlikely that Ahmadinejad would have ever been elected president if Bush and his crony-cranks had not relentlessly and ruthlessly undercut every attempt by the moderate government of Khatami to forge a new relationship between Iran and the United States. The greatest opportunity came after September 11, of course, when Iran sought to help the US break al Qaeda, a common enemy that threatened both nations. But Bush and his circle, as we now know, were not interested in breaking al Qaeda or fighting terrorism; they were interested in "establishing a military footprint" in Iraq, as part of a wide-ranging plan to "project dominance" over the energy resources of the Middle East and Central Asia, while fomenting "creative destruction" throughout the region, in the belief that when the resultant rivers of blood had at last subsided, there would be a series of obedient client regimes installed in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere – including, in the dreams of some of the crankiest cronies, new, even more obedient American satraps in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, there could be no accommodation with moderate elements in Iran; on the contrary, the existence of a moderate faction within the Iranian power structure could only be a hindr ance to the Bushists' avowed goals. How could you maintain the profitable, fear-fomenting image of a dastardly nation – a member of the "axis of evil," no less – bent on the destruction of "the American way of life," if its leaders are trying reach an accommodation with you, if they speak of moderation, of a "dialogue among civilizations"? Khatami – already hemmed in by the hardline mullahs, unable to deliver all of his promised domestic reforms – was also left with nothing to show for his moderate foreign policy. Instead, Bush confirmed the mullah's criticism of Khatami: "You reach out to the infidels, and what do you get? They spit in your face, they try to destroy us."
As with Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein – those other useful tools of Bush Faction ambition – Ahmadinejad's time has almost come. (On the other hand, it appears that bin Laden's time will never come: "Intelligence on bin Laden Whereabouts has Grown Cold: US General." But that's understandable: the conquest of Iraq, the takedown of Iran – these are finite objectives, requiring only a temporary "new Hitler." But a never-ending "war on terror," a "long war," which "may last for generations" – that requires a bogeyman who will never be caught.) Newsweek reports that Bush is will be sending a third carrier group to the Persian Gulf soon, again with the express purpose of intimidating Iran and, in the pathetically juvenile formulation of "a senior administration official," to remind Tehran that " we're a power too," as the Washington Post reports. (See Arthur Silber's excellent evisceration of this "ludicrous utterance" and the Bushist asininity running rampant throughout the Post piece.) That same story buries its only real fragment of news several paragraphs down, with this revelation:
Some senior administration officials still relish the notion of a direct confrontation. One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 "the year of Iran" and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility.
Let us not forget that Dick Cheney and his attack dogs are not just "some senior administration officials." They have been the driving force at the much-corroded heart of all the Bush Faction's militarism and power-grabbing. If Dick Cheney's factotum is now openly telling foreign ambassadors that an attack on Iran is a "real possibility," then the bow is bent and drawn; the arrow soon will fly.
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