by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
March 20, 2008
IRAN WAR MORE LIKELY WITH FALLON'S EXIT
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's been overshadowed by the media hysteria over the fall of New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer and the fuss over Barack Obama's pastor, but the resignation of Navy Adm. William Fallon, the top American military commander in the Middle East, is a possible harbinger of bad things to come.
Fallon has been a sharp critic of the Bush Administration's aggressive threats against Iran. He, and other U.S. military leaders, believe that a war with Iran would be a military, political and economic disaster which would destabilize the entire Middle East.
Adm. Fallon also believes that the ongoing occupation of Iraq has left the U.S. military dangerously overextended, that more diplomacy is needed in U.S. foreign and national security policy, and that more attention needs to be paid to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also wasn't fond of the Bush Administration's favorite doldier, Gen. David Petraeus.
While these beliefs put him at odds with President Bush, what ultimately led to Fallon's not-so-voluntary retirement from the Navy is his belief that war, at this time, is not the right policy for dealing with Iran.
The irony is that President Bush specifically chose Fallon last year to be his top commander in the Middle East. Some observers then believed that selecting a Naval officer to lead the U.S. Central Command was a precursor to a possible carrier-based attack on Iran.
Fallon proved to be too independent for the Bush Administration's taste. That image was reinforced by a profile written by former Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett in the April issue of Esquire, which portrayed Fallon as the lone voice of sanity against an U.S. attack on Iran.
In keeping with the Bush Administration's policy of politicizing every aspect of our government, it will now try to find a commander who will not question policies. Perhaps Petraeus will be elevated to Fallon's spot. But whomever is chosen, it's clear that the first requirement for a new CENTCOM commander is to support military action against Iran.
The fear is growing that sometime before they leave office in January, President Bush and Vice President Cheney will order a massive bombing campaign on Iran. They still believe such an attack will destroy Iran's nuclear research facilities, cripple its military command-and-control systems and perhaps inspire Iranians to overthrow their government.
That plan has been sitting on the President's desk since 2006. The targets have been selected. There have been two aircraft carrier groups stationed in the Persian Gulf for nearly two years, both loaded with the weaponry to carry out an aerial attack. Reportedly, additional Air Force bombers are in the neighborhood also, ready to join the attack.
If no one chooses to stand up to Messrs. Bush and Cheney, and these plans go forward, all bets are off to what happens next. Oil goes up to $200 a barrel? Increased attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq by pro-Iranian Shiite militias? Terror attacks against American targets? Once war begins, anything can happen, and little of it is good.
Every American needs to be wary at this moment. It would not be out of character for the Bush Administration to double down their bets in Iraq by starting a war with Iran.
They think it would ensure that Sen. John McCain is elected president and that Republicans would retake control of Congress. They are also counting on Americans to be too distracted to watch their scheming, and the same people who lined up behind them five years ago this week - when the bombs started falling on Baghdad - will do so again when Tehran gets the "shock and awe" treatment.
It's up to all of us not to get fooled again.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.