by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
September 29, 2006
THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE IN IRAN
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If these were normal times, the thought that President George W. Bush would launch a war to preserve his party's grip on power would be dismissed as lunacy.
Unfortunately, these are not normal times and the current occupant of the White House is not a rational man.
We know that, barring an October Surprise, the Republican Party could lose its control of Congress after the Nov. 7 election.
We also know that the GOP's political strategy is all about fear and endless war, so the possibility that the Bush Administration will launch an attack on Iran's nuclear research facilities in late October suddenly doesn't seem that far-fetched.
The Bush Administration has painted Iran as a grave threat to national security because of its nuclear ambitions and its support of international terrorism. As was the case in Iraq, the Bush Administration believes that the threat posed by Iran is so grave, they can't wait around for the United Nations or Congress to give approval for a preemptive attack.
The signs do not look good. Time magazine reported last week that a "prepare to deploy order" (PTDO) was given by the Navy to the crews of an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine-hunting ships. They were told to be ready to shove off on Oct. 1.
The Nation also reported last week that the Eisenhower Strike Group, based in Norfolk, Va., also received a PTDO. The strike group is led by the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower and includes a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort, supply ship and a copious amount of cruise missiles.
Both, according to Naval Intelligence sources who leaked news of the deployments to the press, are apparently headed to the Persian Gulf. They would arrive sometime around Oct. 21.
The Enterprise carrier group is also in the same region, where it is involved in air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is at the end of its scheduled six-month tour, but may stick around even after the Eisenhower group arrives.
Is this evidence of war planning? According to Col. Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force officer and national security expert, it is. "You can't issue a PTDO and then stay ready for very long," he told Time. "It's a very significant order, and it's not done as a training exercise."
Iran is still many years away from having the capability of building a nuclear weapon, but as a charter member of President Bush's "axis of evil," it has been in the crosshairs of the Bush Administration for the past four years.
Since a ground invasion of Iran is off the table because of the Army's ongoing problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gardiner said the plan, which has been in the works for months, is a massive air and naval attack on up to 1,500 targets in Iran.
An attack like this is certainly doable and has a high chance of success. It's what comes after the bombing that is the frightening part.
Gardiner, who taught strategy at the National War College, has been conducting a mock U.S.-Iran war game for the past five years. In almost every scenario, Gardner said the initial U.S. attack spawns a variety of unpredictable responses.
Iran could tell Hezbollah, which it has supported for years, to launch another attack on Israel to draw it into the war. Iran could also stir up trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, since Iran has ties with the main factions fighting U.S. forces in Iraq and is getting cozy with some of the warlords in Afghanistan.
Then there is the specter of an oil supply disruption. Most of the world's oil flows through the Straits of Hormuz, and Iran could easily mine the shipping lanes and launch sea attacks on tanker ships. Block off that key entry way into the Persian Gulf, and oil prices would soar to above $100 a barrel within days.
In other words, Gardiner said Iran would use every weapon at its disposal to retaliate, and the resulting chaos would also provoke more jihadist terror attacks around the world and galvanize support for terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaida. The Arab world would be solidly against the United States, which would be even more isolated as anti-Americanism expands around the globe.
So why would the Bush Administration even contemplate bombing Iran, if the probable outcome is global chaos? Why, with two unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would it try for a third conflict with a country that would be more able to fight back in more different ways than the Iraqi insurgents or the Taliban?
Why? Because we are dealing with a President who is still wedded to idea that he can attack any nation he pleases. Our Constitution and international law means nothing to him. Domestic or global public opinion means nothing to him. The objections of many of this nation's military leaders means nothing to him.
We are faced with thinking about the unthinkable, knowing that we do not have a sober, prudent leader in the White House. The question is, can he be stopped from plunging the nation into a catastrophe that will be even worse than Iraq or Afghanistan?
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.