I hate agreeing with Vladimir Putin. Unlike Bush, who once said something idiotic about looking in Putin's eyes and finding a soulmate, I have never trusted him. Under his leadership, Russia seems to be returning to Soviet-style repression.
But his blunt statements, as reported in The New York Times, that the U.S. has undermined international institutions and done incredible damage to Middle East stability by waging war in Iraq, are right on the mark. Putin went on to point out that the world has:
One single center of power. One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.He means, of course, the United States. The U.S. is the sole super power at the moment, and we are acting like it. The only check on the kind of power the U.S. has must come from within, from restraint, from awareness of history and thought for the future. Unfortunately, all those things are foreign to the Bush administration which, like most bullies, is only interested in stomping everyone else into the ground.
Now I'm sure Putin isn't criticizing the U.S. out of some desire to bring the world back into balance. He has its own agenda -- which includes backing Iran and Russian worries about NATO -- and I certainly don't think the world would be better off if he were running the most powerful country in the world. But that doesn't make his analysis invalid.
The U.S. presents a real danger. The mess we've already made in Iraq will haunt the entire world for years to come -- and that would be true even if we began pulling troops out now. Throwing more troops at the problem just ensures more U.S. dead and wounded, without doing anything to solve the problem. (For a thorough analysis of the U.S. failure in Iraq and why Bush's little plan won't work, see Gen. William E. Odom's (U.S. Army ret.) brilliant piece in Sunday's Washington Post, "Victory Is Not an Option." Gen. Odom headed the National Security Agency under Reagan. He currently teaches at Yale and is a fellow of the Hudson Institute.)
And now Bush and his posse obviously want to invade Iran. They're planting all kinds of stories in the press about Iranian involvement in insurgent attacks in Iraq -- Saturday morning's lead headline on The New York Times online edition was "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says."
Now I don't have any way of knowing exactly what Iran is doing in Iraq. I'm sure they're doing something, not the least because they have a vested interest in an Iraq that isn't likely to be threat to Iran.
But my gut tells me the Bush administration is lying about Iran the same way it lied about weapons of mass destruction so that everyone would go along with the invasion of Iraq. Partly this is because I wouldn't believe Bush if he told me the sun was shining unless I walked outside to see for myself. But it's also because this story doesn't feel right -- why would Iran support an insurgency whose core comes from Saddam loyalists?
Juan Cole confirms my suspicions. He suggests The Times is being played by the Bush administration much as their former reporter Judith Miller was played in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq.
According to Cole, the numbers don't add up. 25 percent of U.S. deaths couldn't be due to Iranian bombs, he points out, because "25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites." And clearly Iran is not giving bombs to ex-Baathists and Sunni groups. As Cole points out:
So the unnamed sources at the Pentagon are reduced to implying that Iran is giving sophisticated bombs to its sworn enemies and the very groups that are killing its Shiite Iraqi allies every day. Get real!Cole goes on to point out that it is possible that some Iranian bombs are being smuggled into Iraq and sold to whoever will pay. Likewise, he says, a lot of the weapons the U.S. is supplying to Iraq are being sold on the black market to insurgents. Corruption and arms dealing go hand-in-hand, unfortunately.
Noting that Cheney spurned offers of help from Iran back in 2003, Cole sums up the Bush efforts to drag us Iran into this mess as follows:
The attempt to blame these US deaths on Iran is in my view a black psy-ops operation. The claim is framed as though this was a matter of direct Iranian government transfer to the deadliest guerrillas. In fact, the most fractious Shiites are the ones who hate Iran the most. If 25 percent of US troops are being killed and wounded by explosively formed projectiles, then someone should look into who is giving those EFPs to Sunni Arab guerrillas. It isn't Iran.Given that The Times coverage of the Iraq War has been excellent lately, and that they've published some blistering editorials condemning Bush policies (here's the most recent -- "The Build-a-War Workshop"), it's surprising that they're reporting Bush's Iranian allegations without more careful analysis.
We can only hope that the same senators who were "deceived" by Bush's Iraq lies -- such as Sen. Clinton, who is still claiming that her vote for the Iraq War wasn't really a mistake -- will ask harder questions about the saber-rattling at Iran.
Of course, this is the same U.S. Senate that is dithering about whether to pass a non-binding resolution opposing Bush's troop surge (and by the way, how many private security contractors have soldiers in Iraq right now? With the Bush administration penchant for outsourcing even war to high-paid contractors, I wouldn't be surprised to find that we've got even more "troops" on the ground than we're actually counting). Given that they're still not ready to take a firm stand and rein in an unpopular, incompetent, lame-duck president, it's hard to have a lot of faith in Congress.
The New York Times and the rest of the media need to ask hard questions about Bush's Iran allegations before they take on a life of their own. Congress needs to listen to the people and take action to get our troops out of Iraq before Bush escalates things even further.
Self-restraint is the only check on U.S. power right now. The Bush administration has never understood that the most powerful country in the world doesn't have to throw its weight around. It's up to Congress and the rest of us to try to bring the world back into balance.
(Note: the picture above of Putin doing judo comes from the President of Russia's website by way of Wikipedia.)