Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

A reader (hat tip Bob Abu!) sent me this staggeringly good article written by long-time political journalist Seymour Hersh, appearing in the New Yorker, entitled “The Next Act.” Specifically, it addresses whether the recently humbled Bush Administration is now more likely, or less likely, to invade Iran.

What was Cheney’s reaction to the possibility of a Democratic Congress and Senate?

Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire–that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.

The White House’s concern was not that the Democrats would cut off funds for the war in Iraq but that future legislation would prohibit it from financing operations targeted at overthrowing or destabilizing the Iranian government, to keep it from getting the bomb. “They’re afraid that Congress is going to vote a binding resolution to stop a hit on Iran, à la Nicaragua in the Contra war,” a former senior intelligence official told me.

The article also addresses progress (or lack thereof) in Iraq, and how the decisions made in the next few months, in the midst of a zeitgeist for change, may be critical in the way this war is fought.

“Bush has followed Cheney’s advice for six years, and the story line will be: ‘Will he continue to choose Cheney over his father?’ We’ll know soon.”

“Iraq is as bad as it looks, and Afghanistan is worse than it looks,” Armitage said. “A year ago, the Taliban were fighting us in units of eight to twelve, and now they’re sometimes in company-size, and even larger.” Bombing Iran and expecting the Iranian public “to rise up” and overthrow the government, as some in the White House believe, Armitage added, “is a fool’s errand.”

“Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,” Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said. “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there”–in the White House–“and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell–the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.”

The thought that America would even think of invading, or waging war with another country sends shudders through me. We are over-extended and bleeding money, just with the wars we’re in now. With Bush’s tax cuts and rampant spending, I’ll be paying for this war until the end of my life. Likely my children will too. Don’t make my grandchildren pay for Bush’s folly.

Check out the rest of this excellent article by Hersh.


  1. #1 Joseph j7uy5
    November 23, 2006

    This is a huge issue. I don’t think there is any doubt about it, that certain high-ranking officials and other influential people would love* for us to attack Iran. If you go back and watch the State of the Union address from January 2006, keeping in mind the hypothesis that we might be preparing for war, you’ll be worried.

    (*Usage note: I realize how perverse it is to use the word “love” in this context, but I think it underlines the how perverse the idea is.)

    The only thing that stops this from happening is the fact that we do not have the military capability to do it, without a massive increase in the size of the military. That could only be accomplished with a military draft. And that could only be accomplished with public support. Such support could only come about if the public falls for the propaganda campaign that I think is going on right now.

    Therefore, it is important that people not fall for it. Moreover, it is important that we keep up a drumbeat of caution.

  2. #2 bigTom
    November 23, 2006

    I think the “conventional wisdom” is that after the disastrous results, in Lebanon, and the elections, and well the fact that nearly all experts and pundits have chimed in that an attack on Iran would be a disaster, that the prospects of said attack are now quite low.
    I hope this is correct.
    Joseph is right, we dare no slacken off on the drumbeat of caution.

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