January 13, 2007



Compared to what’s going on now, Nixon wandering the halls and babbling at paintings was kid’s stuff.

If there is a tendency to see this Administration as less dangerous since the election — what with apparently greater containment from Congress; the supposedly sobering impact of freshly-added Bush 41-era personnel; and overtly greater resistance from GOP regulars — one should not be taken in.

Psychologically, when you have a body (either an individual or a collective one) with this level of denial, aggression and hubris, and you pair it with this level of failure and public repudiation, what you get is a humiliation that is typically warded off by two things: one is paranoia (subsuming all personal faults, flaws and weaknesses into an obsession with “the enemy”) and the other is desperation (which, if the energy is still there, can result in near-delusional visions of coming out on top).

The fact my “Striking Oil” post earlier this week — of the Bidoun Magazine Iran/Uncle Sam cover and the map of the virtually-overlooked U.S. submarine incident in the Persian Gulf — immediately preceded Bush’s speech was not incidental.

If Bush, Cheney and Rice were more psychologically healthy (following the skeptical reaction to Bush’s speech, and the withering criticism Rice encountered before the Senate on Thursday), they would be acting/feeling chastened right now.  Instead, the product — unbelievably, from a non-clinical standpoint — is this dogged, paranoid and militaristic obsession with Iran.

I applaud Joe Biden this week for taking a loud and unqualified exception to where this is heading. This morning’s story in the NYT (Bush Authorized Iranians’ Arrest in Iraq, Rice Sayslink) is about as big a signal as one could receive about the compulsion to “get back on top.”

According to Rice, Bush’s authorization for the Erbil action grew out of a decision made in a Security Council meeting in the fall.  Other military moves, according to the paper, include the placement of “another” aircraft carrier off the Iran coast, and the stationing of Patriot antimissile systems in various countries close by the Iran border.

Openly warning the Administration over moves against Iran, Biden emphasized during the Foreign Relations hearing that Senate authorization to topple Saddam Hussein did not give Bush authority to go after Iran.  Leaving nothing to vagary, Biden specifically called out the Administration’s attack last week on an Iranian liaison office in Kurdish Iraq, and the seizure of its personnel.

As The Times concludes, Bush’s reference in Wednesday’s speech to Iran interfering in Iraq, combined with Rice’s new “willingness to discuss the issue” of Iran as a direct threat indicates a new level of hostility toward that country.

All of which brings me to this cover of last week’s Jerusalem Post weekend magazine.

It used to be they kept such stuff quiet.  However, with both the U.S. and the Israeli right wing operating with such impunity these days, hawkish intentions are now blatantly up front — evidenced by the American Enterprise Institute authoring a publicly-available war escalation plan that superseding the advise of our own military, and this JPost article, outlining the way Israel might be approaching a possible “D-Day” (or “decision day,” to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities) in 2007.

Its one thing to live in America, where we one is physically distanced from the flash points and actual instruments of the holy “war on terrorism.”  Living in Europe these past months, however, or visiting Israel, as I did last week — where you witness the open possession of weaponry, and feel the palpable tension and brooding in the separate ethnic and religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem –  the visuals become much less metaphorical.  After that, you get a better taste of the sense of that F-15I right above you, the force whipping the trees and the sound (if not the payload) splitting open your head.  (Notice also, reading right-to-left, as they do in the Middle East, how the jet is just that much more forward.)

In the months since the Israeli – Hezbollah war, I have made more progress in sorting out my own politics toward Israel.  If this sounds blindly obvious, one thing I appreciate much better now is the fact that Israel has as much of a left – right split as the U.S. does.

To that end, I can be just as fearful of a damaged and paranoid Israeli right, as I can be of the military potentiation with Washington.  And its only that much worse now that those American progenitors of “global war” are not just obsessing over Iran, but also politically, if not psychologically decompensating.

(image: Ariel Jerozolimski. Jerusalem Post. Cover. January 5, 2007)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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