The main reason to pick up the New York Times anymore is to look for Paul Krugman's column. I am to his left, but Krugman's information and analysis are often excellent. Today Krugman published a very useful commentary on the Bush administration's possible determination to launch a major assault on Iran this spring ("Scary Movie 2," NYT, 12 February 2007, p. A25).
Part of the White House's strategy in this regard is of course a fairly obvious effort to provoke Iran into doing something that can be constructed as a casus belli…something along the lines of "Remember the Maine" (1898), Tonkin (1965) and "they [Mexico] shed blood on American soil" (1846).
About three-fourths of the way through his column, Krugman reminded me of something I vaguely recalled from last March but had not thought about in a while: "in a January 2003 meeting with the Briitish Prime Minister Tony Blair, The New York Times reported last year, President Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a U.S. surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire."
I've pasted the entire March 27th 2006 NYT story in below. To write the piece, the Times got access to a confidential memo written by David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy advisor. The memo "summarized [a 2-hour] discussion among Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides" that took place in the oval office on January 31, 2003.
As Krugman notes today, war with Iran is a much "harder sell" in 2007 than war with Iraq was in 2003 and so the effort is definitely on to provoke something. Some of the same creeps who prepared the deceptive, media-enabled case for Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L…those who read my foreign policy writings know why I replace "Freedom" with "Liberation": it makes for the appropriate acronym).
Do not underestimate the manipulative madness of the United States' in-power messianic militarists. They are not convinced that their dastardly run of imperial mayhem is over: "real men," as the neoconservative half-joke went in 2002, aren't satisfied with Badhdad…they want to go to Teheran. They are pining to wreak bunker-busting, potentially nuclear havoc on Iran, whatever the disastrous consequences. This is some very scary shit, people.
And do not understimate the willingness of "liberal" U.S. media to enable the assault on Iran too. Just look at the Times' page-one story in the same issue containing Krugman's column: James Glanz, "U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites," (NYT, 12 February 2007, A1)
Here's the 2006 Times article:
Memo: Bush set war date
Blair was told invasion would occur regardless of weapons report
12:05 AM CST on Monday, March 27, 2006
LONDON – In the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second U.N. resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made it clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion among Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing Mr. Bush. "This was when the bombing would begin."
The attacks were ordered on March 19.
The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.
Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second U.N. resolution against Iraq – which they failed to obtain – the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book Lawless World, which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.
Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war.
The memo indicates that the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a U.S. surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
These proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush's extemporaneous suggestions or whether they were elements of the government's plan.
Two senior British officials confirmed the authenticity of the memo but declined to talk about it. But one added, "In all of this discussion during the run-up to the Iraq war, it is obvious that viewing a snapshot at a certain point in time gives only a partial view of the decision-making process."
Frederick Jones, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Sunday that the president's public comments were consistent with his private remarks to Mr. Blair. "While the use of force was a last option, we recognized that it might be necessary and were planning accordingly," he said.
"The public record at the time, including numerous statements by the president, makes clear that the administration was continuing to pursue a diplomatic solution into 2003," he said. "Saddam Hussein was given every opportunity to comply, but he chose continued defiance, even after being given one final opportunity to comply or face serious consequences. Our public and private comments are fully consistent."