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Candide’s Latest: Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Iran's Nuclear Bait

Children aren't the only ones playing war games by the precipice (but they're the only ones you can forgive)

And now the consequences, for Americans, of the Lebanon war: The United States wants sanctions on Iran. Iran can gamble all it wants. After the Lebanon war, the chances of an American strike, or any meaningful retaliations over Iran’s intransigence over its nukes program for that matter, are slim to none, unless Bush is a mad man willing to open a fourth front in his spiraling wars (fifth, if you count Colombia), and unless Americans are ready to pay $6 for a gallon of gas should Iran decide to turn off its oil spigot for a while. I’m willing to pay that $6 if Bush is (Europeans have been paying it and more for a while now), in this electoral season. But he’d rather do the impossible, ratchet up the rhetoric, launch the missiles and bunker busters and do Iran’s bidding: The Islamic world (it would be inaccurate to say “the Arab world,” with Iran in the picture) would perversely delight at yet more proof of the “Christian” West doing like the wicked witch and straddling more missiles Islam’s way. All of which is, also perversely, making the Iranians look like the reasonable ones in the bunch, twirling with schemes as they must be beneath their radiated turbans: For now, Iran is willing to chat but not abort its uranium enrichment program. It was curious to see how the press played it in the last twenty-four hours. The less alarmist Financial Times just said as much: “Teheran offers new talks in nuclear dispute.” The Guardian is even more neutrally positive: “Iran gives response to nuclear proposal,” and the BBC is nearly glowing: “Iran offers west ‘serious’ talks.” It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether those Britishers mean their little quotes to mean cynicism, sarcasm or mere transcription. No such subtleties in the United States, although oddly enough the Washington Moony Times, print transcriber to all things Foxy and rabidly reactionary, echoes the BBC with its own “Iran urges ‘serious’ nuclear negotiations.’ The Washington Post, ever the jingoist looking for its next war, adopted the tone of the Bush reactionaries: “Iran Reportedly rejects demands to halt nuclear efforts.” Undoubtedly, the Post’s online mechanics never intended to run an ominous picture of Osama holding an AK-47, featured in a CNN ad, down the spine of the Iran story, with the tag-line, “IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BIN LADEN.” Undoubtedly. The New York Times, bleeding from the reactionaries’ continuing onslaught about its “treasonous” anti-Bush ways, takes a sissier, down-the-middle analytical view: “Iran Sanctions Could Fracture Coalition.” France wants sanctions on Iran too, but there’s bad blood again between Condi Rice and the French after their brief erotic romp in the United Nations’ delegates’ lounge, where they crafted that Lebanon resolution—only to have France skimp out on sending real troops to South Lebanon. The Iranians must, again, delight in watching this vaunted West self-destruct. And all over Lebanon. Could that war have been a greater disaster for all concerned, except Hezbollah and its patrons? Iranians must think themselves as invincible as Hezbollah. Arab News, the Saudi news service, reports this odd bit of violence, and lawbreaking, by Iranians in the Gulf: “Iranian troops occupied a Romanian drilling platform in the Gulf yesterday, confirmed Gabriel Comanescu, the president of the platform’s Romanian operator GSP Grup. Grup Servicii Petroliere s.a (GSP), the Constanta-based company, alleged that security forces yesterday fired at its rig, Orizont, and forced their way in and cut off communication lines in an act of violation of international norms.” Iranians are doing their darndest to test the limits of international law.

Speaking of Lebanon, McClatchy’s excellent Mideastern reporters again nail the more pertinent story behind the obvious Lebanon headlines: Another Lebanese civil war looms:“Glossy new billboards touting Hezbollah's "divine victory" over Israel line Beirut's highways. The capital's famed nightspots are full again with scantily clad students drinking to make up for a month lost to war. Leaders of the country's political dynasties appear nightly on live television, urging their weary constituents to rebuild, forgive and move on. But this rosy image of resilience, a week after a U.N.-brokered cease-fire brought a halt to Israeli airstrikes, masks a growing realization among Lebanese that the next battle Lebanon faces probably will be among its own. From beautifully appointed salons in Beirut to the scorched villages of the south, there is blame, aimed at Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian patrons as well as Israel and its American backers. There's also concern among Lebanon's disparate ethnic and sectarian groups about Hezbollah's newfound power after the 34-day conflict.”

This is not a good day for another American war, if Marines’ enlistment numbers are any indication. The Marine Corps, already battered by revelations of misconduct, murder and rape by its own, is unable to find recruit enough new soldiers to fill boots, so, the LA Times reports, the corps “said Tuesday that it would begin calling thousands of Marines back to active-duty service on an involuntary basis to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the latest sign that American armed forces are under strain and a potential signal of the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war among young veterans.”

America's Disappearing Civil Liberties...

... and Its Judges Cheering it On: It was just a matter of time until Richard Posner, to whom serving on a federal appellate court is a hobby and writing books, articles and a blog is a full-time job, would come out with his own judge-bashing article against the opinion by a federal district court judge declaring Bush’s domestic spying illegal. “Last week,” Posner wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “a federal district judge in Detroit ruled that the National Security Agency's conduct of electronic surveillance outside the boundaries of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is illegal. As a judge I cannot comment on the correctness of her decision. But I can remark on the strangeness of confiding so momentous an issue of national security to a randomly selected member of the federal judiciary's corps of almost 700 district judges, subject to review by appellate and Supreme Court judges also not chosen for their knowledge of national security.” So without saying that the judge is incompetent, in so many words, he declared no only the Detroit judge, but the entire judicial branch, incompetent to rule on matters of national security. In other words: shut up and leave the president (that paragon of competence, apparently), alone. Posner’s mendacious means of letting The State do its business unhampered sound like something out of “Blade Runner,” without the sexiness or the rains: “Terrorists are difficult to deter and locking them up has only a limited preventive effect because the supply of terrorists is virtually unlimited. Fortunately, if a terrorist plot is detected it will usually be possible to neutralize the plotters without prosecuting them. Some can be deported, some held in administrative detention, some "turned" to work for us, some discredited in the eyes of their accomplices, some sent off on wild-goose chases by carefully planted disinformation, and some carefully monitored in the hope that they will lead us to their accomplices.” Ann Althouse mimics Posner in a Times OpEd today.

Lawrence Tribe, who should have been on the Supreme Court, sets both those who doubted the importance and validity of Judge Taylor’s decision and Posner’s latter-day Mussolinism straight: “ When a presidential program that wouldn't have been exposed at all but for leaks that the administration is trying not just to plug but to prosecute is manifestly lawless in the most fundamental respects; when that program challenges constitutional as well as statutory constraints on executive authority; when it is promulgated by an executive branch in the hands of characters who care little about the rule of law, much less about legal nuance; and when the lawmakers who are posturing as the program's critics have in fact engineered a statutory "fix" that amounts to little more than a whitewash in the offing -- when all these things are true, it's not costless to harp on the details of a basically correct legal denunciation of that program to the point of ridiculing the motives and capacities of the judge delivering the blow. Taking that tack is likely to play into the hands of the administration that was caught red-handed.” Tribe’s entire take is worth every word…

In Other Worlds and Blogs

Ezra Klein in the LATimes argues that Sen. Clinton should quit her run at the presidency and embrace a nobler, more realistic mantle of leadership: the Democrats’ leader in the Senate. “After all, it offers Clinton a way to disengage from an increasingly uphill effort, and it simultaneously floats the image of her in the minority or majority leader's seat, a position she's uniquely well-suited for.”

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