Casus Belli Flops

by digby

Josh Marshall quoted a post from last September on an insider national security blog called "The Swoop" today in which they posited that the administration was changing its focus from WMD to Iranian influence in Iraq as a justification for the war they insisted must be waged. Josh notes:

Just one blog post, definitely. But the key point is right there: word was out that the NIE deliver the goods for the Iranian bomb enthusiasts, that the "WMD argument" for war would not "gain traction from the IC (i.e., Intelligence Community)."

What it all comes down to is what the president says he didn't know about until the beginning of December was already being chatted about on insider national security blogs back in September. Does anybody still believe he hasn't known this for months?

No. And it isn't just one blog post. I am hardly an insider, but I was certainly saying this back at the beginning of October based upon this article by Sy Hersh in the New Yorker:

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

I noticed at the time that there was a rather alarming rhetorical conformity on this issue coming from the Iran hawks:

Using the exact language Seymour Hersh described in his recent article, Cheney lays the groundwork for an attack based upon the alleged fact that Iran is arming the Iraqi insurgency:

General Petraeus has noted, Iran's Quds Force is trying to set up a "Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and to fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq." At the same time, Iran is "responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and, in some cases, the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers."

...Iran's real agenda appears to include promoting violence against the coalition. Fearful of a strong, independent, Arab Shia community emerging in Iraq, one that seeks religious guidance not in Qom, Iran, but from traditional sources of Shia authority in Najaf and Karbala, the Iranian regime also aims to keep Iraq in a state of weakness that prevents Baghdad from presenting a threat to Tehran.

Perhaps the greatest strategic threat that Iraq's Shiites face today in -- is -- in consolidating their rightful role in Iraq's new democracy is the subversive activities of the Iranian regime.

And Bill Kristol follows up with very similar language, only adding that we are already win-win-winners!

KRISTOL: We’re winning in Iraq...It looks like the Iranian government is going for the full hard line on their nuclear program. And I think we are going to have to be serious about dealing with both their intervention in Iraq — which is now the only real threat, I think, incidentally, to relative success in Iraq — and their nuclear program.

WALLACE: When you say getting serious, I think a lot of our viewers are going to say, Kristol thinks there’s going to be a war.


KRISTOL: I think there could be a use of force. September 6th, 2007, when Israel used force against Syria to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons with North Korean aid, is going to go down in history, I think, as the date where we got a glimpse of the kind of future we’re dealing with...I think the short-term question is does Petraeus think he needs a little help across the border to secure our successes in Iraq.

And if so, I think the president will give it to him. We can’t let them just build IEDs and train Iraqis with impunity across the border.

And then there was this from certifiable lunatic, Michael Ledeen. We've already won, but risk losing again if we don't well... you know:

...Gen. Petraeus told Congress last month that it would not be possible to win in Iraq if our mission were restricted to that country.

Not a day goes by without one of our commanders shouting to the four winds that the Iranians are operating all over Iraq, and that virtually all the suicide terrorists are foreigners, sent in from Syria. We have done great damage to their forces on the battlefield, but they can always escalate, and we still have no policy to direct against the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran.

It seemed obvious to me that the Iran obsessives were working hard to build a case that even if Iran didn't have the bomb, it had declared war on the US by killing our soldiers in Iraq and we had to start bombing them post-haste anyway. Kyl-Lieberman was clearly designed to further that goal, no matter what Clinton and others say about it now.

Their problem seems to be that The Man Called Petraeus's surge has resulted in a decline in violence and urgency about Iraq --- and they couldn't hold back the NIE any longer. (It would have leaked before long with all this warmongering going on.) They finally had to admit that they couldn't get this defective casus bellis off the assembly line.

They knew. A whole bunch of them knew, even that nutcase Ledeen.