War Drums

Hope Not Yet Abandoned

For once, the ground may be shifting ever so slightly against an expanded U.S. war in the Middle East. The strongest recent evidence was the Dec. 3 release of the National Intelligence Estimate (reporting the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies), which led with the flat declaration of "high confidence" – which passes for bureaucratic certitude – that "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

That announcement came as a blow to the Bush administration, which took turns taking credit for the change (a 2005 NIE had declared the opposite) and muttering darkly that it probably isn't true. For the rest of us, it has to be greeted as good news: Either the spooks are willing to speak truth to a lame-duck president or the Iranians got smart enough to make it plain even to U.S. spies that they don't care to play nuclear chicken with the U.S.

With luck – as well as some yanking on Israel's chain – it's less likely the U.S. will find an excuse to attack Iran in the coming year. It could also mean the presidential campaign will become slightly less bellicose on the GOP side, while isolating Dem Hillary Clinton for her Bush-like sabre-rattling at the Iranians. It might even mean primary voters will push the candidates and the Congress to get serious about withdrawal from Iraq.

Meanwhile, on the ground, violence has undeniably diminished in Iraq, although it's unclear whether the U.S. "surge" or tactical Iraqi factional truces are most responsible. As The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks reported recently, the improvement is painfully relative. On Nov. 20, he alluded to Dante's Inferno while telling online readers, "I just got back from Baghdad last week, and it was clear that violence has decreased. But it hasn't gone away. It is only back down to the 2005 level – which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth."

As an invader and occupier, the U.S. remains responsible for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, a total to which hundreds continue to be added every month we remain. There are some 4 million external and internal refugees, also our responsibility. In the words of Seymour Hersh, "There are two very clear options. Option A: Get everybody out by midnight tonight. Option B: Get everybody out by midnight tomorrow. The fuel that keeps the war going is us."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Michael King
Dana DeBeauvoir Fought for Election Access in a Year of Barriers
Dana DeBeauvoir Fought for Election Access in a Year of Barriers

Nov. 27, 2020

Texas Book Festival 2020: Isabel Wilkerson on <i>Caste</i>
Texas Book Festival 2020: Isabel Wilkerson on Caste
Festival talk highlights structural foundations of U.S. divisions

Nov. 17, 2020


Iraq War, George W. Bush, Seymour Hersh

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle