Joe Lieberman, warmongering centrist

The risk of a war with Iran is real, substantial and imminent.


Glenn Greenwald
June 10, 2007 8:06PM (UTC)

(updated below - updated again)

The consensus of pundits holds that Joe Lieberman is one of Washington's true centrists, a real independent, someone who eschews the extremes in favor of sensible, non-ideological solutions. As but one example that I coincidentally included in a recent post, Mike Allen, in the aftermath of Lieberman's defeat in the primary, warned in Time of the doom Democrats faced as a result of their "rejection of a sensible, moralistic centrist."

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In our political culture today, this is what passes for a serious, sober, foreign policy centrist:

Lieberman Favors Military Strike on Iran

Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Sunday the United States should consider a military strike against Iran because of Tehran's involvement in Iraq.

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman said. "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

"If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing."

Lieberman said much of the action could probably be done by air, although he would leave the strategy to the generals in charge.

The video of Lieberman issuing these "centrist" war cries is here.

The very idea of starting a new war with Iran is so obscenely irrational -- to say nothing of its morality -- that it is difficult to put into words. A vast consensus of military experts across the ideological spectrum have all been warning for several years that no viable option exists for the military glory which the great and serious Churchillian warrior, Joe Lieberman, seeks. Just fathom how quickly and how completely whatever lingering shreds of moral credibility America has left would disappear if we commenced a military attack on that country.

Joe Lieberman cares about none of that -- issues of American credibility and American security could not be any less important to Lieberman -- and the same is true for his fellow band of warmongering ideologues who have long been hungry for war with Iran as the next step in their grand vision that brought us the invasion of Iraq. Over the last year, they have been gradually increasing the explicitness with which they urge a war with Iran, and yet they are treated with as great a respect as ever.

In the American political framework, one can never lose credibility by urging on new wars. That is an inherently respectable position. Only opposing new wars, or the continuation of old ones, can result in a loss of credibility. Yet both the views and the underlying motives of warmongers like Lieberman are as radical -- and as deceitful and corrupt -- as can be.

In urging on Glorious War with Iran, Lieberman repeatedly mentioned Israel, including the fact that he had just returned from his latest visit there. In parading around all the various possible pretexts for this new war, Lieberman repeatedly highlighted all the threats which Iran poses to that country, which is a different nation than the U.S. That Israel is at the center of the growing calls for a new war with Iran can hardly be reasonably doubted.

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In early 2007, Benjamin Netanyahu, likely the next Israeli Prime Minister, said:

Israel "must immediately launch an intense, international, public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. The goal being to encourage President Bush to live up to specific pledges he would not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We must make clear to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel."

And Israeli Minister Avigdor Lieberman (whose duties include strategic affairs and Iran) visited the U.S. earlier this year, and gave an interview to The New York Times in which he said this:

"Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem," which he called "the biggest threat facing the Jewish people since the Second World War.b

Israel has identified Iran as the greatest threat to the Jewish state. Israel's concerns have heightened since the election of Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who frequently calls for the destruction of Israel and has questioned whether the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews took place.

There are few things that would be more devastating to the United States than the commencement of a new war, this one with Iran. And for that reason, there seems to be a complacency over this issue, some sense that the idea advocated expressly by Lieberman today is so extreme and insane that it could not possibly happen.

I don't see how anyone could possibly have watched our political process over the last six years and find that comfort. I devoted a large bulk of my forthcoming book not only to arguing as comprehensive a case as I could against military confrontation with Iran, but also attempting to document all the reasons why such a war has become, in the absence of some very fundamental changes, all but inevitable under this administration.

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What exactly would stop the Bush adminstration from commencing such a war if the views of our Dick Cheneys and Joe Liebermans and Bill Kristols prevailed, as they have for the last six years? The Democrats were unable/unwilling even to include a provision in a bill several months ago which would merely have required Congressional approval before such an attack could be undertaken. Why? According to The Hill, it was because:

House Democratic leaders initially attempted to insert Iran language in their now-vetoed Iraq supplemental bill, but abandoned the plan after some New York Democrats, including Reps. Eliot Engel and Gary Ackerman, balked at the language.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential group that advocates strong U.S. ties with Israel, lobbied heavily to remove the Iran provision in the supplemental, arguing that the measure would weaken President Bush's attempts to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The Centrist Lieberman is advocating an action which the American public overwhelmingly opposes. And only a tiny minority of Americans even believe that the Bush administration is telling the truth when it "accuse[s] Iran of supporting Iraqi insurgents by supplying them with weapons to use against American forces." Yet nothing matters less to this administration than public opinion. That is the absolute least likely instrument for impeding such military action.

As usual, the American public is several steps ahead of our doddering, mindless pundit class. While Joe Klein fills the pages of Time Magazine writing revoltingly self-centered screeds about how mean people are to him, and while Tim Russert devotes his show this morning to the probing and fascinating question of whether Hillary Clinton developed "a plan" to be President in the 1990s, most Americans -- 57% -- believe "it is at least somewhat likely that the United States will be at war with Iran before another year goes by."

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Those who believe that the tragic damage wrought on our country by this presidency can be contained and then gradually reversed can have no higher priority than preventing the war for which Joe Lieberman, Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney and company are so plainly yearning. What that strain of warmonger has demonstrated conclusively over the last several years is that they recognize no limits in implementing their full agenda. War with Iran has long been an integral part of that agenda, and anyone who believes that they will view the ongoing crisis in Iraq -- or anything else -- as impediments to this next step simply does not understand just how extremist they are.

The principal force driving American actions over the last six years is the willingness of this political faction to exploit the 9/11 attacks to any extent necessary, and to find any pretext necessary, in order to bring about their policies of Middle East militarism. They are nowhere near the end of that course, and a war with Iran has long been the centerpiece. They may be discredited and weakened, but they are still the most powerful political faction in our country, the one most respected by the press, and the one in full control of the White House.

UPDATE: Digby asks what the real reason is for the unexpected dismissal of Pete Pace as Joint Chiefs Chairman. As with all of these sorts of personnel changes, there are likely multiple causes, and all one can really do is speculate, but it is worth noting that General Pace recently created controversy when he "undercut the argument advanced by the White House and many GOP lawmakers that a congressional debate challenging the Bush plan would hurt troop morale" and, perhaps more importantly, when he contradicted the official Bush administration line by stating that "there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs."

As Cernig documented at the time, Pace appeared quite deliberately to be undermining the administration's most provocative war-fueling claims against Iran. There would certainly be substantial military resistance to an entirely new neoconservative project which will further stretch, exploit and dishonor the armed forces for such plainly illegitimate goals, though the extent of that resistance remains to be seen.

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On a different note, and just to clarify -- as was exactly true with the Iraq war, there are a whole variety of political factions and motives driving the belligerence towards Iran, many of which have nothing to do with Israel. There are, for instance, the Cheney/Gingrich types who simply believe in the use of military force as a means of enforcing America's will (and establishing their own "power" and "toughness"), and independently, there is a strong evangelical faction which supports such Middle East militarism for theological reasons. And as is always true when it comes to Middle East conflicts, strategic manuevering over oil is always near the center of such matters.

The Israel-centric neoconservative strain of warmongers (which is anything but helpful to Israel, despite its "pro-Israeli" pretense) is but one such faction (albeit a very strong one) pushing the President to war with Iran. But it is not the only one.

UPDATE II: Cernig's post today, analyzing Lieberman's comments, adds several important points and is well worth reading.


Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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