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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Haven't I Seen This Before?

The October 23 edition of Frontline on PBS entitled Showdown with Iran should be required viewing for all Americans. The show looks backward from the current drumbeats for war against Iran coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Dick Cheney's secret bunker to previously unpublicized interactions between Iran and the United States after September 11, 2001. The show highlights the disconnect between clear attempts by Iranian moderates to alter a poisoned twenty year non-relationship with the United States and the Bush Administration's rebuff of those attempts in favor of heightened tensions.

The analysis of the show begins with some background likely to surprise most Americans. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, all the moronic, institutionalized "Death to America" chants in mosques and most public gatherings stopped -- at least briefly. Also, as America chased down Bin Laden and decided to go into Afghanistan, the Iranian government actually provided HELP to America. No, they didn't give us five billion dollars to help defray the cost of the invasion of Afghanistan. No, they didn't send troops to help patrol Kabul side by side with American soldiers. No, they didn't provide communication systems or advanced spy drones (is there really anything in the realm of materiel we'd need from ANYONE else?).

Iran DID help, however. From the Frontline piece:

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The US accepted Iran's help in Afghanistan. Sunni extremists like Al Queda and the Taliban were also enemies of Iran's Shia regime. Iran encouraged its allies, the Northern Alliance, to fight alongside US special forces. Within weeks, the Taliban collapsed. In fact, Hamid Karzi took charge in Kabul only after Iran had broken an impasse with the Northern Alliance.
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Our attitude in response? In the words of Richard Armitage (remember that name?), "Their cooperation on Afghanistan was quite good but in my own opinion, was somewhat lacking in other areas." Our attitude by January 2002? A mere four months later? George Bush labeled Iran a member of an "axis of evil".

That phrase "somewhat lacking" merits some comparisons.

Think for a moment about the "help" we've received so far from our ally Pakistan in the first six years of the "war on terror". Pakistan, our ally, could very well be the country housing Bin Laden. Pakistan, our ally, has done more to proliferate actual working nuclear technology and equipment than Iran is likely to possess in the next ten years. Pakistan, our "democratic ally", very nearly had its likely next prime minister assassinated in an attempt that had cooperation from forces within the current Pakistani government. America could do far worse than the support Armitage termed "lacking" from Iran. America IS doing far worse in the support from our so-called allies in the region.

The Frontline show makes a convincing argument that the Bush Administration blew an ideal opportunity to change the tone of our relationship with Iran. When presented with an opportunity to move a variety of regional problems from warm to simmer, we instead put more pots on the stove and set all the knobs to boil. The irony of Richard Armitage discounting the value of Iran's cooperation in a four month period after September 11, 2001 as "lacking" then pushing policies to build towards a war with that country for its alleged nuclear ambitions while LEAKING the name of a CIA operative who was actively engaged in quantifying that country's real nuclear threat is just too much at this point.

Watching the Frontline piece was like watching a two year old re-run of Frontline explaining the debacle in Iraq. ONLY IT'S NOT A RE-RUN. The actors are all the same. The made-up plot is identical. Cheney is out on the stump talking about sending "clear messages." The only difference? We're already on the path to spend TWO TRILLION DOLLARS over ten years on the first two fronts in our war on terror. Does anyone seriously think we can afford a third?