[Marxism] Minneapolis Tribune: Would Pace attack Iran if Bush ordered it?
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Feb 24 20:07:47 MST 2007
Published on Thursday, February 22, 2007 by the Minneapolis-St Paul Star
Would Pace Attack Iran if Bush Ordered It?
The head of the Joint Chiefs just sent his political masters a message, and
could send another.
by Gwynne Dyer
Many people listen to the White House these days and conclude that a U.S.
attack on Iran is imminent: "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that
it's Iraq again," as Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the new chairman
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said recently. But if President Bush
gives the order, then Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, will face a big decision.
Some senior U.S. soldiers were worried about the strategic wisdom and even
the legality of invading Iraq, but nobody resigned over it. It was obvious
that the United States would win the actual war quickly and cheaply, and
almost nobody worried about the aftermath. But an attack on Iran is
different, even though it would not involve American ground troops (since
all available U.S. combat troops are committed to Iraq), because any
competent general knows that this is a war the United States cannot win.
Airstrikes alone cannot win a war, however massive they are, and they
probably could not even destroy all of Iran's nuclear facilities, which are
numerous, dispersed and often deeply buried. Many Iranians would be killed,
but what would the United States do next? It would have few options, whereas
Iran would have many.
Iran could flood Iraq with sophisticated weapons and send volunteers to help
the fight against U.S. forces there. It could throw international markets
into turmoil by halting its own oil exports. It could try to close the
entire Persian Gulf to tanker traffic (with a fair chance of success) and
throw the entire world economy into crisis. And any further U.S. airstrikes
would simply harden Iranians' resolve.
So would Pace attack Iran if Bush ordered him to? His only alternative would
be to resign, but he does have that option. Senior officers like Pace, while
still bound by the code of military discipline, acquire a political
responsibility as well. Like Cabinet ministers, they cannot oppose a
government decision while in office, but they have the right and even the
duty to resign rather than carry out a decision that they believe to be
Some people naively hoped that Colin Powell would do that rather than let
the invasion of Iraq proceed. After all, he was no longer a soldier, but he
still thought like one, and he must have understood that the intelligence
was corrupted. If he had resigned as secretary of state, he might even have
stopped the war. But Powell was too deeply entangled with the
neoconservatives and too inured to military obedience to exercise his option
-- whereas Peter Pace obviously does understand his choice.
The resignation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and possibly
several of the other chiefs as well -- would be an immensely powerful
gesture. It could stop an attack on Iran dead in its tracks, for the White
House would have to find other officers who would carry out its orders. It
would doubtless find them, but such a shocking event might finally enable
Congress to find its backbone and refuse support for another illegal and
This is not a hypothetical discussion: My guess is that both the Joint
Chiefs and the White House understand that the option of resignation is on
the table. Consider the dance that was done around the question of Iran and
"Explosively Formed Penetrators" in the past couple of weeks. (EFPs are
glorified, shaped-charge weapons that can penetrate armor at a considerable
distance. Most major armies have had them for several decades.)
On Feb. 11, U.S. officials in Baghdad claimed that the EFPs that have killed
some 170 American troops in Iraq since 2004 were Iranian-made, and supplied
to Iraqi insurgents by "the highest levels of the Iranian government." White
House spokesman Tony Snow picked up the theme, insisting that they were
being supplied by the Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
"The Quds Force is, in fact, an official arm of the Iranian government and,
as such, the government bears responsibility and accountability for its
actions," he said.
Familiar stuff from the runup to the Iraq war -- but then something
unscripted happened. Pace, visiting in Australia, said that Iranian
government involvement was not proven: "We know that the explosively formed
projectiles are manufactured in Iran, but I would not say by what I know
that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." A day later, in
Jakarta, Indonesia, he repeated his doubts: "What [the evidence] does say is
that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."
Generals as experienced as Pace do not contradict their political masters by
accident. The White House got the message, and retreated a bit. "What we
don't know is whether the headquarters in Iran ordered the Quds force to do
what they did," said President Bush on Feb. 14. But he didn't really back
down: "I intend to do something about it ... we're going to protect our
There is a civil/military confrontation brewing in the United States more
serious than anything seen since President Truman fired Gen. Douglas
MacArthur during the Korean War. But this time, if the general acts on his
convictions, he will be in the right.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are
published in 45 countries.
C2007 Star Tribune
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