Monday, June 30, 2008

The Way We Live Now

Beyond the headlines, we occasionally get "soft" news about how the post-9/11 world really is, as we do today in disturbing narratives about the unseen wars in Iran and Pakistan--patterns of secrets and lies that Americans and their representatives in Washington either don't know or want to talk about publicly.

In the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh details a new "major escalation of covert operations against Iran...designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership" as part of a literal tug of war in the White House and Congress on how to deal with the nuclear threat from Tehran.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports "a secret plan to make it easer for the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda," a plan that exists only on paper as a result of Washington indecision and in-fighting.

Until the Bush Administration departs next January, it will be easy enough to blame all this dangerous confusion on their certified bunglers, but how well will successors of either party in a country that prides itself on government transparency be equipped to navigate this shadowy world of shifting alliances among violent splinter groups?

In Iran, the M.E.K., which has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for a decade, is receiving arms and intelligence, from the US, a Pentagon consultant tells Hersh, even though "its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years" and "it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”

In Pakistan, after being swindled by Pervez Musharraf for years, the US wants to be more aggressive in going after terrorists there but, according to the Times, "With Qaeda operatives now described in intelligence reports as deeply entrenched in the tribal areas and immersed in the civilian population, there is also a view among some military and CIA officials that the opportunity for decisive American action against the militants may have been lost."

Meanwhile, Hersh tells CNN, Congress has authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign in Iran, which involves US special operations troops and Iranian dissidents.

As the Bush Administration tries to throw "Hail Mary" passes before it leaves the field and the candidates confidently promise new approaches to dealing with terrorism, there is a sinking feeling that this is the way we are going to be living for a long, long time.

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