A Cornered Animal
By William Rivers Pitt, Columnist
Friday 26 January 2007
Question: What is the connection between a possible American attack on Iran and the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby?
Answer: Vice President Dick Cheney.
Wariness over a potential American attack on Iran has been on the rise for months. This wariness became outright fear in certain circles as last November's midterms approached; the idea of an Iran assault being used as the "October Surprise" to change the electoral geometry was bandied about extensively. No such attack came, but attention has not wandered far from the possibility since.
Concerns rose again over the last several weeks after Bush's poorly-received speech justifying the "surge" of US troops into Iraq. A centerpiece of that speech was his blunt threat to the government in Tehran about any meddling with the situation in Baghdad. Astute observers of the Iraq situation found this threat both odd and disturbing.
This list goes on, and is almost entirely comprised of decisions made with mean considerations of domestic politics in mind. To dismiss out of hand the idea that these same people might embark upon an equally foolish course against Iran is folly.
The combination of Iranian influence over Iraqi politics, bombast from the Bush administration, their execrable decision-making to date, and the fact that a second US carrier battle group has steamed into the Persian Gulf is disquieting in and of itself. If you add to this already-volatile mix the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the potential for an explosion increases by orders of magnitude.
Why does Libby's trial matter in this? It matters because of Dick Cheney.
News reports of the opening statements from both prosecutors and defense attorneys appear to place Mr. Cheney at or near the center of the plot to out former CIA agent Valerie Plame. The defense, in a surprise move, went so far as to describe Libby as a "scapegoat" for White House actions against Plame, which were done to silence Iraq critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As this trial proceeds and more witnesses testify, the trail of evidence could very well lead to the Vice President's door.
The importance of this possibility lies in the power wielded by Cheney. Only the most devout Bush-worshippers continue to believe he is the master of events in the Executive branch. Everyone else has correctly concluded that the ideological fuel and bureaucratic muscle in this administration flows from Cheney.
Though his policy initiatives are greeted with failure after failure, though the poll numbers continue to wither, Cheney and the remaining true-believers continue to slog onward, dragging all of us deeper into the morass. Should the trial of Libby present a definitive threat to the political standing and power of Dick Cheney, all bets may be off regarding Iran. We will be faced with the possibility that an attack may be ordered for no better reason than to redirect attention and change the subject.
Sober heads see an attack on Iran as both essentially baseless and an invitation to a widening war we are not prepared to fight, thanks to Iraq.
This would be sage advice if Mr. Bush were the one doing the thinking. These days, all the thinking and management is being done by Dick Cheney, and if this Libby trial comes to pose a danger to his standing, all the sober analysis by policy experts may turn to dust. Nothing is more dangerous, after all, than a cornered animal