Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dems Call For Fallon Testimony, Investigation

By Cernig

The White House continues to deny that Admiral Fallon's resignation was because he was a roadblock in the path to war with Iran, with Dana Perino claiming against all evidence that Bush "welcomes robust and healthy debate". But Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and others are calling for investigative hearings over Fallon's departure.
Today, Hillary Clinton called on the armed services committee to investigate whether Fallon had been pushed out for opposing military action against Iran.

"I am asking that the Senate armed services committee hold hearings into the circumstances surrounding his departure."

The committee did not respond to queries about Clinton's request. But former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has echoed her views, and two senior members of Congress had pressed the Pentagon to allow Fallon to testify on the Iraq war before his resignation.

"I am profoundly concerned that Admiral Fallon has decided to take this measure, and I'm hoping that we can hear from him in a more specific way in the future," Democratic senator James Webb said today.
I suppose this is her way of atoning for backing the atrocious Kyl-Lieberman amendment that made Bush's declaring war on Iran so much easier. Nor do I expect the White House to allow Fallon to testify. But at least Clinton and others are paying attention now.

One thing they should be paying attention to is the way in which the U.S. media have acted as stenographers for the White House narrative on Iran's nuclear program. Eric Umansky has a great piece for the Columbia Journalism Review today looking at that process and noting that several experts seemed to have been sidelined in the media precisely because they questioned that narrative. Like George Perkovich, a nonproliferation analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
In May 2005, Perkovich wrote a paper speculating that Iran’s leaders weren’t actually bent on making the bomb but rather wanted to keep their options open. In that scenario, he wrote, “as Iranian elites began to pay attention to nuclear issues,” they realized their best bet was an above-board civilian nuclear program. Such a path would still allow Iran to “gradually acquire” the know-how and technology to “produce nuclear weapons some day should a dire strategic threat arise”—all the while abiding by international law.

Perkovich wasn’t the only one to guess that Iran wasn’t bent on building the bomb. “I would see intelligence analysts over the last few years and ask, ‘Where’s the evidence of what Iran’s doing now?’” remembers Paul Kerr, formerly an analyst with the Arms Control Association, now with the Congressional Research Service. “And the answers I would get back were just really thin.” Kerr believed the evidence pointed in the other direction. In November 2006, he said so in a piece for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
The very fact that Iran has previously offered several concessions, as well as curtailed some nuclear activities, should signal to the international community that Tehran has not necessarily committed itself to building nuclear weapons—and that there are those within the regime who are reluctant to risk political and economic isolation.
Perkovich, Kerr, and others had been questioning the administration’s many assumptions about Iran: about why Tehran might have an interest in a weapons system in the first place, about whether it had a program to build one, and, if it did, about whether it was willing to do a deal to halt it. The analysts didn’t have exact answers, of course; they were just raising basic questions. What’s striking is how rarely such questions were asked by members of the press.

...Even now, after the NIE changed the landscape, “There is an enormous selective amnesia regarding Iran in U.S. coverage,” says Ali Ansari, a historian at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, who specializes in Iran-U.S. relations and has long criticized journalists for relying on “worn-out narratives” regarding Iran. “There’s this assumption that the U.S. has always been innocent partner in the relationship. But the two have been equally guilty of mismanaging the relationships and missing opportunities.”
Go read the whole thing. Mrs Clinton certainly should - as Umansky notes - after claiming in January 2006, that “Iran is seeking nuclear weapons” and arguing that the White House actually “chose to downplay the threats.” Just another part of what Fareed Zakaria meant when he wrote “The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality.”

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