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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- The steady beat of war drums reverberates fear and silences reasoned debate. The Bush administration is using reckless rhetoric in marketing another pre-emptive attack on a sovereign Islamic nation, and the plan is working with tragic effectiveness.

The amen chorus of right-wing pundits and shouters is in perfect tune with every inflammatory utterance of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It's stunning that people actually listen to this same trio that brought the war in Iraq as they sell another war in Iran.

Of course, the invasion of Iraq made Iran more powerful in the region and nervous about an American army of occupation parked next door. But those were the desired consequences the neoconvervative nuts wanted.

It's all in their playbook -- the manifesto of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), written before the 9/11 attacks and designed to control the energy resources in the Middle East and establish unchallenged American-Israeli military supremacy in the region.

Such naked aggression and imperialistic designs were going to be hard to sell on their own. It's hard to ask Americans to die to protect petroleum reserves and keep the Knesset in the hands of the most extreme hardliners and neocon allies.

But the PNAC nuts -- many of them dominating Bush's foreign policies -- used the gift of 9/11 to justify everything they hoped to do before bin Laden provided them with their grand opportunity. They have conflated terrorism with every Islamic nation in the Middle East that refused to toe their line.

Iran is the next move in the playbook, as Bush threatens that even their "knowledge" of nuclear weapons technology justifies a U.S. military assault.

Now, with his new reduced standard for unleashing violence, all Bush has to argue is that if one Iranian somewhere has the "knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," then bombs away. If two Iranians having tea in a cafe in Tehran wonder out loud about nuclear weapons, does that justify U.S. military action? No doubt.

Rudy Simons, a veteran human rights activist who spent two weeks in Iran in March, worries about who will have the final say in any decision to launch an attack. "If it's Cheney and his folks, look out," Rudy said as we chatted on the phone, last Friday.

He went to Iran as a member of a delegation from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international organization that seeks dialogue and diplomacy and rejects the saber-rattling typical of confrontational governments.

Rudy sees a U.S. assault on Iran "enraging the Russians and Chinese and the entire Muslim world" -- 80 percent of whom, he notes, live outside the Middle East. Such aggression would give those intent on radicalizing Muslims and breeding more hostility toward the United States even more propaganda, he fears.

Rudy hopes Adm. William Fallon, the new head of Central Command, will prevail over Cheney in decisions relating to Iran. Rudy reminded me that Fallon blocked the further buildup of naval striking power in the Gulf the warmongers in the White House were vamping for.

The Army Times reported Fallon's refusal to escalate the naval presence in the Gulf "reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran 'will not happen on my watch.'"

Fallon also is reported to be a leader of military professionals increasingly concerned about U.S. policies in the Middle East, telling the same Army Times source, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

Cheney, the "King of the Crazies," left his box recently to add to the reckless rhetoric toward Iran and argue another war is necessary for our national survival. No nuclear weapons in Iran, Cheney declared in a speech. "Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," he bellowed.

Condoleezza "Mushroom Cloud" Rice went on the "Today" show to pitch war with Iran, as the vacuous host, Matt Lauer, fawned all over her. "A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime would be deeply destabilizing in the world's most volatile region, and we can't simply sit idly by," Rice said.

Lauer could have challenged her, saying, "Madam Secretary, what could be more destabilizing in that region than the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which you helped sell with fear based on exaggerations that many call deliberate lies?"

But such a question requires knowledge, thought and the willingness to challenge the powerful. We can't expect that from our network stars as they give the Busheviks free propaganda forums.

Casual and cavalier talk of bombing Iran is not sitting well with Fallon. Even before the latest volleys from the bellicose Busheviks, he urged restraint. "This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful," Fallon said last month in an interview with al-Jazeera television.

"I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for," Fallon added. "It is not a good idea to be in the state of war. We ought to try and do our utmost to create different conditions."

Such reasonableness will get you in deep trouble with Cheney. If Fallon gets sacked or is forced into early retirement, you know the die is cast in Iran and Cheney will get to fulfill his grandest ambitions.

Many presidential candidates are trying to rival Bush and show how tough they are and willing to join in the "constant drumbeat of conflict." Mr. Machismo, Rudolph Giuliani, says a military attack on Iran is his "promise," not a threat. But he declares such military action is not really "war," but precise strikes. The Iranians are sure to have a different view.

Willard (his real name) Romney favors an unspecified strike on Iran, if they continue "toward nuclear ambition." Again, a low threshold for violence. Any nuclear knowledge, ambition or thought triggers a military assault.

Romney mysteriously said he would take military action "if that's available to us." Has he ever bothered to check out the Pentagon's budget? Instead, Romney must be reading Civil War-era field manuals.

He said he would lay out the options "from blockade to bombardment of some kind." Maybe he should consider a cavalry charge gathering the troops -- including his five sons -- by conscription. Sen. Hillary Clinton is trying to parse her support for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) resolution on Iran. She now says she opposes letting Bush take military action "without full congressional approval." So why doesn't she put that in the form a resolution in the Senate?

One of her rivals, John Edwards, sees right through Clinton's transparent triangulation and her consistent support of Bush's military madness in the Middle East. "I learned a clear lesson from the leadup to the Iraq war in 2002: If you give this president an inch, he will take a mile -- and launch a war. Sen. Clinton apparently learned a different lesson," Edwards said.

But Bush's madness is working for his base. World oil prices are soaring. From an average of $23 a barrel in 2001, crude prices spiked above $92 last week, an all-time record.

Oil is sure to go over $100 a barrel with increased tensions in the Middle East, especially in a confrontation with Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer. Companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron are raking in huge profits, with more war more to come.

Now we truly know Bush was right. Mission accomplished.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 30 2007