The only noteworthy thing about Bush's State of the Union address was his unmistakable belligerence toward Iran.
He mentioned that nation first in the context of why the United States must stay in Iraq: otherwise, we would "strengthen Iran," Bush said.
He could have thought about that before invading Iraq, but he didn't. And now he's back in a bombing mood.
Never mind that that the National Intelligence Estimate said Iran didn't have nuclear weapons and didn't have an active nuclear weapons program. Bush still raised the specter of Iran with a nuclear weapon.
He castigated the Iranian government for opposing freedom wherever it "advances in the Middle East." And he said Iran was aiding terrorists or militia groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and in Iraq.
It's the latter excuse that he's going to hang his helmet on.
I'm betting that Bush will try to come to the American people once more before his term is up and declare that forces trained by Iran have attacked our troops in Iraq, and that he therefore is going after them.
Listen to his words: "Above all, know this," Bush warned. "America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf."
Even more ominous was Bush's line, "Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you."
As Robert Fisk has pointed out, this is the mantra that Presidents use whenever they are about to attack another country.
It is an imperial tic, a ritual throat-clearing before the war-making, the rattle of the snake before the lashing bite.
Here are some quotes from the imperial tic file:
"The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people." Sept. 12, 2002, Bush to UN
"We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people. They are the daily victims of Saddam Hussein's oppression, and they will be the first to benefit when the world's demands are met." Oct. 5, 2002, Bush radio address
"Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you." Jan. 28, 2003, Bush State of the Union
Then there was Tony Blair, echoing his boss: "Let me make it quite clear that our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people." March 19, 2003, Tony Blair addressing Parliament
And, for a little family fealty, here is Bush's dad: "Let there be no misunderstanding. We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq." Sept. 17, 1990, George H.W. Bush, speech to the nation
Finally, the beatified Ronald Reagan: "The attacks were concentrated and carefully targeted to minimize casualties among the Libyan people with whom we have no quarrel." April 14, 1986, Ronald Reagan speech to the nation.
So when Bush told the Iranian people on Monday night that he's got no quarrel with them, that could hardly have been reassuring.
And for those of us who cherish peace, those of us who abhor imperial misadventures, we must pressure our elected officials to stop this madman before he wages yet another reckless war, this time in Iran.
We can't say he didn't warn us.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.
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