It must be a kick in the head to base your claim to the presidency on your savvy in foreign affairs only to have it get out that Joe Lieberman knows more about them than you do. I bet it’s a lot like how I feel when my dog corrects my grammar in front of people.

One would like to think that Senator John McCain misspoke when he said in Jordan during his tour of the Middle East that the Iranians have been “taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.” He is, after all, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the GOP’s designated crown prince, so you’d think he’d be aware that the official rant is that Iran is training Shiite Iraqi militants, not the Sunni al Qaeda guys. But no, McCain made the Iran-al Qaeda accusation four times in just over three weeks, and it wasn’t until Lieberman cooed something in his ear that he said, “I’m sorry. The Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda.”

The question is, of course, whether McCain is really that dumb and/or senile or if he’s just being a diligent echo chamberlain of the neoconservative agenda. It may be that he lives in a bubble even more opaque than the one Mr. Bush occupies. Then again, he may be a Cheney class Machiavellian. As historian and journalist Gareth Porter noted on March 22, “Sen. John McCain's confusion in recent allegations of Iranian training of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq is the result of a drumbeat of official propaganda about close Iran-al-Qaeda ties that the George W. Bush administration and neoconservatives have promoted ever since early 2002.”

Whatever the case, McCain is a key component of the disinformation campaign designed to revive the world order we thought we’d put out of its misery at the end of the 20th century.

Speak of the Devil

By the wildest of coincidences, Dick Cheney was careening around the Middle East at the same time John McCain was and (would you believe it?) also talking about al Qaeda. We’ve come to expect that any time Cheney opens either side of his mouth a covey of satanic versus will fly out of it, and he came through for us during a stopover in Baghdad where he asserted that there was "a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda" prior to the U.S. invasion, despite the findings of a recently released Pentagon study that stated there was "no smoking gun" to prove an "operational relationship" between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group.

That’s par for Cheney. In April 2007, he went on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program to deny an earlier Pentagon report that confirmed Hussein had no strong ties with al Qaeda, and in 2003 he claimed there was “overwhelming” evidence of a Hussein-al Qaeda connection after the 9/11 commission concluded that “no collaborative relationship" had existed.

Mr. Bush was on message as well on March 19 during his Operation Iraqi Freedom fifth birthday speech. He associated al Qaeda with Iraq a whopping 14 times in the course of 26 minutes. He made ample reference to 9/11, naturally, and to Saddam Hussein. And I’d love to know which young Republican wrote this piece of eyewash for him: “As we have fought al Qaeda, coalition and Iraqi forces have also taken the fight to Shia extremist groups -- many of them backed and financed and armed by Iran.”

Bush got the story straight on which evil doers Iran is supposed to be backing in Iraq, but the story is still specious. Despite the best efforts of Dick Cheney’s Iranian Directorate, the most compelling proof that Iran has backed and financed and armed any Iraqi extremists the administration has come up with so far is that handful of photographs in a PowerPoint presentation that for all any of us know could have been taken in Lindsey Graham’s closet.

Bush’s “main man” General David Petraeus added to the “My Pet Scapegoat” story on Monday March 24. He told reporters he had evidence that Iran was behind the Easter Sunday shelling of the Green Zone in Baghdad, but apparently he didn’t bother to say what that evidence might consist of and the reporters didn’t press him on the subject. How convenient.

But it matters not one whit that none of these messages are coherent; the important thing is that the mantra once again got airplay and bandwidth: Hussein…9/11…al Qaeda…Iran… All the Rovewellian dissonance gets drowned out by talk radio and Fox News and the beer buzz, and if Hussein and al Qaeda and Iran and al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks are all connected, then everything the Bush administration has done is righteous, and of the remaining viable presidential candidates, only John McCain can carry on the great crusade.

How Cold Was It?

Mr. Bush’s boo noise about World War III erupting if Iran gets nuclear weapons decoys attention from the direction the world is actually taking. A no fooling Clausewitzean war between the U.S. and Iran would do about as much real damage as a professional wrestling match and last about as long. As outgoing Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon said of the Iranians in his celebrated Esquire profile, "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them."

Indeed, Iran’s economy is barely six percent the size of ours, and the disparity between the two defense budgets is similar. What primarily makes Iran a serious player in the global power competition is its status as the most important client state of our old Cold War adversaries Russia and China.

Don’t succumb to the fear factor that the mention of Russia and China evoke, though. Those two are no more dumb enough to step in between Iran and us if teeth and eyeballs start flying than they are to reengage us in a serious arms race. But to have a second Cold War where Iraq and Iran substitute for western and eastern Europe (with Venezuela standing in for Cuba and the bananastans taking the roles of South Korea and Japan), and where we supply all the military hardware and personnel and they don’t have to chip in a single soldier or tank or ship or airplane, hell yeah, as far as Russia and China are concerned, bring it on!

And like John McCain, they couldn’t give a rat’s watch fob less if it lasts 50 years like the first Cold War, or a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years.

You know who else won’t mind? The neocons’ pals in the military industrial complex. They’ll be able to extort Congress into buying and maintaining a fleet of exorbitant weapons like nuclear submarines and stealth bombers to fight an adversary armed with RadioShack explosives and Home Depot box cutters for a virtual eternity.

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

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