Posted originally at Liberal Street Fighter

Sy Hersh has a new piece up, with some details of the internecine battle being waged between the more cautious permagov functionaries in the Pentagon and the Empire Builders of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield Junta.

Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.

A crucial issue in the military’s dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit. “The target array in Iran is huge, but it’s amorphous,” a high-ranking general told me. “The question we face is, When does innocent infrastructure evolve into something nefarious?” The high-ranking general added that the military’s experience in Iraq, where intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed, has affected its approach to Iran. “We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq,” he said.

“There is a war about the war going on inside the building,” a Pentagon consultant said. “If we go, we have to find something.”

Think of it as a battle between a comfortable class of Knights at Court and the cocky Crusaders eager to expand the Empire. The rest of us, those who can’t buy a seat at court through megabucks campaign contributions, have been shunted to the side. This country is a Republic in name only, and we are sadly left with only the fat and comfortable insiders who have a stake in some kind of stability to prevent the Crusaders from dragging us completely into a new Dark Ages:

In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. The huge complex includes large underground facilities built into seventy-five-foot-deep holes in the ground and designed to hold as many as fifty thousand centrifuges. “Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “And Pace stood up to them. Then the world came back: `O.K., the nuclear option is politically unacceptable.’ ” At the time, a number of retired officers, including two Army major generals who served in Iraq, Paul Eaton and Charles Swannack, Jr., had begun speaking out against the Administration’s handling of the Iraq war. This period is known to many in the Pentagon as “the April Revolution.”

“An event like this doesn’t get papered over very quickly,” the former official added. “The bad feelings over the nuclear option are still felt. The civilian hierarchy feels extraordinarily betrayed by the brass, and the brass feel they were tricked into it”–the nuclear planning–“by being asked to provide all options in the planning papers.”

Sam Gardiner, a military analyst who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air Force as a colonel, said that Rumsfeld’s second-guessing and micromanagement were a fundamental problem. “Plans are more and more being directed and run by civilians from the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Gardiner said. “It causes a lot of tensions. I’m hearing that the military is increasingly upset about not being taken seriously by Rumsfeld and his staff.”

It’s an open question whether they can prevail. As has been true throughout history of Crusaders and would-be empire builders, the Pretender from Texas may declare all-out war by fiat, and the older and more cautious Lords may be unwilling to lose their cozy sinecures in an attempt to stop him. Indeed, many of the more principled of them have already taken their leave and retired to their estates, launching complaints from positions of little real power.

What fresh hell might the Pretender be set upon? Only:

Several current and former officials I spoke to expressed doubt that President Bush would settle for a negotiated resolution of the nuclear crisis. A former high-level Pentagon civilian official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the government, said that Bush remains confident in his military decisions. The President and others in the Administration often invoke Winston Churchill, both privately and in public, as an example of a politician who, in his own time, was punished in the polls but was rewarded by history for rejecting appeasement. In one speech, Bush said, Churchill “seemed like a Texan to me. He wasn’t afraid of public-opinion polls. . . . He charged ahead, and the world is better for it.”

A country that once added the ferment and idealism of the Enlightenment to the traditions of English Common Law to create something unique is now just a feudal state, one where the various lords and their vassals fight over who gets the biggest pieces of the Realm’s riches. Little thought is given to who dies, who suffers, to maintain this corrupt system, a system which we citizens helped dismantle by our elevation of capital over work, greed over accountability, fear over informed participation. As Williams River Pitt puts it:

An idea. A dream, an experiment, something sociologist Max Weber once described as “the slow boring of hard boards,” a serious endeavor with a good chance of success but a better chance of failure, and if the one was to be saved from the other, there would have to be a lot of good will and hard work and devotion to the premises that got everything started in the first place. The lady who asked Benjamin Franklin what had been wrought after the Constitutional Convention of 1787 got the right answer. “A republic,” Franklin told her, “if you can keep it.”

“We the people” was a good start, if we’re talking about the premises. No one had ever before, in all of history, bothered to lay down a national charter with that kind of thinking in mind. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was another original stroke. There were a dozen more at least, ideas that have been around since time out of mind to be sure, but ideas that no one anywhere ever used collectively and comprehensively to define the reasons for a diverse people to stand under one flag and salute, and mean it.

It was supposed to be a lot of things, but it was never supposed to be easy.

That is America, or at least it was for a while. The song remains the same, as the band once said, but we are certainly not operating off the same ideas that marked the blueprint these last several generations, and anyone who tries to tell you different is also trying to sell you something. Rose-colored glasses are selling cheap these days. They’re going for the price of a flag or a few hours of round-the-clock cable-news talking-head pablum, and unfortunately for all of us, that’s about as cheap as it gets in the 21st century.

So here we are, all-but spectators as two corruptions fight over the shape of our future. Stability versus dreams of some strange glory, while more and more of us slip behind. Pitt continues:

The problem, though, was the virus, which was money. Money slowly bought power, money slowly won elections that used to be free, money started to be the defining reality of Congress and then the presidency, money began writing and signing the laws, money got judges put on the Supreme Court by the purchased aforementioned, and money made sure those judges made decisions designed to benefit the money. Washington and Franklin would have been horrified to see the way it started to shake out even fifty years after they finished their work, but of course, they were gone by then.

Two Supreme Court cases tell the story of where we’re at: Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, and Buckley v. Valeo in 1976. The first, a relatively straightforward eminent domain case, granted 14th Amendment rights to corporations. The second declared that money spent to influence elections is a form of Constitutionally-protected free speech.

And we roll the bones, because the 14th Amendment says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” which makes corporations exactly the same as natural-born American humans, and further says that no state can create or enforce any law, “which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So corporations are the same as natural Americans, but thanks to Buckley v. Valeo, all the money thrown at elections and candidates and campaigns and political parties is the same as free speech, and when massive multinational trillion-dollar corporations throw millions at the politicians, they do so with the same set of basic rights as the guy who empties their trash. Except they can’t be held liable for anything, because they’re corporations, and can hire million-dollar law firms to defend them, and those lawyers become judges appointed by the politicians who are bought and paid for, and it’s all perfectly legal, and that’s the virus.

Buy the laws, buy the law-makers, and you become the law. That is the definition of corporate freedom.

Money is why we’re in Iraq. Money is why it’s legal to spy on Americans, why the laws are rewritten to suit policy, why we go to war for resources, why we torture people. It doesn’t have anything to do with safety or national security or anything else except money. Foreign policy decisions these days amount to little more than business deals writ large and with body counts to boot, but the latter is always folded in somewhere beneath the bottom line.

The fight to correct this problem will be hard. It may be insurmountable. What is clear to anyone who cares to look is that we must take back the vote, must correct the rampant suppression of groups of voters and the insidious cancer of money on our electoral system. Support that fight this fall, and in the years going forward:

There is an election in November, which is good, because there are some people in Congress who know all this, and if it all shakes out the right way, those people will be in a position to make some changes. It’s good because elections still matter, even with the corporate ownership of our votes. It’s good because the idea may have been paved over with a hundred miles of money and corruption and greed, but that doesn’t mean the idea is dead.

The nation which birthed us, inspires us, blesses us, puts us to work, the nation that challenged us to remember the original promises whenever we said the Pledge of Allegiance all those times in school, the nation we’d all die for, the nation we call home is, in the end, nothing more or less than an idea. It has trembled on the edge of dissolution for more than two hundred years, and never more so than today, but the margin is still there.

The margin, of course, is you and me, and everyone else. A lunatic might call this a great time to be alive, while a patriot would say it is a terrible time to be alive, and in the end, they’d both be right. Only a lunatic would think any of this could be changed, and only a patriot would stand up and volunteer for the fight to create that impossible change.

Lunatics and patriots, and a guarantee of broken hearts. That is what you sign up for if you get involved tomorrow, and that is what you’ve seen and felt and choked on if you were involved today. It was supposed to be a lot of things, but it was never supposed to be easy.

That was the idea to begin with, when you think about it. It has always been in danger, this idea, this dream, and it has been sustained all this time by edge-riders and lunatics and patriots. It was a masterpiece when it was created, and will be again when all is said and done. Too many of us refuse, absolutely refuse, to have it any other way.

Meanwhile, we can encourage those possessed of slightly more good sense to prevail in their struggle, because if the Pretender expands our Crusade in the cradle of civilization, we may be left with little but ashes.

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