The question isn't whether the Bush administration will deliberately launch a war with Iran. It's whether unnecessarily heightened U.S.-Iran tensions will push some minor incident into a major conflict.
It's become fashionable in conservative Washington circles -- among commentators with extraordinary access to the Bush administration -- to suggest that people concerned about the threat of war with Iran are howling at phantoms. As The New York Times' David Brooks wrote in a Nov. 6 column, "The Bush administration is not about to bomb Iran (trust me). It's using diplomacy to build a coalition to balance it, and reverse an ugly tide."
In the past month, President Bush and his allies in the Congress have set Washington once again buzzing with speculation about the administration's end game for Iran -- having accused the Iranians of stoking a third world war and dubbed the Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. But as everyone from antiwar activists to military insiders wring their hands over the White House's intentions, a lonely handful of Democratic legislators are working to wedge Congress between the administration and Tehran.
The GAO reported last week that the government's watch list is growing at a clip of 20,000 records a month. That's a list four times the size of even the most liberal estimate for the number of actual bad guys out there.
In the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States government compiled a list of 20 known terrorists: They were the 19 hijackers who died in the attacks and the one -- now known to be Zacarias Moussaoui -- who got away. Rapidly, however, that list grew.
It seemed like shocking news last week when the telecommunications giant Verizon admitted it has readily allowed warrantless national security investigators to browse customer records on thousands of occasions. But given the revolving door between the telecom industry and federal government, no one should be surprised by their cozy relationship.
According to OpenSecrets.org, a Web site run by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., the worlds are well connected : There are no shortage of government officials who once worked in the telecommunications industry, and no shortage of telecommunications industry execs who once worked for the government.
Congressional Democrats plotted for weeks how they could rewrite the surveillance bill Bush shoved past them this summer. But the battle was barely rejoined when the minority Republicans once again took control and scuttled their bill.
When the House Democrats prepared to rein in the administration's surveillance program Wednesday morning, Virginia Republican Eric Cantor knew just what buttons to push to make them panic. He announced a poison pill amendment: Nothing in the bill, Cantor wrote, "shall be construed to prohibit the intelligence community from conducting surveillance needed to prevent Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or any other foreign terrorist organization … from attacking the United States or any United States person."