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 Apocalypse Now? 

April 27, 2006 
“To bomb, or not to bomb?” asks the cover of the April 24 issue of The Weekly Standard, and if you know the magazine, you Today's column is "Apocalypse Now?" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.can guess the answer, provided by an editorial and two articles within.

The United States must attack Iran soonest. The dithering of the Bush administration must cease. The mad mullahs who are trying to get nuclear weapons threaten not only the United States, but Israel. Time for another preemptive war, complete with regime change, democracy, and purple fingers.

Such is the conclusion of the brainy neoconservatives who gave us the Iraq war. Evidently they trust the Bush team to manage a far more difficult war against Iran with equal finesse.

Sure, they admit there will be costs. Terrorism will erupt throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, maybe even in the United States itself. The Europeans won’t like it. Anti-Americanism will spread explosively around the world. And of course there will be countless other unpredictable consequences (on oil prices, to begin with).

All this can be expected even if we assume that the Bush team brings it off with more competence than it has brought to previous crises. Vice President Cheney summed up the administration’s pragmatic view when we faced the threat of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction: “The risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action.” Words to live by!

And let us not forget Condoleezza Rice, the mushroom-cloud lady, who never cries “Wolf!” unless she’s pretty darned sure there’s a wolf out there. Maybe she’s right this time. We can’t completely rule it out.

These people know so much more than we do. They have the best intelligence at their fingertips. That’s one more reason to rely on their proven good judgment and put our lives in their hands. When have they ever misled us?

[Breaker quote for Apocalypse Now?: In Bush they trust.]Islam, Bush has said, is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a few fanatics. Some, observing him, might say the same about Christianity. Bush makes one wonder where religion ends and psychosis begins. Is his foreign policy driven by a conviction that we are in the End Times, and that the Lord has anointed him to lead us? Is it mere accident that many of his remaining supporters believe so?

Last week one of those supporters assured me that the War on Terror is necessary because the Muslims are determined to exterminate us. As proof, he quoted a verse from the Koran about destroying infidels; he’d read this in a book by Hal Lindsey, the apocalyptic “new evangelical” author. I guess that’s what you’d call a theological slam-dunk, and it seems akin to Bush’s way of thinking about the world.

Smoking guns? For Bush the appropriate image is the loose cannon. In domestic policy alone he would rank as a disastrous president; but with his finger on the nuclear button he threatens to become an utter nightmare. With other fanatics egging him on, we may yet see those mushroom clouds Miss Rice worries about. No wonder Colin Powell got out of this administration while the getting was good; but will he ever give the public a frank account of what he saw inside it?

Even Pentagon war planners are alarmed at what Bush has done — and at what he may yet do. The retired generals who called for Donald Rumsfeld’s removal were really talking about Bush (the neocons were right about that). And Bush’s dismissal as “wild speculation” of Seymour Hersh’s report on his preparations for war on Iran was actually a chilling nondenial.

The Democrats have shamelessly encouraged him to prevent Iran from getting nukes by any means necessary; Ted Kennedy is one of the few Democrats who have insisted that these means must not include a nuclear attack, which Bush hasn’t ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are still playing follow-the-leader, even if it means following him over the precipice. We can hope only that the poll figures and the approaching elections will bring them to their senses.

The scandal of our time is that so many important people have failed to say what is obvious and urgent: that this president is out of his mind. Whether it’s clinical madness or fanaticism, it’s something more serious, and more dangerous, than stupidity. And the men around him can’t or won’t restrain him.

Joseph Sobran

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