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Tilting at Windmills

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January 15, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

HYPING HORMUZ....Last weekend's incident in the Strait of Hormuz, it turns out, was actually pretty routine, according to Gareth Porter:

A Pentagon consultant who asked not to be identified told IPS that he had spoken with officers who had experienced similar encounters with small Iranian boats throughout the 1990s, and that such incidents are "just not a major threat to the U.S. Navy by any stretch of the imagination".

Just two weeks earlier, on Dec. 19, the USS Whidbey Island, an amphibious warship, had fired warning shots after a small Iranian boat allegedly approached it at high speed. But that incident had gone without public notice.

So what happened? How and why did this morph into a grave threat to national security? Porter's take is here.

Kevin Drum 8:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

The Pentagon with their PsyOps operations aimed at the home audience have now created a situation where the information coming from Serbia (see their estimates of civilian casualties as a result of bombing in Kosovo), Saddam Hussein's Iraq and now Iran is often more credible, something I find just so wrong on so many counts. I'm not sure how this works to the benefit of American democracy and the American the propogation of policy over the long-term. Because of this and other matters I have long viewed the Pentagon as an institution needing taking down in size - seriously. It is institutionally working against those things it nominally exists to uphold.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 15, 2008 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Don't normally correct my many typos but this is so garbled as to be unreadable. It should read 'and the propogation of American policy over the long-term.'

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 15, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

I tremble for my country when I think that people like you may one day occupy the Presidency.

President Bush last week identified that these Iranians were getting very provacative with their ships. Our gunboats probably should have taken the ships out to send a message.

What's your angle, Drum? WHAT"S YOUR ANGLE?!

Posted by: egbert on January 15, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

propogate, provacative... Looks like Egbert and I have traded our 'o's and 'a's.

And add that reining in the Pentagon and the spook agencies doesn't seem to be on anyone's horizon.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 15, 2008 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

I live near DC. WTOP is a popular 24-hour, all-news radio station in the area that has an occasional appearance by a "national security correspondent" named JJ Green. Green also reports on Federal News Radio, a station aimed at federal employees (Both stations are owned by Bonneville International.) This guy commented on the Strait of Hormuz incident, calling it a serious incident and a step toward war.

I am convinced Green is a propagandist. His stories always have that weird sensationalist bent to them -- the same bent we've heard for seven years from the Bush administration.

In the past, he's had a segment called, "The Hunt for Osama bin Laden," telling how bin Laden was "on the run."

He always cites the Bush administration's official view. I'm sure this is partly because his home station is Federal News Radio, but coming across the other more commercial station, it sounds sensationalistic to a person like me who keeps up with the Bush administration's tactics.

Has anyone else heard this guy?

Posted by: pol on January 15, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

If you're looking for an informed source, this guy is a good place to start.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 15, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Its interesting that I've seen a few claims the incident may have taken place in Iranian waters. Oops! I can't remember, did I see that on McClathy, or was it International Herald Tribune?

Posted by: bigTom on January 15, 2008 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Who would ever have suspected a guy who just loves the sounds of bombs blowing human beings into tiny shreds would point to another war lover whose "objective" opinion is that Iran is the biggest threat to our national security and we must start blowing their children to bits before they get us.

Please, we've been through this killer. You were paid to slaughter human beings and appear to have enjoyed it. You now seem to look for every opportunity to increase the amount of murder in the world. Especially if you can get the American taxpayer to foot the bill.

Posted by: heavy on January 15, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for this info, Kevin. I sent the video to all my internet pals. Now to follow-up with the propaganda info.

Posted by: nepeta on January 15, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Our U.S. naval vessels were never in any danger.

About seven years ago (sometime around the U.S.S. Cole bombing), the U.S. Navy conducted a Persian Gulf war games simulation. An innovative U.S. general, commanding the Iranian forces, used small boats laden with explosives to blow apart our Persian Gulf fleet...in the first war games simulation. In the followup war games simulation, the general couldn't use suicide boats to defend Iran. so the generals commanding U.S. forces did much better.

Anyway, I figure U.S. Navy commanders looked at the preceding and developed defensive strategies to combat any potential Iranian suicide boats headed toward any of our naval forces in the Persian Gulf.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if laset-guided missiles (whether shoulder-launched or ship-based) were constantly "painting" and tracking all the Iranian boats in this latest "incident," and if any had crossed a certain perimeter line or turned aggressively and headed straight toward any U.S. vessel, they'd have been toast before they could have ever gotten close enough.

Posted by: The Oracle on January 16, 2008 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

The Oracle, Of course you're right. If you're not right, then we're in very big trouble.

Posted by: nepeta on January 16, 2008 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

PS: I think probably a five-year old would be able to deal with the defense issue in this instance, i.e., get too close...boom!

Posted by: nepeta on January 16, 2008 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

In spite of the story being EXACTLY in accordance with favored administration narrative/propaganda, and in spite of the story being sourced solely from administration sources, and having no real way to corroborate it....

our "liberal" media just went ahead and spoonfed it to us, with nary a doubt expressed. Thanks liberal media!

It's almost as if they're cheering on the neo-cons plans to exterminate the Muslims.

Every story of this sort should start, "Admin officials claimed today that blah blah blah. [Insert assertions]... There is, however, no way to confirm these claims. And informed objective people X,Y, and Z think the Admin is probably lying, just like they did on similar occasions A, B and C."

And informed objective parties cannot come from the same tired pool of neo-cons (liberal hawks) at AEI, Brookings, etc.

Fuck the neo-con media.

Posted by: luci on January 16, 2008 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Oracle, nepeta, you might be being a little optimistic. It was Gen. Van Riper, MC retd. who beat up on Blue, and, as far as I gathered, the regulars weren't too keen to counter the problems rather than rig the game for a successful outcome.

See here for comment and here for a news report.

Don't believe he was invited back.

I rather feel the US command structure is almost as corrupted as it can be right now. It's lost sight of what being a professional military officer means.

Posted by: notthere on January 16, 2008 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

I was escorting Saddam's tankers during the Iran Iraq War and those little speed boats buzzed us all of the time. We just pointed the fifty cal at them and they would turn away. No big deal.

Posted by: merlallen on January 16, 2008 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

Anyway, I figure U.S. Navy commanders looked at the preceding and developed defensive strategies to combat any potential Iranian suicide boats headed toward any of our naval forces in the Persian Gulf.
Posted by: The Oracle

When the attackers no longer value their own lives and are willing to swarm in huge numbers, things can get dicey quickly. Pack each boat with anti-tank missiles, RPGs, and thousands of pounds of explosives and have them simultaneously attack...it would only take one to get close enough.

I think the incident was blown out of proportion as far as was it a serious ratcheting up of tensions. The shipping route does go through Iranian waters (there are no international waters there, the straits are too narrow). International law governs right of passage through there, but restricts actions too.

If al-heavy had set aside his blinding hatred and read the site I pointed to, it would have explained all this clearly to him. If he had followed various links he would have gotten insight into what Navy professionals are thinking, not just the voices in his head. He prefers hatred and ignorance to knowledge, though.

Posted by: SJRSM on January 16, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK
When the attackers no longer value their own lives and are willing to swarm in huge numbers, things can get dicey quickly.

Mike, this is true, but you may have forgotten that in such a scenario the attackers would also have to no longer value the lives of their friends, families, neighbors, etc. etc. Unlike the attack on the USS Cole, theirs would have a return address. And they know that the USAF has the ability to deliver anywhere on the face of the planet.

Posted by: kenga on January 16, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Goon, how is it that, of the two of us, only you have used the Al Queda tactics of murdering people using airplanes and bombs, and yet in your imagination I'm the one with the blinding hatred?

One other difference between us? I don't fall for every dipshit who wants to use the US Military to slaughter innocents. Have you ever seen a situation where the appropriate response wasn't to blow up anyone who happened to be there, innocent or guilty?

Posted by: heavy on January 16, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

If Iran should send its war ships into international waters just off of the US coast, say just South of the mouth of the Mississippi River, the US would harass them. But Iran will not send its war ships towards the US; they are not like us.

Posted by: Brojo on January 16, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Iran has war ships? Who knew?

Posted by: Tripp on January 16, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

But Iran will not send its war ships towards the US; they are not like us.
Posted by: Brojo

So the reason Iran doesn't send warships to the mouth of the Missisippi is because they are not like us, and not because they lack any real geopolitical-strategic need to be there?

Posted by: SJRSM on January 16, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

So the reason Iran doesn't send warships to the mouth of the Missisippi is because they are not like us, and not because they lack any real geopolitical-strategic need to be there?

Perhaps not perceiving any real geopolitical-strategic need to be there is the reason they're not like us.

I do find it interesting how you tacitly agree with the "blood for oil" crowd, though, Mike. Why do you hate America?

Posted by: Gregory on January 16, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

sjrsm: Pack each boat with anti-tank missiles, RPGs, and thousands of pounds of explosives and have them simultaneously attack...it would only take one to get close enough.

well according to the 1-percent doctrine..

usa missles should be in the air..

and if a pre-emptive attack hasn't started...

does that mean those in control..hate america?

Posted by: mr. irony on January 16, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

and if a pre-emptive attack hasn't started...

does that mean those in control..hate america?
Posted by: mr. irony

Say again, you're coming in stupid. Was there a point?

Posted by: SJRSM on January 16, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

The US' geopolitical-strategic need to be in the Persian Gulf is based on the need to secure oil to wage wars with, not market principles. All other countries that depend on oil for their economies have not secured that oil through military means. They rely on the markets.

There is no disruption of the commercial flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf now, and there never was. It requires no policing. All of the local nations that use the Gulf want to keep on using it. The placement of US war ships in the Persian Gulf is a warning to those local states that the US will take their oil if they do not offer it to the markets or will embargo their countries if they do not follow US dictated policies.

Posted by: Brojo on January 16, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

sjrsm...

you are either for it...

or against..

focus..

Posted by: mr. irony on January 16, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's the

War of Jenkin's Ear

'Merican Style.

Posted by: Adam on January 16, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

What "happened here" is precisely this:

The Straits of Hormuz "Provocation" has now joined the Gulf of Tonkin "Incident" in the Annals of Fraudulent History as yet another deliberate, self-serving government lie.

You'll pardon me, I hope, for accepting Porter's "take", as you dub it, as legitimate investigative reporting. Gareth Porter is a bona fide journalist and historian, not a columnist or "pundit". He's not expressing a view; he's reporting the news!:

How the Pentagon Planted a False Story
By Gareth Porter [Inter Press Service]

Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the navy itself. ...
__________

Incidentally, Mister Drum: Do you normally conjoin NON-consecurive paragraphs without properly utilizing ellipses? It's rather misleading at best.
.

Posted by: Poilu on January 16, 2008 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

When the attackers no longer value their own lives and are willing to swarm in huge numbers, things can get dicey quickly. ... [etc., etc.]

SJRSM: How much do they pay you for this "fevered paranoia" propaganda gig?

If you merely read the news article, you'll discover promptly that the actual encounter -- histrionically hyped by our War Department and compliant media into a supposed "major incident" -- is in fact an astoundingly mundane occurence in the Persian Gulf, according to the US Navy itself!

No one who was actually there, it now emerges, was "wetting their pants" in any way. So why are you?

"If my grandmother had wheels, she might be a trolley car!"

(But guess what? She doesn't.)
.

Posted by: Poilu on January 16, 2008 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK
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