Today, all you need to become an online know-it-all is a Web site, a blog and an attitude. Creative reporting is the new genre. And you achieve instant mass readership by turning your darkest suspicions into reality. No wonder newspapers are losing readers and advertising revenue -- and shedding domestic and foreign bureaus. Newspapers are dull next to the fantasy lucubrations dished out as hard news, or an unconfirmed front-page report next to the hard “fact” moving through the blogosphere courtesy of electronic tools that ensure mass diffusion.
A conservative journalist, speaking at a think tank meeting, said he hoped President Bush would order the bombing of Iran in his last few days at the White House in January 2009. Iranian retaliation? “The Iranians are already attacking us in Iraq,” he responded matter-of-factly. The bombs-away-over-Iran advocates are unfazed by Iran’s retaliatory capabilities. They dismiss a wider conflict, much the way they portrayed a cakewalk in Iraq.
But “What World War III May Look Like” is already a cyber favorite. Picture a minor incident involving a U.S. Marine patrol operating out of the new base at Badrah on the Iranian border, posits former CIA operative Philip Giraldi.
Superior Iranian forces claim the Americans strayed inside Iranian territory, and surround the Marines. They refuse to surrender and open fire. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards (which the Senate branded an “international terrorist group”) return fire. Helicopter gunships are called in and artillery fire is directed at Iranian military targets. Bush calls it an act of war and, in an emotional speech to the nation, orders U.S. forces into action.
The rest of the scenario has a plausible ring. The U.N. Security Council votes 17-1 (U.S. veto) urging restraint. In the U.N. General Assembly, only the United States, Israel, Micronesia and Costa Rica support Bush’s decision.
Overwhelming U.S. air and naval superiority destroy Iran’s principal air, naval and army bases. Revolutionary Guard facilities are obliterated, as are known nuclear research and development sites. Population centers are avoided, though smart weapons destroy communications centers and command-and-control facilities. But there are still large numbers of civilian casualties and widespread radioactive contamination as many targeted sites are in or near population centers.
The U.S. media, which had (by and large) backed the administration’s plans to engage Iran, rallies round the flag, praising the surgical strikes designed to cripple Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
No sooner do the Pentagon and the White House call the attacks a complete success than Iran strikes back. With five years to prepare, Iran has successfully hidden and hardened many of its military and nuclear facilities, a large percentage of which are undamaged.
The aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower operating in the Gulf is hit by a Chinese Silkworm cruise missile. Three other support vessels are also hit and are severely damaged when they are attacked by small craft manned by suicide bombers. Pro-Iranian riots break out in Beirut. Lebanese soldiers open fire at the crowds. In the south of Lebanon, Hezbollah fires salvos of rockets into Israel. The Israeli air force responds by bombing Lebanon and Syria. Iranian Shahab-3 missiles also strike Israel, killing a number of civilians. The Israel Defense Forces is mobilized. Syria and Lebanon also mobilize.
Rioters in Baghdad attack U.S. troops. Insurgency mortar shells hit the U.S. Embassy. Snipers target American soldiers all over Iraq. Shiite oil workers sabotage Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil fields. Hundreds of alleged saboteurs are shot dead by Saudi security forces. An oil tanker hits a mine in the Strait of Hormuz. Oil tops $200 a barrel. Wall Street suffers its biggest loss in 20 years. The Dow plummets more than 800 points.
The United States offers Iran a cease-fire. Iran rejects it. Tehran orders the assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf flees to Dubai. Pakistan’s tribal areas that shelter Osama bin Laden declare their independence. U.S. troops fight their way out of Baghdad with heavy casualties. Rioters in Basra cut the main roads to Kuwait that supply U.S. forces.
And it’s downhill from there. Anti-U.S. Pakistani forces seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. NATO’s European forces in Afghanistan disengage from what they say is now a civil war. Taliban reconquers Kabul. The Shiite Afghan north and Mazar-i-Sharif secede to join Iran. Waves of Iranian troops cross into Iraq where they are greeted by Iraqi militias. Shiite clerics take over the government in Baghdad. U.S. troops fight their way back into their bases. A Hezbollah-led coalition takes over in Beirut. Iranian Silkworm missiles set Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil fields ablaze. The Saudi monarchy declares its neutrality and pledges not to assist the United States. Kuwait and Egypt follow suit.
In Bahrain, rampaging Shiite crowds depose “King” Sheik Khalifa, establish an Islamic Republic and demand the U.S. 5th Fleet dismantle its headquarters and go home. The Dow Jones loses another 1,000 points. China and Russia refuse U.S. requests for mediation. Suicide bombers attack London, Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Poorly planned. Few casualties, but panic sets in. The White House tells Iran’s theocracy to cease and desist or nukes will be used on select targets. Tehran refuses.
Israel is shelled from Lebanon and Syria. Rioting rocks the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas flees to Cairo. The United States drops a neutron-type bomb on Iran’s nuclear center at Natanz, already bombed and destroyed. Defiant Iran fires volleys of Silkworms at U.S. ships. Russia and China place their nuclear forces on high alert. Pakistan’s religious extremists, backed by radical elements in the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, occupy Parliament. India launches a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan’s suspected nuclear centers. But the nukes are elsewhere and Pakistan strikes back -- bombing New Delhi, World War III is under way. Or IV, as the neocons now call what we’re already in against al-Qaida; III was the Cold War.
Those hoping Bush will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before he leaves office should think again.