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Iran: The Pale Horse Approaches

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Sometime in the next several months an announcer will interrupt regularly scheduled programming to introduce the President who, blinking rapidly, will announce a series of air strikes against Iran. That announcement will probably use religious rhetoric that makes a tragic situation even worse.

Iran, Iraq, a wreck. That's how you conjugate war in the Middle East, and Iran is the future tense. What's worse, the government continues to employ heated theological language that plays well to its base but hurts our efforts to reduce terrorism.

There will be little or no loss of American life as a result of airstrikes against Iran ... right away. That will happen further down the road, when generations of Muslims that might have been our allies turn against us. (Remember: Hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered in the streets of Teheran in solidarity with Americans after 9/11.)

As the Administration continues to escalate militarily the danger increases. The Pale Horse and its rider draw closer to Iran - and to us. And the continued use of inflammatory religious rhetoric only compounds the problem.

Take "Islamofascism." Fascism is a government function, and there is no evidence that any state participated in 9/11. In fact, the only Islamic government known to have sponsored terror attacks against Americans is Libya, yet the U.S. and Britain chose negotiation there. (Britain accepted a longstanding offer from Qadafi after the invasion of Iraq, so they could claim their war brought him to the bargaining table.)

Why does Bush celebrate diplomacy with Qadafi - the architect of Flight 700's tragedy - while refusing to speak with Iran or Syria as the Iraq Study Group recommended? Iran is ten years away from being a nuclear danger, and has signaled its interest in negotiation since at least 2003.

Why would we be afraid to talk now, especially when Iran can be helpful in resolving the catastrophe in Iraq? (And the fact is we've brought a pro-Iranian government into power there.) Instead, we're slamming the door on urgently-needed discussions by labeling our adversaries in theological terms.

What other countries might be described as "Islamofascist," besides Libya, Syria, and Iran? Only nations that are currently allies, nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan. Leaders like Musharraf in Pakistan are endangered and given less latitude to support our anti-terrorism efforts when we inflame their countrymen with religionist rhetoric.

And if we are to encourage democratic reform in the Arab world, we can't do it by using terms that imply we believe all Muslim nations are inherently fascist or evil.

Then there's "Divine Strake." Tests of this massive "bunker-busting" bomb remain on schedule in Nevada, despite protests from local residents.

Why is it called Divine Strake? A "strake" is a tool used to level sand. A reasonable interpretation of this name in the Islamic world would therefore be "a tool for flattening you into the sand ... in God's name." That will play like a declaration of holy war in the Islamic world.

The U.S. fundamentalist/conservative coalition benefits politically from framing the anti-terror effort as a battle against "Islamofascism." It allows them to claim we're in a new Cold War, with all the political opportunities that creates.

Maybe that's why Christian conservative Gary Bauer, in my debate with him on Sean Hannity's show, said that "The struggle against Islamofascism is the defining issue of our time."

Really? Other issues pale in importance? Ten times as many Americans have died from lack of health insurance as from terrorism in the 21st Century. Six times as many Americans have died from improperly tested pharmaceuticals.

Yes, fighting terrorism is vitally important - but it's not a fight against "Islamofascism." It's a fight against stateless criminals, and a fight to prevent them from taking over countries like Pakistan. So why do we conduct unnecessary military attacks that increase their popular support in these countries? And why do we use language that makes their case for them by implying a battle against all Islam?

Nevertheless, the President will make that announcement some evening soon, unless Senators and members of Congress show more political courage than they've done so far. Iranians who recently rejected Ahmadinejad at the polls will rally around him in the face of a common threat. The Islamic world will be more polarized against us, and our ability to combat terrorism and encourage democracy will be even weaker. Worse, we will have caused more needless and unprovoked loss of life, which is unethical under any definition of "just war."

Politicians from John Edwards to Sam Brownback are opposing the "surge." It's time for level-headed leaders of both parties to show some political courage and take a similar stand against a counterproductive attack on Iran. The Powers that Be are intent on writing a message in the sand there, and there's not much time to stop them.
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And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
- Revelation 6:8

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