01/18/2007 05:33 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush, Iran, and Armageddon

In November 1918, after the Armistice that finally ended the "Great War," a running joke among historians went something like this: "Well, at least no one is going to blame Belgium for starting the war." The humor in the remark came from the common sense understanding that a small state would never threaten or start a war with a much larger state.

Consider this statement from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "The time is approaching when Israel and the world community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran." Or Israeli Brigadier General Oded Tira who said that because "President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran," Israel and its supporters "must lobby the Democratic Party and U.S. newspaper editors" to demand such an attack. If the Americans do not take military action against Iran, General Tira promised, "we'll do it ourselves."

Since when does a small nation of less than 7 million people that doesn't even have internationally recognized borders threaten to "take military action" against a much larger nation with ten times as many people? Iran has not attacked any of its neighbors in 250 years. It has good relations with the European Union and with Russia and China. It is part of an ancient civilization with established frontiers. In 1918, the thought of a tiny state attacking a large one was considered a joke; in 2007, it might not be so funny.

For decades, the State of Israel has enjoyed the benefits of being a de facto protectorate of the United States without having to accept any of the responsibilities such protection should entail. Would the U.S. allow the Northern Marianas Islands to attack Russia? Do you think the U.S. would give Puerto Rico a green light to stockpile nuclear weapons? Threats and posturing are no substitute for diplomacy.

Mordechai Vanunu rotted in an Israeli prison for eighteen years (eleven years in solitary confinement) because he informed the world that Israel has a lot of nuclear weapons. No nation has ever threatened to launch air strikes against Israel's Dimona nuclear weapons facility in the Negev Desert. Why do some Israeli officials insist on making threats against their neighbors while brandishing nuclear bombs over their heads?

In August 1945, when President Harry S. Truman announced the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki he implied that God had given the bomb to the United States. George W. Bush, who likes to compare himself to Truman, probably believes that God gave the bomb to Israel too.

But God must have a sense of humor because just four years after he gave the bomb to Truman he also gave it to Josef Stalin. And in 1964 God gave the bomb to Chairman Mao. And now Kim Jong-Il. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill Clinton all seemed to understand that the United States should only attack nations that cannot fight back. Their target countries were always nearly defenseless. Reagan invaded the tiny island of Grenada, he bombed Libya, and ran CIA wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. George H.W. Bush attacked Panama, and then Iraq, which had been severely degraded after its eight-year war with Iran. Clinton throttled Serbia at a time when it was weakened by civil war and its economy was suffering.

If the Neo-Cons who formulate policy for the Bush Administration, along with their Likhudnik allies, convince Bush to strike Iran they will be sparking a real war with a nation that can and will fight back. With its 70 million people, high literacy rate, key geographic location, level of economic development, and its control of a significant share of the world's oil production, Iran is a nation that could cause quite a stir if Bush is dim-witted enough to go down that terrible road.

Condi Rice said: "Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that we face is the policy of the Iranian regime, which is a policy of destabilization of the world's most volatile and vulnerable region. And it's not just Iran's nuclear program but also their support for terrorism around the world. They are, in effect, the central banker for terrorism around the world." So it was not Bush's "regime change" in Iraq that "destabilized" the "world's most volatile" region, but those naughty Iranians.

I can envision a scenario where the United States launches a sustained set of air raids against most of the infrastructure of Iran, specifically targeting the "nuclear facilities" that are widely dispersed throughout the country. When the Israeli Defense Forces enter the fray through provocation or sheer eagerness, the Democrats in Congress, nearly all them on the payroll of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), will leap to Israel's defense (as they did when the IDF laid waste to Lebanon last summer). Bush will have the Democrats jumping through hoops like well-trained circus dogs as they vote for resolutions and give speeches validating the aggression. And then we're off to the races in an illegal war against a nation that has done the United States no harm.

Iran accounts for about 4 percent of the world's daily oil production, and will surely shut off the spigots if it is attacked sending the price of oil skyward. (Iran's ally Venezuela might follow suit.) Petroleum analysts estimate that the world runs only about a 2 percent excess capacity of oil production, which could mean an instant drop to a negative world supply if Iran chooses to stop pumping. This reduction in output alone could wreak havoc with global energy markets. Iran might also take the step of disrupting the oil production of neighboring Gulf States through missile attacks on their oil infrastructure and sabotage. The world production of oil could then drop to a negative 10 percent or more, and the price could shoot up even higher. The American people, who consume more oil per capita than any people on earth, will be waiting in long lines to fill up their tanks as happened during the Iranian revolution in 1978-79. Ordinary Americans don't only get the privilege of paying for the costs of the missiles and ordnance Bush will throw at Iran, but we also get the honor of paying triple the amount for a gallon of gas while we are queued up at the pump. (A few environmentalists will rejoice because the level of oil consumption will have to go down.)

The Iranian silkworm missiles, supplied by China, (which recently signed a $100 billion oil and gas deal with Iran), will rip through the shipping of the Persian Gulf. Explosions of undetermined origin will rake through the oil platforms and infrastructure of the Gulf States. Iraq's civil war will reach a new intensity. And bombs will go off throughout the region wreaking havoc with the smooth transport of oil.

Israeli cities could face a barrage of modified Shahib-3 missiles from Iran, and Katyusha rockets from Hezbollah across the Lebanese border. No missile defense system will be able to stop all of them. The Iranians and their allies in the Gulf will cause trouble in the Straights of Hormuz where 40 percent of the world's oil passes. They will turn the Gulf into a garbage dump of damaged ships and flaming oil dereks. Russia and China will supply arms to Iran and the conflict will continue, like Iraq, for as long as the United States tries to impose its will on the nation through brute force.

The war will be the most destabilizing the Persian Gulf has ever seen. Compounded with the financial strains of the $600 billion Iraq occupation, the new war with Iran will run the risk of bankrupting the United States. (This is why James Baker of the Carlyle group doesn't want to see his friend's moronic kid attack Iran.) China might become so angered by the American actions that it cashes in some of its $1 trillion in U.S. treasury bonds and exchanges them for Euros. The dollar would then be suddenly devalued. The life savings of millions of Americans could be threatened as the dollar tanks, and interest rates will shoot up when the central banks try to entice foreigners' to hang on to their dollars to stop the hemorrhaging. And this devaluing of the dollar will occur in an environment of hyperinflation because the high price of oil will drive up the costs of everything.

Things will turn from horrific to catastrophic in the Middle East. But Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and other "end times" enthusiasts will be creaming themselves with visions of the apocalypse.

In January 2001, the Republican Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, said: "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world." (It's better if you read it aloud with a thick drawl.)

In their conservative, Christian, evangelical eschatology, Jesus Christ is supposed to ride down from heaven in some sort of golden chariot or something with angels blaring trumpets. There will be a "rapture" of the faithful, and they will be whisked up to the heavens to sit next to Christ's throne where, presumably, Pat Boone or somebody like him will lead a sing-along of "Onward Christian Soldier." Jews need not apply; the unbelievers will be "Left Behind." Condi Rice, John Bolton, General Boykin, Ted Haggard, and the rest of them can hold hands and greet Armageddon together. It will be a loving tribute to the "intelligent design" of a "creator" who would never hurt a stem cell but is willing to blast the whole planet to bits. [The music swells, a slow dissolve, roll credits.]