Liberal Grace

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Catholic dogma vs the confessional booth

An Italian exposé has the Vatican fuming but I find it rather encouraging.

First, let me say that Catholics the right to be steamed over a sting operation on the confessional booth. It's the ultimate violation of trust and simply slimy.

However, I'm encouraged by what the sting revealed -- a clergy that understands the tension between ethics and grace which is central to Christianity.

Priests leave Pope's doctrines outside confessional

John Hooper in Rome
Wednesday January 31, 2007
The Guardian

A yawning gulf between the stern doctrines preached by Pope Benedict and the advice offered by ordinary Roman Catholic priests has been exposed by an Italian magazine which dispatched reporters to 24 churches around Italy where, in the confessional, they sought rulings on various moral dilemmas.

One reporter for L'espresso claimed to have let a doctor switch off the respirator that kept her father alive. "Don't think any more about it," she was told by a friar in Naples. "I myself, if I had a father, a wife or a child who had lived for years only because of artificial means, would pull out [the plug]."

Article continues
Another journalist posed as a researcher who had received a lucrative offer to work abroad on embryonic stem cells. With the extra cash, he said, he and his wife could think about starting a family. So should he take up the post?

"Yes. Yes. Of course," came the reply.

The church's official teaching is that homosexuality is "disordered" and that homosexual behaviour is wrong. Yet a practising gay man in Rome was told: "Generally, the best attitude is to be yourself - what in English is called 'coming out'."

On one issue alone - abortion - the priests all stuck firmly to official doctrine. A reporter who said his wife had discovered their child would be born with Down's Syndrome, and that they were preparing to terminate her pregnancy, was told: "I swear to God: if you do it, you'll be a murderer."

But on other issues, that "moral relativism" so detested by Pope Benedict was the order of the day.

A journalist who said he was HIV-positive and used condoms to protect his partner was told it was "more of a personal problem, one of conscience".
external link
It might surprise my conservative Christian friends to know that I value dogmas and doctrines. They play an important role as an ethical anchor which protects us from slipping into total moral relativism. Even more than dogma, I value the example of Jesus Christ which provides an even higher standard for us to live by.

As Christians we aim high, knowing we're going to miss. This is where a high view of grace is essential.

Another major problem with ethical dogma is that changing social context erodes its relevance. This is why the church must constantly be in a state of reform to stay morally relevant.

It seems to me that this is what the Italian priests are doing in the confessional booth where they encounter real-life ethical dilemmas. I find this an encouraging sign that the Catholic church might not slip into total irrelevancy because their church leadership is so bound by conservatism.

Apparently, their priests are reforming the church one confession at a time.

PS: Conservative Evangelicals shouldn't cluck-cluck too much over this story. This kind of ethical accommodation happens all the time -- even in some of our most conservative churches.

Hillary is still driving us liberals crazy with non-apologies about Iraq

Despite her "apology" this week, Clinton is still waffling.

It was all over the wires so you probably saw Clinton's apology for her Iraq vote:

"He took the authority that I and others gave him, and he misused it and I regret that deeply," she said. "If we knew then what we know now, there never would have been a vote. I never would have voted to give this president that authority." external link
That's not how I remember it! My impression, at the time, was that the Senate, including Hillary Clinton, green lighted Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Oh, sure, he needed to jump through a few hoops -- like going to the UN -- but after that vote, we all knew he was going in.

If you're memory needs jogging, read Russ Feingold's speech at the time, which Hillary presumably heard. There was no doubt that the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq was an "A-OK" for an invasion.

For example:

So, Mr. President, I believe that to date the Administration has failed to answer the key questions to justify the invasion of Iraq at this time. Yes, September 11 raises the emotional stakes and raises legitimate new questions. This makes the President's request understandable, but it doesn't make it wise.

I am concerned that the President is pushing us into a mistaken and counterproductive course of action. Instead of this war being crucial on the war on terrorism, I fear it could have the opposite effect.
So how, exactly, did Bush misuse the authority the senate gave him?

I wish Hillary would just say, "I'm sorry. I screwed up on that vote. Please forgive me."

Like John Edwards did in his article: The Right Way in Iraq

I was wrong.

Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.
external link
That's what we liberals need from Hillary -- a simple, straight-up apology.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Blacklisted" by Neko Case

I have a weak spot for atmospheric, longing music.

These days I'm listening to Neko Case's "Blacklisted" and it hits me right in the weak spot.

She fits into that large group of "country influenced singer-songwriters". She has a lovely voice (as do many in that category) but distinguishes herself by not being too perky or cute -- don't think Shania Twain think Dusty Springfield in funk after a bender.

I might be the only one, but I keep being reminded of Dusty Springfield as I listen to Neko Case. Partly it is because of the pure high sad wail in their voice but mostly because I get the same mental image of the singer -- a sweet but sad woman who has story to tell.

I should mention that I have no idea what most of Case's songs are about! Here lyrics are highly poetical but mostly evocative for me. After a number of listening, the songs are starting to give-up a narrative but mostly it's just mental images -- sad, beautiful, sweet but mostly just glimpses of stories.

Buy from Amazon:

Buy from eMusic:

Neko Case


Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm re-considering Hillary Clinton

My main objection to Hillary Clinton was that she's such a divisive figure. I was naive.

There's a lot I like about Hillary Clinton but I am so of scorched earth divisive politics. Hillary Clinton sets-off the conservatives like no other. I want a president who the conservatives can work with.

But this shameless smear of Barak Obama external link -- the one claiming he attended a madrassa external link-- has made me realize the the Right is going to horribly demonize anybody -- I mean anybody -- who runs on the Democratic ticket. It could be Mother Teresa, comeback from the dead, and the conservatives will convince themselves she is the devil incarnate.

Reality makes no difference to these conservatives -- on a couple of the blogs that were claiming Obama attended a madrassa, I left comments correcting them and giving them links explaining how this is a smear.

Do you think they changed the claim in order to accommodate the truth? Of course not!

So, I have to ask myself, why am I worried about Hillary Clinton divisiveness? The GOPs are going to play scorched earth politics with any candidate.

Why is Hillary Clinton a divisive figure to begin with? Because she's a radical? No. Because she is vitriolic? No. She is a divisive figure because the conservatives made her that way.

So, I'm not going to adjust my vote because some Democratic candidate might be divisive. The conservatives will try their hardest to bitterly divide the country with any candidate.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Muslim female cadet refuses to shake the hand of her male chief

Sometimes religious beliefs or codes disqualify religious people from certain jobs.

This article is getting a fair-amount of press in England and Muslim countries but not in the States:

Muslim cop refuses handshake

LONDON -- Police said Sunday that a Muslim woman officer had refused to shake hands with London's police chief during a graduation ceremony last month due to her religious beliefs, fanning a debate in Britain over the assimilation of Muslims into society.

The woman -- whose identity was not revealed -- asked to be excused from the customary handshake with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair during the ceremony, saying her faith prohibited her from touching a man other than her husband or a close relative.

Blair immediately questioned the validity of her request, said a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman.

"This request was only granted … to ensure the smooth running of what is one of the most important events in an officer's career," the spokeswoman said.

She said the incident was still being looked into by the force. external link
(It is also reported here.)

The question that first comes to mind is how she could arrest male criminals.

In this article a Muslim spokesman (not the woman, herself, interestingly) explains that she could arrest a man, if it was part of the job duty.

As an American liberal Christian, I have a very high standard for religious freedom. However, I understand that all religions have dress-codes and dogmas that could make the adherents unsuitable for certain jobs. Society and the legal system needs to allow for this without being called bigots.

Obvious examples might be a Jew who demands a job at a pig slaughterhouse or a shaved-headed Buddhist monk who applies for a job as a hair model.

Closer to home -- I'll use myself as an example: I am a Christian pacifist. I don't just happen to be a pacifist -- I'm a pacifist because I believe Jesus taught this; it comes directly from my Christianity.

This surely disqualifies me from any job that might involve shooting people. I accept that I can't have that job -- it's the price of my Christian convictions. It would be hypocritical of me to apply for a job as a policeman.

So, if your religion forbids you from touching the opposite sex, then isn't it hypocritical to apply for a job that involves lots of touching?

For this to work -- religious disqualifications need to be for real reasons -- not just because we are uncomfortable with some practice. Laws must have a very high standard of tolerance banning only genuine problems -- not just be weird or offensive.

The head scarf is an example -- people are trying to ban it in Europe even though it's a genuine problem in very few situations. A cross around the neck, a Sikh turban, a Muslim head scarf -- should be allowed except for the very rare occasion. The veil is another issue -- it would get in the way of lots of jobs and even things like driving a car.

By the way, I almost got hit by a woman wearing a veil just yesterday! It seemed obvious that she didn't see me because her peripheral vision was blocked.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How's the Surge Going? (Jan 2007)

Let's check in monthly to see how Bush's surge is going.

Bush is convinced this is Iraq's last best change for victory. Most Americans think it is too little, too late. Who is going to be right, do you think?

Here are some numbers to track how well the surge is going:
(I'll start a baseline from just before he started floating the surge idea.)


You can see this weasel coming a mile away

While Bush talks of victory, he's laying the groundwork to blame the Democrats for defeat.

If Bush fails, it's your fault.
This is the line that jumped-out at me during Bush's State of the Union speech:

"...whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."

Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work," Bush said. "And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way."
external link
So -- let me get this straight -- if we don't support one more of Bush's doomed-to-failure plans, we're voting for failure?

As we have reported so many times, Bush does not tolerate discenting voices in his inner-circle -- anyone who dares speak the truth to the president gets a boot in the head. The same for the media -- if they dare tell the truth, they are undermining the troops and the war on terror.

So, who's to blame if the American public recognizes that Bush has lost this war? Americans are! They are voting for falure! (and not supporting the troops!)

Let Bush "cross the aisle" before he surges.

The second thing that statement that jumped out at me was this one:

Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on — as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. external link
If Bush is really committed to "crossing the aisle" then I suggest he start with his "surge." Talk with the Democrats -- and incorporate their advice -- before sending thousands of more troops over there.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hurray for the Democrats -- a black, a woman and a Latino!

Before our candidates get Swiftboated, let's take a moment and congratulate ourselves.

I'm very proud of my political party, the Democrats, that an African-American, a woman and a Latino believe we are the kind of people who would elect them to the highest office in the land.

It wasn't long ago -- not very long ago at all -- that all candidates had to be white males.

This is real progress and let's take a moment to take pleasure in it.

So far, I prefer a white male candidate (John Edwards) because of his emphasis on the poor but I would consider voting for any of these three.

Heck, I'd vote for a black Latina woman if she were the best candidate. I think this is true for many Democrats and we should be proud of that. This is a very good thing. This is progress.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

US Military -- just another militia in Iraq?

Bush's stunningly bad leadership has reduced the world's last superpower into just another militia in Iraq.

I think most Americans tend to assume that a force as phenomenal as the US military puts it at the center of any conflict. But this interview with Moqtada Al Sadr is highly enlightening in that it reveals his view:

Al Sadr said that "there are at least four armies" ready to strike against his Mehdi militia: a secret army he said was trained in Jordan by the US military, a private army he said is at the disposal of former Prime Minister Eyad Allawi, Kurdish militias known as peshmergas and US troops. external link
To Moqtada, US troops are one of four armies against him! I hope, at least, that we rank as one of the more formidable armies!

This is where bad incredibly leadership had led us -- this mission is totally off the rails. Americans did not send our sons and daughters to be another militia in Iraq. Worse, yet, Bush does not care what most Americans think about this.

After years of carping about how Bill Clinton weakened the military, it too Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to reduce us to just another militia on the streets of Baghdad.

This is the real problem in Iraq. As I said in my previous post, going from 140,000 to 160,000 is not something I can quibble with.

My complaint is that Bush has allowed all 140,000 to get off mission -- reduced to being one of a bunch of militias in Iraq killing and being killed in a big power grab. A 15% "mini-surge" is not going to get the mission back on the rails. We need a sea-change in policy and strategy in Iraq or we need to get out.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thoughts on Bush's "Surge the Course" policy.

Now that I've thought and heard about Bush's "surge" -- I'm not exactly against it.

I feel horrible for the troops and their families because they are being ordered back to Iraq in an effort that surely won't lead to victory.

But, as a military strategy, I can't really bicker with Bush's minor increase in troop levels.

The after-speech spin told us that these troops will be used to reduce the horrific sectarian violence in Baghdad. Bush isn't "surging" enough to stop anything but it might reduce it some, for a while.

Will the extra troops significantly provoke more violence? It's kind of hard to imagine -- the death spiral is quickly accelerating, already.

What's perfectly clear is that Bush is not committing enough troops to change the course of the war. His change in leadership is probably more significant -- like his appointment of David Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq. This seems like a good, solid move.

But in almost perfect symmetry, Maliki appointed Gen. Aboud Gambar who some are saying is a major step towards a total Shiite take over of the military. When the US military "stands down" it looks inevitable that the Shiite faction running the military will "stand up."

We need a plan for defeat.

It's time for the Bush administration to make plans for the end game in Iraq.

The Bush administration is famous for their "nobody could have predicted" defense. Well, many people are talking about the Iraq civil war turning into a regional war when the Americans leave. If/when this happens, expect Bush & Co. to go on TV and claim that "nobody could have predicted a regional war of this magnitude."

And when we say, "We warned you this will happen" the conservatives will counter with, "You're happy for this war because it makes Bush look bad!"

I dearly wish the Bush Administration for once -- just for once -- would get ahead of an issue and work to prevent what we all feel could be coming around the bend: a regional war.

Apocalyptical peas in a pod: Bush and Ahmadinejad

Cheney's description of Ahmadinejad sounds a whole lot like our own beloved leader.

When you watch a Bush administration official on Fox, you have to watch Fox the same way the Soviet-era Russians read Pravda -- looking for truth inadvertently slipped between the official lies. Read this excerpt from a Dick Cheney interview on Fox:

And Iran's a problem in a much larger sense. They have begun to conduct themselves in ways that have created a great deal of tension throughout the region. If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk about the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried, partly because of the conduct of Mr. Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, who appears to be a radical, a man who believes in an apocalyptic vision of the future and who thinks it's imminent. Vice President Cheney on 'FOX News Sunday'
When I heard this on the radio, what really jumped out at me was Cheney's description of Ahmadinejad, "a man who believes in an apocalyptic vision of the future and who thinks it's imminent."

Doesn't this describe most evangelical Christians, including George Bush? About 60% of all Americans believe in a literal fulfillment of Revelation 1 which, of course, heavily features an imminent apocalypse. Belief in an apocalypse among born-againers like Bush and his Religious Right base must be nearly 100%

After I found and read the quote, a second similarity jumped out at me:
They have begun to conduct themselves in ways that have created a great deal of tension throughout the region. If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk about the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried,
This also perfectly describes the Bush administration. Living in the Gulf states, it's completely clear that the conduct of America has created a great deal of tension -- times ten!

Sometimes I wonder if everybody, ultimately, only talks about themselves. Well not everybody but I do think it is especially true for aggressive people who avoid introspection.

When I listen to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh rail against wacky, made-up stuff about liberals year-after-year, it strikes me as one very long self-examination -- Rush Limbaugh with his calls to lock-up drug addicts and O'Reilly with his fixation on "liberal" sex are just the most obvious of this phenomena.

Is this what is going on with Cheney? When he looks at the religiously-motivated apocalyptical militarism of Ahmadinijad does he see his own administration?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My prayer for Muslims - their own Gandhi or MLK

If I had one prayer for Muslims it would be that they get their own MLK or Gandhi.

The Hindus have Gandhi and we Christians have Martin Luther King. Who do the Muslims have who is similar?

As a Christian pacifist I find it tremendously helpful having MLK as a role-model for non-violent change. As a human and a pacifist, I appreciate having Gandhi for the same reasons.

Critics of pacifism usually can't conceive that non-violent activism and passive-resistance are a powerful tool for change. But this is ignorance -- students of history know there is another way: the movements of Gandhi and MLK forced the British Empire and the Segregationist South to real change.

And not just politically and legally -- the moral authority of those two men changed the hearts of people that had been hardened by decades -- even centuries -- of repression and conflict.

In my observation, very few in the Muslim world can visualize the power of non-violence. The usual rationalization of suicide bombings and attacks on civilians is that the powerless oppressed have no other choice. Every human has the right to defend themselves, the reasoning goes, and the only weapons they have are their own desperate lives.

But MLK and Gandhi showed is that there is an alternative to violent self-defense. The availability of effective non-violent action makes it much harder to rationalize away violence.

Who am I praying for? A Muslim who:
* is a religious authority
* is politically brilliant
* is absolutely committed to non-violence.
* leads by example

In short, I'm praying for a Muslim MLK or Gandhi -- if he or she was a Palestinian, all the better. If the Palestinian conflict could be solved through non-violent, pacifistic action, I believe it would revolutionize this whole region for the better.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Once again, Bush counting on Americans' inattentiveness.

CIA says there's no proof Iran has WMDs. Once again, this report will be ignored and forgotten.

Read this article about the CIA's findings on Iran's nuke program:
'No proof' of Iran nuclear arms

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has not found conclusive evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a US magazine has reported.

Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, cites a secret CIA report based on intelligence such as satellite images.

Correspondents say the alleged document appears to challenge Washington's views regarding Iranian nuclear intentions.

The article says the White House was dismissive about the CIA report.
Here is the original New Yorker article

This line jumps out:

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it.
Remind you of anything?

It reminds me of a CIA report in October 2002, prior to the Iraq invasion, stating that the CIA didn't believe Saddam was an imminent threat (unless, of course, we attacked him first!)
Analysts Discount Attack by Iraq

Unprovoked by a U.S. military campaign, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States, intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report given to select senators last week.

Remember that story? Probably not.

It ran for about two days and was forgotten. The Bush administration then proceeded as if the report never happened.

But don't let them get away with it this time. Remember this CIA report and demand that the Bush Administration come up with solid proof that Iran is an imminent threat before we blunder into Iran the way Bush blundered us into Iraq.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Irresponsible Congress that proposes nothing!

Bush offhandedly rejected Baker-Hamilton and then accuses Congress of irresponsibly "proposing nothing."

You'd think failing at nearly everything he's put his hand to would make Bush a little humble. But no. He continues to flip-off the Democrats and even most Republicans.

In this week's radio address, Bush said,

Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.
Uh. Mr. Bush... remember the Baker-Hamilton Report?

You call that "nothing"?

You treated it as nothing but it was something! It was well-researched, carefully-crafted and a plan most Americans, of both parties, were ready to support.

But you rejected the real last best chance for Iraq and, instead, substituted it with your deceptively-named "surge," using all your typical partisan spin and swagger.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Here is MP3 audio of Bush's speech about Iraq from January 10, 2007

It is encoded MP3 (with no DRM) suitable for downloading.

Right click and download. You might be able to stream it if you have the right plug-in. It's 4.7 MB.

January 10, 2007 Bush speech regarding Iraq

First reaction to Bush's speech

Bush (sort-of) defines victory in Iraq. I think the best we'll get is a partial one.

I was listening for a fundamental change in strategy but didn't hear him describe one. So, the best we get is a slightly modified "stay the course". What he was describing had some merit but it wasn't a course change.

The war has gone on long enough that I think we know that course: a version of Iran. The main question is whether Iraq will split or stay whole in the process.

I was particularly interested in Bush's definition of "victory" since that has been one of the more vexing parts of his war rhetoric.

>> Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.

OK. I agree, the world has changed ... but how will we even know when it's happened? How will we know when to bring our soldiers home?

>> But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world -- a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people.

Something new? Not likely! Something modified is more like it -- a modified version of Iran.

The first-three goals will probably be reached: a (limited) democracy, a police force and rule of law (with morals police!) . Iran has those things.

The last two will very likely not happen: respects fundamental human liberties and answers to its people.

>> A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them -- and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and our grandchildren.

Again, not likely. Iran does fights terrorism -- if they are Sunni.

Will Iran having another major national ally make children feel safer or more threatened?

So, the best we can hope for is a mixed bag. Is that enough of a victory to justify the thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars we're spending on this war?

The whole speech transcript is here

Listening to George Bush

If Bush doesn't mention Muqtada al-Sadr or the Mahdi Army in his speech, you can bet he's still hopelessly behind the curve.

The biggest problem with Bush's war leadership is that he's been consistently a year or more behind everybody else. More troops was a really good idea in early 2003 and 2004... but probably not now. After everyone recognized that a local insurgency was the #1 problem, Bush was still denying they even existed. Iraq looks like a civil war to everybody else but Bush is still denying it.

The real conundrum now in Iraq is Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. If you saw the video of Saddam's hanging (I refused to look), you heard "Muqtada" chanted by the spectators.

By many accounts, Muqtada al-Sadr is the most powerful man in Iraq. To complicate matters, al-Sadr is fully embedded at all levels in the Maliki government. I think it is safe to say that al-Sadr's vision for Iraq is very different than what most American's want. As I read the news, it seems like al-Sadr has the upper hand right now.

Iraq is on the track of having one (secular) despot replaced by another (sectarian) despot. This is certainly not a march to freedom and what US soldiers are dying for!

Does Bush understand the situation now (and not a year ago)? I'll judge by how much he considers al-Sadr in his new Iraq strategy.

Does anyone know why Bush wants to escalate? If Bush is doing this for a useful reason, I'd support it even though I generally want an expedient withdrawal.

One possible legitimate use for an increase in troops is to battle the Mahdi Army and set the country back on a centralized, non-sectarian track.

More likely, Bush will say the expanded force will be to help train the Iraqi army. That's a good reason for a troop surge but it begs a question: how can the US "stand down" without turning the Iraqi military over to al-Sadr in the process?

Listen for that key detail. If Bush doesn't mention it, I doubt he understands either the rock or the hard place.

Is Bush sending more troops to stay a slightly-modified losing course? I'll be listening for that.

I'm going to listen for a significant change in strategy -- explained coherently. If I don't hear it, I'm going to continue to advocate for "cut and run" which is horrible but far better than Bush's "stay and lose" strategy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Two Really Scary News Items

The last two days have given us two horrible news stories: one you've probably seen; and the other, probably not.

The first item is the "leaked" story that Israel is planning to use low-yield nukes on Iran.

Revealed: Israel plans strike on Iranian nuclear plant

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt the Iranian nuclear programme.

The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave “initial authorisation” for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert.

Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.
Make no mistake about it: if this happens, it will be seen as an act of war on Iran by America, not just Israel.

Iranian radicals and a lot of Muslims will feel that Iran would have a moral right to counter-attack America for this. Beyond a right, I think some will feel like there is a moral obligation to do so.

For those who believe the Bush Doctrine (aka the pre-emptive doctrine) just the leak of this story is enough justification for a pre-emptive attack on America and Israel who are clearly imminent threats to Iran, certainly more credibly so than Saddam ever was to America.

The second article probably won't raise too many flags in the west but, if true, could be disastrous for us in the Gulf. Best I can tell, not a single western news agency has picked it up:

Iranian troops massing near Iraqi border

Jan 8, 2007

A Sunni Iraqi MP accused Iran of deploying thousands of fighters near Iraq's borders with Saudi Arabia to "transmit disorder" into the kingdom. "Iran has started recently forming a 10,000 military brigade, dubbed 'Brigade of Mecca', with bases in Al-Samawah and Al-Nakhib Desert (in Iraq), near the Iraq-Saudi border, in order to transmit disorder across borders," Al-Watan quoted MP Mohammad al-Daeni as saying.

Saudi Arabia had recently announced plans to build a massive security fence along its borders with the war-torn country, mainly to prevent infiltration of al-Qaeda supporters who are feared to be training in Iraq.

Daeni also claimed that Iranian intelligence "controls all of Iraq's governmental institutions, mainly the ministries of defence, interior, transport, health, and oil".

'Killing on a daily basis'

He charged that thousands of Iran's radical revolutionary guard are "operating in Baghdad, killing on a daily basis" Sunni Arab residents.

"Iran controls (also) the oil fields of Majnoon," in Iraq, near the borders between the two countries that fought a fierce war in the 1980s.

Daeni described the "Iranian occupation" of Iraq as being "more dangerous that the American occupation because it aims to establish a Persian empire starting with control over Iraq and the Gulf".

The newspaper did not mention any proof for Daeni's allegations and the Iranian government was not immediately available for comment because of a public holiday.

Iraq's government is led by Shi'ite parties close to Iran since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, but Baghdad has denied being under the control of the Islamic republic.
If true this bad... very very bad.

If it's not true, it could easily be true, some day soon.

A civil war in Iraq is horrific but it may not stop there. The conflict could easily draw in the neighbors -- Sunni countries like Saudi and Syria to help the Iraqi Sunnis to battle-it-out with Iran who is helping the Shiites.

Probably, you have not thought about the ramifications of a regional war. Trust me, it's not good for anybody, including America who will be up to their eyes in it.