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What Was Bush Thinking?



With President Bush, it’s a bit like those old Clairol ads. You find yourself asking, “Does he or doesn’t he?” But instead of using hair coloring, you’re wondering if he thinks before he opens his pretzel trap.

Iran’s recent election is a case in point. Right on the eve of the first round of voting, when it looked like the most mainstream, secularist candidate, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, would win against several other much more conservative candidates, Bush jumped into the fray, calling the Iranian election a sham, and urging Iranians to vote for Rafsanjani.

At that point, a very predictable thing happened in a country that has suffered mightily over the years thanks to a CIA-backed coup that overthrew its elected democratic government and installed the hated Shah Reza Pahlevi–people who had not intended to vote came out enmasse, and handed a victory to the most anti-American candidate on the ballot, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the pro-cleric mayor of Tehran.

Of course there were many domestic reasons for people to vote for Ahmadinejad, who among other things promised both a better economy than the reformist current president Mohammed Khatami had delivered, and a restoration of Iran’s greatness. But certainly no small number of Iranian voters were brought out and encouraged to vote for Ahmadinejad by anger at Bush for his interference in their election and for his sleight of their country.

On its face, this was a truly stupid move by Bush. But I wonder. Was he being stupid like a fox?

We know the president wants another war. The one in Iraq is going badly, and he’d clearly like another one to divert attention from the mess he created there. Iran would be just fine for that purpose–especially if he confined his attacks against Iran to just aerial bombardment, killing Iranians with minimal US casualties.

And what better way to get a war going against Iran than to get the most anti-American candidate possible elected to the country’s presidency?

With a modicum of care and good luck, he could manage to have goad Iran into some pretext and have US attacks on the country start just at the height of the 2006 off-year congressional election campaign, and then use jingoism as he did in 2002 to win even more Republican House and Senate seats.

I hope I’m wrong. The Bush administration, with the connivance of most of the Democrats in Congress, have caused enough death and suffering already. But this administration is so craven, and it is in such political hot water in Iraq now, that I’m quite ready to believe this was all stage managed–if not by Bush himself, then by his coterie of neocon advisers.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at

He can be reached at:


















Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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