While the above writeup by Palmaceous
does an excellent job of summarizing much of the relevant recent history, there are (I believe) a few problems with hi/r position and argument. Unfortunately for hi/r (and all of you, no doubt), the writeup has pushed my 'International Security Teaching Assistant
' button. Heh.
To start with, the writeup begins with a red herring; the use of the phrase 'possibly nuclear,' especially as a dashed interjection and in italics, draws the eye and gives the impression that it's indeed quite possible that the 'War on Terrorism' is going or has gone nuclear. The title and tone also fall into a fairly classic trap, one which (I believe) the writer does in fact see and is trying to discredit. That trap is to associate the 'War Against Terror' with the United States' obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. While the 'attentions of the United States and Great Britain' have, in fact, turned towards Iraq and Hussein in recent days, to describe this as part of the 'War against Terror' is to in fact buy into the Bush administration's positioning and marketing of their actions, wholesale.
Note: I don't think this is a flaw in the writeup; rather, it merely serves to illustrate how pervasive the disinformation by the Bush crew has been.
I'll confine the remainder of my comments to the writeup's stated purpose, its review of the media's coverage of the whole shebang. The links offered and points drawn are excellent in general; there is one other 'trap,' however, which the author may have been caught in. That trap involves nuclear weapons and their use, as well as the recent 'leaked report' on the U.S. Nuclear posture.
Let me state my point clearly: that report does not, in fact, contain any relevant deviation from likely actual U.S. nuclear policies of the past fifteen years. In point of fact, the U.S. nuclear reviews have been in the main unswervingly critical of any policy of first-use versus a non-nuclear attack; however, the reviewers have been (and were in this last case) instructed to evaluate the use of said weapons by the U.S. in a myriad of possible situations - typically, situations devised and laid out by the administrations requesting the report.
Ever since their introduction, the nuclear weapon has been explored as a tactical option. In the 1950s, the U.S. military tested a live nuclear artillery round, fired from a rail-based cannon. The debate over nuclear weapon first-use during the Cold War was not so much over strategic pre-emptive strikes, but over the viability of using tactical nuclear weapons on the Central Front to stave off a conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact. The USSR developed the now-infamous Atomic Demolition Munition, known by the media as the 'suitcase nuke.' The U.S. swiftly followed suit.
In the case of the Central Front, the reasoning behind such winners as a tactical strike and the Neutron Bomb was that the U.S. would be 'forced' by circumstance to use these weapons to perform tasks that it was otherwise unable to manage. This is the same reasoning that has gone into the posture review, time after time. While I don't want to sound like I'm uncritically 'defending the Americans,' I must point out that it is the job of those impanelled to perform said reviews to think up and outline all possible scenarios for the use of U.S. existing and planned nuclear forces. They are not writing this report as a recommended action. They are writing it as a studied response to regularly-asked questions handed them by the Executive Branch and the military command: What are these things good for, and why might I use them? Will they help me solve any of the problems I'm currently dealing with or might be in the near future?
Moving on, the 'leak' of said report is highly suspicious to say the least. The obsession with Iraq exhibited by Cheney and company (I'd say Bush, but I don't think he can spell it much less devote ten consecutive minutes of thought to it or anything) long predates the War Against Terror (I love using CNN taglines). It dates back to even before the first incarnation of their obsession - the Gulf War. Cheney and cronies are the surviving members of the foreign-policy geniuses that gave us both a militarily strong Iraq as well as an Afghanistan awash in and expert in the use of terrorism. They created both problems, to a degree; they've solved neither. However, Daddy's War (as I tend to call the Hussein obsession) is not nearly as popular as the War Against Terror for obvious reasons; thus, in order to pursue the former, they must associate it with the latter.
I'm not saying Hussein isn't connected with terrorism against the U.S. There is strong evidence that, in fact, Iraq was and perhaps is a strong supporter of the Al-Qaeda organization (multiple reports of training camps that included parked airliners for hijack training, high-quality arms and ammo transferred to terrorist organizations, money transfers and the like). What I am saying is that the focus on Iraq isn't new; the administration knows that it will damage support for the president, and that it can't really be done at all without a lot of maneuvering. Step one: distract the debate from the real questions with a sure-fire hot button topic like nuclear weapons. That report (in the works for months) was a non-secret; the existence of it, and the existence and likely contents of its myriad predecessors had never really raised any ruckus unless they described a reduction in nuclear forces. This one created a storm pretty much solely because the administration explicitly asked for nuclear weapon options to deal with 'conventional' threats...something which they knew was going to touch off a stink.
So where are we? The waters have been tested. As noted by Palmaceous, VP Cheney (the real obsessor in this case) recently made a junket to try to garner support for his pet project. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for a lot of other people, the governments he consulted typically wanted no part of the U.S.'s continued tilting at Iraq. It should be noted that the initial reports, which described how unhappy the Cheney handlers were with the unwillingness of his Mid-Eastern hosts to discuss anything but the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, were soon shifted to a more 'pro-Israel/Palestinian' focus. Cheney hadn't been 'blindsided' by his inability to focus on what he feels is the main problem - he's just frustrated that no one will listen to his carping and won't stop talking about a problem that frankly he couldn't give a damn about.
To say that the point of recent weeks is the possibility of nuclear use in the War Against Terror misses the point in just the way they'd like. The real point is that the War Against Terror and the Iraq Obsession have suddenly become the same thing in the eyes of the press - and that's dangerous. The current administration's hard-on for Iraq is an older and much less rational agenda than the operations being carried out in Afghanistan and its neighboring areas.
What should be more frightening to people (especially when married with the red-herring-but-still-written nuclear posture review) is that the U.S. in no way possesses even 2/3 of the force structure that it did during Desert Storm, and of those forces, fewer are heavy armored units. Finally, there aren't entire stood-up Corps of units in Europe, a convenient train-ride from Turkey and the Mediterranean ports. The US DOES NOT possess the sorts of conventional forces it did back then. While technology may have increased the capability of those that it does retain, as we're finding in Afghanistan, a few determined low-tech adversaries are still an awful pain to deal with. If Hussein makes the smarter decision in this round not to stand up to us for an open-ground armor rumble but goes instead for the terrorist occupier model used by the Viet Cong in Vietnam, the U.S. would swiftly find itself at a loss to do anything except think about tossing nuclear weapons to 'break' the situation.
Think about that. Cheney and company are so obsessed with this notion of 'finishing off Saddam' that they are willing to commit to paper the request for the posture review to consider explicitly first-use tactical nuclear attacks against a Mid-Eastern opponent who may or may not even have the things themselves.
There's the problem. These idiots are crazy.