by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

As the Bush administration focuses its eye on Iran, I’m determined not to make the same mistakes that I did with Iraq. The last time President George W. Bush was beating the drum for war, I read books by Scott Ritter and others who knew that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles. I listened to the BBC and other media outlets that questioned the real motivation for war, and I believed that we needed a plan to get out before we got in.

America is known as the land of second chances for good reason, and with regard to Bush’s Iran policy, I’m not going to make the same mistakes twice. No more questioning, no more facts, no more cognitive dissonance for me. Perhaps I was not born with the mental capacity to reconcile the facts with our government’s actions. After all, we can’t all be John Boltons or Condi Rices.

This time, whatever action Bush takes, I’m behind him. Special forces in Tehran, airstrikes against oil tankers, carpet bombing, tactical nukes or full-scale invasion, I’m behind him 100 percent.

Yup, it’s time to get my war on.

But mindlessly following the administration is not as easy as you’d think. It seems like every day I run into another person whose mind has been clouded by living in a “fact-based” reality bubble. Just the other day, I got stuck having lunch with one of these jokers who just wouldn’t shut up.

“Think about the history of the U.S. involvement in Iran,” he started out. “In the ’60s and ’70s we supported the shah without question, selling him all the military hardware he could buy. In fact, he spent so much on the military that the public was living in abject poverty. Eventually it got so bad that the citizens rebelled against the shah and our support of his terrible regime.”

I rolled my eyes, hoping he would change the subject.

“So we shifted our support to Saddam,” he continued. “And when Saddam attacked Iran, we not only backed him, but we also provided information about Iranian positions so that he could effectively target his chemical and biological weapons against the Iranian military and citizenry.”

OK, I’ll just have to change the subject myself. “I sure like these potatoes,” I said.

Rudely ignoring the fact that the subject had changed, he continued: “Iran then went to the United Nations to ask for assistance and sanctions against Iraq for using weapons of mass destruction against the Iranian people. Do you know who used their Security Council vote to block the effort to stop Iraq’s use of chemical weapons? Yes, the United States of America!”

I decided that changing the subject was hopeless. I’d just have to ride out the conversation, staring into my salad and trying to think about something else.

“The insurgency in Iraq is Sunni, not Shiite. It isn’t logical that the Iranians would be supporting a Sunni insurgency. It is more likely that Saudi Arabia is supporting the Sunnis. And remember, that’s where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from.”

With friends like this, who needs enemies? I mean, these are exactly the types of facts I’m trying to avoid contact with!

Suddenly a woman sitting at the next table felt compelled to pile on, “We let all the Sunnis in the military go home with their weapons and knowledge when we disbanded the Iraqi military. And remember after the invasion how we failed to guard the Iraqi ammo dumps? Who knows where the high explosives that were looted from those Iraqi ammunitions depots got to? It is a good bet that those explosives and weapons are now being used to kill American GIs.”

Can’t I just eat a meal in peace?

My friend finally concluded his diatribe with one last jab: “Even if Iran is meddling in Iraq, we are awfully naive to think that Iran would not consider what happens in Iraq to be important to their interests and want to be involved. Given the history the U.S. has with Iran, invading Iraq and then expecting Iran not to interfere is like shooting yourself in the foot and then complaining that it hurts.”

I’m starting to feel like I’m surrounded by traitors. I will definitely have to do a better job of vetting my lunch companions from now on.