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We can also count on our share of press releases. Most come from agents representing new authors or seeking to sell the latest incarnation of the commodified Jesus. Many seek some editorial inches to promote worthy advocacy or direct-action campaigns.

And then there are those efforts whose audacity or inappropriateness leaves a fella shaking his head in disbelief. A recent series of slick dispatches from the public relations front of the war on terror falls into this mail pile. Typically illustrated by an 8?-by-11 glossy of a mushroom cloud rising from an atomic blast (small irony department: if I'm not mistaken, the photo actually captures a detonation over the Nevada desert during America's wild and crazy what-me-worry-about-nuclear-fallout days), the scary memos from the Israel Project's copywriting crew breathlessly depict the various threats represented by a "nuclear Iran," patiently explaining why that radioactive outcome is "dangerous for everyone."

These regular mailings from the Israel Project to "opinion agents" such as yours truly are, in effect, a public-relations campaign for war. The monthly missives I receive from this one pro-Israel lobby are a small part of a broader effort to "secure the information stream" and prep Americans for the next exotic stop in the war on terror: sunny Iran. Now to the average shmoe, even contemplating another war while the overtaxed U.S. military machine seems bogged down in Iraq and losing ground in Afghanistan might seem laughably disconnected from reality.

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But see, average schmoe, you lack the long-term vision and patience of the folks at the Israel Project and their fellow travelers at, say, the New American Century Project or the vice president's office. This proposed Iranian bloodletting was penciled in years ago by the war-mongering proponents of the Pax Americana. Now it's time to hard-schedule the main event.

Iraq was supposed to be the demo-sideshow to the real fight to alter the political reality on the ground of the Middle East, an effort that "logically" ends not in Jerusalem or Baghdad but in Tehran. The fact that the build-up stages to this "inevitable" confrontation - taking out Saddam Hussein, removing the Taliban from power, and neutralizing Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza - have not exactly gone according to script has not deterred these determined folks. Now like bourbon-addled, nicotine-fingered Vegas high-rollers on a bad run, these guys are asking America to double-down on the great Islamic Enlightenment project. After all, we've invested too much in sacrificed souls and taxpayer treasure to bail out now from this increasingly barbaric clash of civilizations. Right?

Let me light a lantern in a bell tower for my fellow Americans. You must awake. There are PR armies of the night with shiny media kits and Dick-Cheneyfied "intelligence" reports quietly at work right now, building momentum for a strike on Iran and a vast broadening of this too costly - and let's just say it - too crazy war on terror.

A U.S. attack on Iran may include "mini-nuke" weapons and could begin a cascade of unplanned and increasingly unpleasant outcomes, including an actual nuclear war. That is a lot to risk for a campaign aimed at setting back by a handful of years Iran's nuclear program, which its leaders likely see as a counterbalance to Israel's nuclear threat and American bellicosity.

Americans have to step up today to demand that Congress not repeat the cowardly abdication of constitutional responsibility we witnessed before the Iraq debacle began. They must make clear to the warmongers in Washington that an Iran adventure - morally dubious, strategically short-sighted, and almost certainly geopolitically disastrous - cannot be sold to the American people, even if you've got the best PR money can buy on your side.

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Kevin Clarke is senior editor at U.S. Catholic and online content manager at Claretian Publications.

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