Stop the Next War

by , January 20, 2007

The times, they sure are a-changin‘! Why, I remember when you could count congressional opponents of the war on the fingers of one hand. Back then, it was just the likes of Ron Paul and Neil Abercrombie who were introducing resolutions trying to get us out of the Iraqi quagmire, but today there are no less than eleven such resolutions vying for attention. The great problem with most of them is that they are either unconstitutional – such as the Kennedy bill, that would prohibit the spending of war funding on Bush’s “surge” – or non-binding resolutions, which have no effect except to distance Democrats who initially voted for the Iraq war from their own handiwork.

All these legislative initiatives deal with Iraq, with only one – House Joint Resolution 14 – confronting the key issue on the war-and-peace front: Iran. This is a binding resolution that forbids the President from ordering an attack on Iran absent military action against U.S. forces, or a demonstrably imminent threat of attack. Authored by Rep. Walter B. Jones, of North Carolina – the formerly pro-war Republican who did a dramatic turnaround long before it became fashionable to do so – the resolution has an impressively bipartisan list of co-sponsors, including GOPers John Duncan (Tennessee), Wayne Gilchrest (Maryland), and Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman from Texas whose announcement of a presidential exploratory committee is causing much excitement in antiwar circles.

If H.J. Res. 14 ever sees the light of day on the House floor, it will be a miracle. Yet miracles have been known to happen. On the other hand, of all possible Speakers, Nancy Pelosi seems one of the least likely to let it come to a vote, let alone throw her support behind it. I had a call into her office early this [Thursday] morning, but, as we posted this piece – some 10 hours later – I had yet to hear from her representatives as to their position on the Jones resolution. The likely answer – given Pelosi’s past position – is that she’s opposed, just as she opposed a previous resolution by Lynn Woolsey (D-California), calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq (now the official Democratic majority position). Can the Speaker be persuaded to evolve, as it were, and go with the flow, California-style, of her own party, the grassroots of which are undoubtedly opposed to war with Iran?

There is reason to doubt it. Madam Speaker, after all, co-sponsored a bill during the last session of Congress, introduced by Rick Santorum and Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, both Republicans, that not only tightened sanctions on Iran, but also made “regime change” in Tehran official U.S. policy. The measure was originally opposed by the President, and the Republican leadership, on the grounds that it would interfere with efforts to negotiate with Tehran, but the AIPAC lobby, in a show of bipartisan strength, forced the White House to accept a compromise bill, which was eventually passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

Last year, the Israel lobby in the U.S. launched a major campaign to demonize the Iranians and ramp us up for a showdown with Tehran. The last AIPAC national convention, held in Washington, D.C., featured lurid exhibits detailing the horrors – and imminence – of a nuclear-armed Iran. Here is what Pelosi had to say about Iran to the 2006 AIPAC conference:

“The greatest threat to Israel’s right to exist, with the prospect of devastating violence, now comes from Iran. For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology. Proliferation represents a clear threat to Israel and to America. It must be confronted by an international coalition against proliferation, with a commitment and a coalition every bit as strong as our commitment to the war against terror.”

As the Israelis, and their American lobby, push Washington to take action against Tehran, Pelosi and her fellow Democrats are meekly going along, just as they went along with the President in the run-up to war with Iraq.

The Democrats are trying to cover up their co-responsibility for the Iraq disaster by offering up all kinds of symbolic, non-binding resolutions disdaining the “surge,” and calling for “phased redeployment” (which, one gathers, is distinct from simple withdrawal). This is pure show-boating. The only resolutions that matter are H.J. Res. 14, and H.R. 413, introduced by Rep. Sam Farr, which repeals the Iraq war resolution of 2002 outright, and requires the President to start withdrawing the troops. This one has zero co-sponsors – and that ought to tell us everything we need to know about our elected representatives’ seriousness when it comes to stopping this war.

The irony is that the Farr legislation would have the plurality of votes if the various “antiwar” bills were submitted to a popular referendum. The Democrats, however, are not about to ride this horse, perhaps for fear it might throw them. The greater danger, however, is that they’ll be trampled in the general stampede to get ahead of the issue as popular opposition to our crazed foreign policy increases by leaps and bounds.

The Farr resolution embodies what needs to be done as far as Iraq is concerned: it corrects the big mistake of 2002, and counterposes a course diametrically opposed to the escalation favored by the administration. If the Democrats had any brains, they would immediately embrace it – yet they are still stuck in the 2002 zeitgeist, which prevented them from halting or even delaying the rush to war.

The Jones resolution has the best chance of passing, and it is, at the same time, the most pressing. Iraq, after all, was yesterday: Iran is tomorrow. The time to stop a war is before it starts: the most we can do, at this particular moment, is to prevent the current war from spreading. And that is precisely what is behind the “surge,” as I pointed out the other day: it’s no accident that the “new” strategy being pushed by the President was announced in tandem with fresh provocations directed at the Iranians.

The groundwork for forcible “regime change” in Iran was laid by both parties: plans even now being hatched in the Pentagon were funded by Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, in alliance with the most pro-war Republicans. Now that the Democrats are in power, at least in Congress, they have no intention of reversing their stance. Democratic party chairman Howard Dean asserts that the great “tragedy” of our involvement in Iraq is that we aren’t free to go after “the real enemy,” which, says the Screamer, is Iran. And Hillary Clinton, the party’s leading contender for the presidential nomination, out-neocons many Republicans when it comes to Iran:

Let’s be clear about the threat we face now: A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, to its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses. U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal. We cannot and should not – must not – permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In order to prevent that from occurring, we must have more support vigorously and publicly expressed by China and Russia, and we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations. And we cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran – that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.”

For those Kossacks and antiwar Democrats who have placed their hopes in Barack Obama, the supposed anti-Hillary expresses his view on the Iran war question in eerily similar language, averring that all options, including war with Iran, are “on the table.” The leading Democrats are expending all their political capital on opposing Bush’s “surge,” and yet Michael Moran, in a piece posted on the Council on Foreign Relations website, identifies a “surge” of an entirely different sort than the one named in the Democrats’ toothless resolutions. It is a surge “in the direction of Iran.”

According to Moran, the USS Stennis, an aircraft carrier, and its attendant battle group, will meet the USS Eisenhower and its flotilla in the Arabian Sea in the first weeks of February. The Brits, too, have built up their naval forces in the area. Yet it isn’t just the gathering of this armada that lends support to the view that the Bush administration means to attack Iran. Moran underscores the turnabout of newly-installed SecDef Robert Gates, who now opposes dealing with Iran and/or Syria in order to secure a political settlement for the entire region. “Gates agreed with that premise in 2004 when he co-chaired a CFR Independent Task Force on Iran,” Moran notes. “CFR President Richard N. Haass reiterated it this summer in a CFR.org interview.”

As the diplomatic option is being rapidly foreclosed by an apparent policy shift in Washington, the military option seems in the ascendancy. The movements of American and British forces, in tandem with the ratcheting up of the administration’s bellicose rhetoric, are seen in the region as preparations for war with Iran, and Tehran is not sitting idly by.

The War Party hopes the mullahs can be lured by some provocation into making the first move, and Rep. Ron Paul has rightly warned against another “Gulf of Tonkin incident.” Not a single Democratic, or Republican, presidential candidate, aside from Paul, has come out against the administration’s warmongering when it comes to Iran. Yet the American people, in their overwhelming majority, oppose another war in the Middle East.

Isn’t democracy wonderful?

So, you thought you voted for a new era of diplomacy as opposed to perpetual war? You’ve been bamboozled, and badly – so what are you going to do about it?

What’s needed is a popular outpouring of support for H. J. Res. 14 – and you can do your part by calling the office of La Pelosi, urging her to let the House vote on the Jones resolution, and urging her to support it. That number is: 202-225-4965.

Read more by Justin Raimondo