Danger of war with Iran:
Let Congress tell Bush,
‘If you start a new war,
you will get impeached’
A WALL commentary
While the elections and the work of the Iraq study group offer hope for a new direction in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to head toward war in Iran—and the Democrats have mostly been silent on this issue. Among developments:
· With special forces in Iran, mapping targets and helping insurgents, the Pentagon advances to second-stage war planning. Two strike forces hold “war games” at Iran’s coast.
· Following saber-rattling in Jerusalem, Bush and Prime Minister Olmert meet in Washington. Bush warns that future Iranian bombs could threaten “our strong ally.” Will he carry out his unauthorized vow of last March to “protect” Israel?
On the pro-peace side, a score of former generals, admirals, and government officials have called on the Bush administration to talk with the Iranians and avoid a disastrous war. (See “Ex-brass urge no force” below.) Bush et al. have ignored them.
Another antiwar voice has been that of Patrick J. Buchanan, editor of The American Conservative. In a syndicated column titled “Of Imperial Presidents and Congressional Cowards” (4-28-06), he described a bombing campaign in Iran proposed by The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and Mark Helprin in The Washington Post. But something was missing from all that hawk talk:
“We are not told how many innocent Iranians we will have to kill as we go about smashing their nuclear program and defenses. Nor are we told how many more soldiers we will need for the neocons’ new war, nor how long they will have to fight, nor how many more wings we should plan for at Walter Reed, nor when it will be over—if ever.”
Buchanan made this proposal: “It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense.” At least, in Buchanan’s view, if Congress holds hearings on Iran and then sees no other choice than another Mideast war—against a nation four times as big as Iraq—it should tell the people why and share responsibility by authorizing the war.
We agree that if the president launches—or is complicit in—any war without advance congressional approval, it is a grave violation of the Constitution. And as a high crime, it constitutes grounds for impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal by the Senate.
But even if Congress should rubber-stamp it, an unprovoked attack—like the one on Iraq—constitutes aggression, a violation of the UN Charter, and a war crime under international law. Even a threat of war violates the Charter. Moreover, A-bombing a non-nuclear nation would violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and any nuclear use—as the World Court ruled in 1996—would breach customary international law.
The voters showed on November 7 that they did not expect the existing Congress to do its duty of checking and balancing the executive. The new majorities come into power promising oversight. But they have taken “off the table” a deterrent against further high crimes and misdemeanors.
We agree that Congress needs to challenge Bush. It should let him know that if he starts or aids one more illegal war, impeachment goes back on the table.
Who threatens whom?
According to Associated Press in Jerusalem, the deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, sugggested that Israel might be forced to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear program (11-10-06). (“Forced” may not have been the word Sneh used; it was what the writer, Amy Teibel, used. She did not say who might force Israel to do it.)
“Sneh’s tough talk is the boldest to date by a high-ranking Israeli official. Olmert and other Israeli leaders frequently discuss the Iranian threat in grave terms, but stop short of threatening military action,” the story said. A government spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the statement.
Anticipating a meeting with Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had said on NBC television that he had enormous respect for the president and “I know that America will not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons....” Olmert indicated determination to keep Iran from those weapons, either peacefully or otherwise, and he said time grew short.
Then, after an hour’s meeting at the White House, Olmert told reporters that he and Bush had “complete understanding” on Iran. And Bush said they should work together to isolate that country, which if nuclear-armed could be “very threatening to our strong ally.” (Agence France Presse, 11-13-06.)
Last March in Cleveland, Bush had declared, “We will use military might to protect our ally Israel.” But whether to use military might is a decision that only Congress has the constitutional right to make. Furthermore, as the ex-CIA man Ray McGovern says, “Israel is not our ally, and the president can’t make Israel our ally just by stating ‘Israel is our ally’” (See “Former CIA analyst ...,” this site.) He says that in 1967, under Lyndon Johnson, a mutual defense treaty was offered to Israel, which turned it down.
The drum beaters draw no lesson from the lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction”: e.g, “Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon” (Cheney, 8-26-02). “The Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised” (Bush, 3-17-03). Hawks swallow the recycled BS: “The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions” (Bush, 1-31-06). “They obviously want ... a nuclear weapon” (Cheney, 2-7-06).
Want it or not, Iran cannot get it for five to ten years, say McGovern and intelligence colleagues (op cit.). Ernst Uhrlau, German intelligence chief, believes that Iran would be incapable of producing such a weapon before 2015(Reuters, 10-24-06).
Even if Bush and Cheney were truthful for a change, why the panic? Two of Iran’s bordering neighbors, Russia and Pakistan, have nuclear bombs. So do China, France, India, the United Kingdom, and apparently North Korea. Israel’s government is said to secretly control about 300 A-bombs. As Buchanan asked in his April column, “If we sat by while Stalin got the bomb, and Mao got the bomb, and Kim Jong-Il got the bomb, why is an Iranian bomb a threat to the United States, which possesses thousands?”
The U.S. has perhaps 10,000 atomic weapons. Bush’s policy is to use them. That was disclosed in 2002 along with contingency plans to A-bomb at least seven countries, including Iran. The New York Times responded with an editorial headed “America as Nuclear Rogue.” The National Security Strategy released in March 2006 again endorsed so-called preemptive war, and it singled out Iran as the greatest threat to the U.S.
Bush made “regime change” in Tehran a goal of his second term. (See “Bush plots war on Iran,” Media sources, this site.) Plans have been drawn for an attack on Iran—to include the first nuclear-bomb use since 1945 (The American Conservative, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Antiwar.com, etc.). Bush admits that use of the bomb is “on the table.”
Special forces are continuing secret military activity within Iran, mapping targets and aiding insurgents. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has moved to “branches and sequels,” second-stage contingency planning (Raw Story, 9-21-06). And the USS Enterprise and USS Iwo Jima strike groups have sailed to Iran’s Persian Gulf coast, supposedly to hold war games (Global Research, 10-24-06). North Vietnam’s imaginary 1964 attack in the Gulf of Tonkin comes to mind.
So who threatens whom?
American news coverage by and large appears as slanted against Iran as it was against Iraq. Is it that the main media find it easier to use what officials hand them than to dig out the facts?
While preparing for war against Iran, Bush et al. were campaigning for Security Council action to stop that country’s uranium enrichment. The Iranian delegate responded by saying, “The United States has the power to cause harm and pain. But the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain.” AP began its story, “Iran threatened the United States with ‘harm and pain’ Wednesday ...,” though admittedly not knowing what was meant. USA Today headlined it, “Iran threatens U.S. with ‘harm and pain’” (3-8-06). The story included an accusation by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, with no evidence, that Tehran was stirring trouble inside Iraq; and arguments by the U.S. delegate, with no rebuttal, that Iran had to be preparing nuclear warheads.
Many stories imply that Iran has broken some international law by developing nuclear energy. Any reporter who took the trouble to look it up would find that Iran is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which affirms “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination ...” (Article IV).
The AP story from Jerusalem said, “Years of diplomacy have failed to persuade Iran to modify its nuclear program so it can’t develop weapons.” What diplomacy? Iran has repeatedly asked to talk. In 2003, e.g., Iran proposed a broad dialogue with the U.S., nuclear cooperation, acceptance of Israel, and no support for Palestine militants (The Washington Post, 6-18-05). Bush steadfastly refuses.
The AP story also said, “Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel’s destruction, and Israelis do not believe his claims that Iran’s nuclear program is meant to develop energy, not arms.” Reuters in Washington, DC, dispatched a similar non sequitur: “Iran has insisted it only wants nuclear know-how for civilian power purposes, but its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel's destruction” (11-13-06). Both are misleading.
Like the U.S. president, Iran’s president is elected and makes reckless speeches to his political base. But unlike the U.S. president, the latter is not Iran’s top man and has no military power. The real chief is Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khameini. He has renounced nuclear weapons and offered not just claims but concessions too—e.g. intrusive, snap inspections of energy facilities and caps on enrichment (online Time, 5-9-06, or see “Iran offers settlement ...,” this site).
Note that the AP writer did not write, “the alleged Iranian threat” or “what they call the Iranian threat,” as an objective reporter might put it, but stated “the threat” as a fact. The ex-CIA man McGovern has said that intelligence people “don’t recognize the threat from Iran. You know why? Because there isn’t any” (op. cit.).
Now and then hints of bomb making pop up and fade away. Take a Reuters report from Berlin that UN inspectors “discovered new traces of highly-enriched uranium on nuclear equipment in Iran, deepening suspicions Tehran may still be concealing the full extent of its atomic enrichment program, diplomats said” (5-12-06). The information was attributed to “Western diplomats” and two diplomats “from a country critical of Iran.” Evidently none of three reporters tried to get a comment from Iran.
An AP story from Vienna began, “New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium, potential material for atomic warheads, have been found at a nuclear waste facility in Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Tuesday...” (11-14-06). The last two sentences said an anonymous senior UN official familiar with the report containing the information cautioned against reading too much into it: Iran had explained both traces, they could be byproducts of peaceful nuclear activity, and the uranium was below weapons grade. ABC TV news picked up the story but did not use the qualification at the end.
Below on this site (“Bush plots war on Iran”) we refer to a Washington Post story from February 2006 in which nameless “officials” discuss classified documents concerning Iranian drawings that “appear” designed for an atomic-test shaft. The reporter did not wonder why officials would blab classified information; we suggest it is that the same crew that created Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” to justify its Iraq aggression is preparing an encore. News media should be telling the administration in effect, “Why should we believe you this time when you lied to us last time?” Instead they echo the official line.
Ex-brass urge no force
Twelve retired U.S. generals and admirals along with ten former officials in the Departments of State and Defense have warned that military force against Iran could have disastrous effects on the Middle East and U.S. forces. They have urged the Bush administration to talk with the Iranian government to help resolve not only the Iranian nuclear matter but current Middle East problems as well.
An open letter was issued by General Joseph P. Hoar (U.S. Marine
Corps, ret.), former commander in chief, U.S. Central Command; Lieutenant
General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (U.S. Army, ret.), former military assistant to the
secretary of defense and president of the National Defense University; and
Morton Halperin, former director of Policy Planning, Department of State.
They and nineteen colleagues signed it. This was its text (as released by Win
Without War, Washington, DC, 8-17-06):
As former military leaders and foreign policy officials, we call on the
Bush Administration to engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without
preconditions to help resolve the current crisis in the Middle East and settle differences over the
Iranian nuclear program.
We strongly caution against any consideration of the use of military force against Iran. The current crises must be resolved through diplomacy, not military action. An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq, and it would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims everywhere.
A strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran will serve the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and would enhance regional and international security.
Other signers were these retired military officers: Lt. Gen. Julius Becton (USA), Brig. Gen. Evelyn P. Foote (USA), Brig. Gen. John Johns (USA), Maj. Gen. Frederick H. Lawson (USAR), Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy (USA), Lt. Gen. Charles P. Otstott (USA), Brig. Gen. Maurice D. Roush (USA), Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan (USN), Lt. Gen. James M. Thompson (USA), and Vice Adm. Ralph Weymouth (USN).
The remaining signers were these former government officials (some of whose erstwhile titles follow): Harry Barnes, ambassador to Chile, India, and Romania; Parker Borg, ambassador to Iceland and Mali; Peter Burleigh, ambassador to the UN, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives; Ralph Earle II, director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Charles W. Freeman, Jr., ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Frank N. von Hippel, assistant director for national security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense; Edward L. Peck, ambassador to Iraq; and Sarah Sewall, deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Another retired military officer opposing war on Iran is Lieutenant General William E. Odom, formerly the Army’s senior intelligence officer, now with the Hudson Institute, Washington, DC. During an informal congressional hearing, he foresaw a disaster that would dwarf the Iraq war and said it was most important for the U.S. to talk to Iran (9-26-06).
Odom told us, in a telephone conversation (11-15-06), “The single thing that would most improve regional stability would be a cooperative arrangement between the U.S. and Iran, upon the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. We share many fundamental common interests: Neither wants upheaval or disorder in Iraq. Both oppose al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran needs U.S. oil-production technology; the U.S. wants Iranian oil.”
Opposing sanctions against Iran, he said, “The main obstacle to this
cooperative arrangement is the U.S. obsession with the Iranian nuclear
program. Until it abandons this threatening approach to Iran, regional peace is
Nov. 15, 2006