Stop The Iran War Before It Starts

Linked with Scott Ritter – USA.

By Scott Ritter, Published first on The Nation, re-published on Countercurrents.org on 27 December, 2007.

Excerpts: … If I were to be invited to go to Washington today and speak to the Democratic equivalent of the Republican Theme Team, I would spend very little time on the issue of Iraq. Right or wrong, the Iraq War was a product of domestic American politics, not any genuine threat to national security, and as such the solution for Iraq will be derived not from whatever happens inside Iraq, surge or no surge, but rather from what happens here in America. It will take two or more national election cycles for the American electorate to purge Congress of those elements, Republican and Democratic alike, who are responsible for the Iraqi quagmire.

Until American politicians from either party show that they care more about the lives of the men and women in the armed forces who operate in harm’s way than they do about their own political fortunes, we will remain in Iraq. It takes courage to stand up against this war when the tide of public opinion continues to hold out hope for victory.

“Doing the right thing” is a thing of the past, it seems. “Doing the politically expedient thing” is the current trend. The American public may have articulated frustration with the course of events in Iraq, but this feeling is derived more from a frustration at being defeated than from any moral outrage over getting involved in a war that didn’t need to be fought in the first place. Congress takes its cues from the American people, and until the American people are as outraged over the mere fact we are in Iraq as they are over the rising costs of the conflict – human, moral and financial – then Congress will continue to dither. If I were to address a Democrat Theme Team equivalent, I would focus my effort on trying to impress them with the issue that will cost them political power down the road. This issue is Iran. While President Bush, a Republican, remains Commander in Chief, a Democrat-controlled Congress shares responsibility on war and peace from this point on. The conflict in Iraq, although ongoing, is a product of the Republican-controlled past. The looming conflict with Iran, however, will be assessed as a product of a Democrat-controlled present and future. If Iraq destroyed the Republican Party, Iran will destroy the Democrats …

… If hearings show no case for war with Iran, then Congress must act to insure that the United States cannot move toward conflict with that nation on the strength of executive dictate alone. As things currently stand, the Bush Administration, emboldened with a vision of the unitary executive unprecedented in our nation’s history, believes it has all of the legal authority it requires when it comes to engaging Iran militarily. The silence of Congress following the President’s decision to dispatch a second carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf has been deafening. The fact that a third carrier battle group (the USS Ronald Reagan) will probably join these two in the near future has also gone unnoticed by most, if not all, in Congress.

The President and his advisers believe that they are acting in accordance with the authorities given to the executive by the US Constitution, and by legislative authority as well, as provided for in both the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution of September 14, 2001 (after the attacks of September 11, where Congress not only authorized the President to use military force against the perpetrators of the terror attacks but also against those nations deemed to be harboring people or organizations involved in the attacks), and the Authorization of Military Force Against Iraq resolution of October 2002 (where Congress concurred that any presidential action would be “consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001″).

The National Security Strategy of the United States, most recently promulgated in March 2006, lists Iran as the number-one threat to the United States, not only in terms of its yet-to-be-proven nuclear weapons program but also from its status, as declared by the Bush White House, as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. The Bush Administration has repeatedly linked Iran with the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attacks and has accused Iran of harboring people and organizations involved in that attack. If left unchallenged by Congress, the Bush Administration firmly believes it has all of the authority required to initiate military action against Iran without Congressional approval.

This is not an idle statement on my part. One needs only to read the words of President Bush during his recent State of the Union address: Osama bin Laden declared: “Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers among us” …

… The Democrats in Congress are in firm control of their own destiny, and with it the destiny of America. A war with Iran will pale in comparison with the current conflict in Iraq. And if there is a war with Iran, this Congress will be held fully accountable.

Democrats should seek immediate legislative injunctions to nullify the War Powers’ authority granted to the President in September 2001 and October 2002 when it comes to Iran. Congress should pass a joint resolution requiring the President to fully consult with Congress about any national security threat that may be posed to the United States from Iran and demand that no military action be initiated by the United States against Iran without a full, constitutionally mandated declaration of war. Those who embrace the notion of a unitary executive will scoff at the concept of a Congressional declaration of war. They hold that the power to make war is not an enumerated power per se. While statutory authorization (i.e., a formal declaration of war) is enumerated in the Constitution, the reality (as reflected by the current War Powers Act) is that the powers of bringing America to a state of war are not so much separated as they are linked and sequenced, with Congress exercising its control over budgetary appropriations and the President through command …

… An amendment to prohibit offensive military operations, covert or overt, being commenced by the United States of America against the Islamic Republic of Iran, without the expressed consent of the Congress of the United States. This amendment reserves the right of the President, commensurate with the War Powers Act, to carry out actions appropriate for the defense of the United States if attacked by Iran. However, any funds currently appropriated by Congress for use in support of ongoing operations by the United States Armed Forces are hereby prohibited from being allocated for any pre-emptive military action, whether overt or covert in nature, without the expressed prior consent by the Congress of the United States of America.

However it is worded, the impact of such an amendment would be immediate and could forestall any military moves planned by the Bush Administration against Iran until Congress can fully familiarize itself with the true nature of any threat posed to the United States. President Bush seems to be hellbent on making war with Iran. The passage of time is, in effect, the enemy of his Administration’s goals and objectives. By buying the time required to fully study the issues pertaining to Iran, and by forestalling the possibility of immediate pre-emptive action through budgetary restrictions, Congress may very well spare America, and the world, another tragedy like Iraq. If a Democrat-controlled Congress fails to take action, and America finds itself embroiled in yet another Middle East military misadventure, there will be a reckoning at the polls in 2008. It will not bode well for the Democrats currently in power, or those seeking power in the future. (FULL TEXT).
(Scott Ritter, a former Marine intelligence officer, served as a chief weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author, most recently, of Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change / Nation Books).

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