As Congress and the American people protest the travesty Bush created in Iraq, our President is gunning for a confrontation with Iran. Bush is rattling the sabers and opting for gunboat diplomacy by pledging to "seek out and destroy" Iranian networks "providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies" in Iraq. But he has produced no hard evidence that Iran is supplying forces in Iraq with such weapons or manufacturing their own nuclear weapons.
When I say "gunboat diplomacy," I mean that literally. Bush recently sent US warships and Patriot missile batteries to the Persian Gulf and moved US attack aircraft to Turkey and other countries on Iran's borders. US forces stormed the Iranian consulate in northern Iraq and captured six Iranian nationals, and Bush announced he will go after any Iranians he considers a threat. There are also indications the Bush administration would support military action by Israel against Iran.
On Tuesday, the administration stepped up its inflammatory rhetoric. US officials said Iranians may have trained attackers who killed five Americans in Karbala on January 20. They also implicated the Mahdi Army, the militia controlled by Moktada al-Sadr. It's very interesting that the New York Times characterized the focus on Iran and the Mahdi Army as "convenient from the point of view of the Bush administration."
Investigators were stumped at how the attackers, who wore American-style uniforms, secured forged US identity cards and American-style M-4 rifles, and used stun grenades like those used only by US forces. They are also confounded at the way the attackers' convoy of S.U.V.'s gave the impression that it was American and slipped through Iraqi checkpoints. Wednesday's article in the Times cites a theory that "a Western mercenary group" may have been involved. In the past the US government used the CIA to covertly overthrow governments, such as Iran's in 1953 and Chile's in 1973. Could mercenaries now be doing the Bush administration's dirty work?
The plan to attack Iran has been in the works since Bush inaugurated that country into his "axis of evil" in January 2002. Bush's 2006 National Military Strategy says, "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran." In April 2006, Seymour Hersh revealed the US military was making preparations for an invasion of Iran. "Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups," Hersh learned from current and former American military intelligence officials.
One of the military proposals calls for the use of bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapons against underground nuclear sites in Iran. That would mean "mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years," a former senior intelligence official told Hersh. A Pentagon adviser said the Air Force would strike many hundreds of targets in Iran, 99 percent of which have nothing to do with nuclear proliferation.
A former defense official who still advises the Bush administration informed Hersh the military planning was grounded in the belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." That's the same faulty logic the US government has used to justify its cruel embargo and blockade of Cuba since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.
Congress has the responsibility to prevent Bush from attacking Iran. In view of congressional opposition to his war in Iraq, Bush will not likely ask permission to make war on Iran. We can expect Bush to provoke - or even fabricate a la Tonkin Gulf - an incident with Iran and then claim he's responding to Iranian aggression. Senior Pentagon officials reported in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times that Air Force and Navy fighter planes along the Iran-Iraq border may be used more aggressively. Bush will then try to bootstrap the September 2001 and October 2002 congressional authorizations for force in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively into consent to attack Iran.
Offensive military action against Iran would be illegal under the United Nations Charter, which requires that members settle international disputes by peaceful means. The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the US and thus part of American law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Under the Charter, a country can attack another only in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council. Moreover, the use of nuclear weapons would violate our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Congress should immediately pass a binding resolution reaffirming the United States' legal obligations and informing the Bush administration that it will not concur in any invasion or military action against Iran, would refuse to approve any funding for it, and would consider actions taken in contravention of the resolution as impeachable offenses.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, president of the National Lawyers Guild, and US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, will be published in June.