More than 100 House Democrats have joined 117 House Republicans in co-sponsoring a bill which peace activists fear may further pave the road to war with Iran. The Bill, House Concurrent Resolution 362, describes Iran as a threat to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and US National Security. Introduced on May 22 by New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, the bill calls for an affective blockade against Iran, which, according to international law, is an act of aggression.
As of July 5 the bill has 220 co-sponsors including prominent Democrats such as Barney Frank (MA), Alcee Hastings (FL), Steny Hoyer (MD), Henry Waxman (CA), and the "Fire Breathing Liberal" himself, Rep. Robert Wexler (FL).
H. Con. Res. 362 specifically calls on President Bush to "initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities." The bill urges the President to block refined petroleum exports to Iran and to impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."
In a June 24 editorial, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out that the United Nations holds that "a unilateral blockade constitutes an act of war." The paper asks whether or not supporters of Res. 362 are "asleep at the wheel, or are they just anxious to drag us into another illegal war?" ("Iran: Scary language.")
According to a press release from the Council for A Livable World, three retired military leaders have sent a letter to lawmakers "urging them to abandon" H. Con. Res. 362. Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr., U.S. Army (ret.), former Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Lawrence J. Korb, and Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, U.S. Navy (ret.) describe the bill as "poorly conceived, poorly timed, and potentially dangerous."
In the letter, the three men state "a diplomatic solution with Iran is the best course" and that the sanctions demanded in H. Con. Res. 362 would likely "undermine any chance for diplomacy to succeed in achieving a negotiated resolution." While some co-sponsors have argued that the concurrent resolution is nonbinding, the retired military leaders write that it nevertheless "risks sending a message to the Iranians, the Bush Administration, and the world that Congress supports a more belligerent policy toward, and, potentially, belligerent actions against, Iran. In our view, H. Con. Res. 362 in no way furthers our diplomatic efforts or those of our European allies and should be abandoned."
On June 26, Ron Paul called the content of the bill "war propaganda." In a Congressional speech, he said that the bill was a "virtual war resolution." Paul was incensed about the blockade of goods and the suggestion that Iranian officials be prohibited from international travel. He compared the move to begin stringent sanctions against Iran with little to no evidence the nation was a threat to sanctions against Iraq. "This is what we did for ten years before we went into Iraq," he said. "We starved children—50,000 [sic] individuals it was admitted probably died because of the sanctions on Iraqis—they were incapable at the time of attacking us." A 1999 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report found that the child mortality rate of those under 5 had doubled and that half a million Iraqi children had died under U.S.-led sanctions.
Secret War on Iran
H. Con. Res. 362 asks the President to work against Iran’s efforts to "destabilize" "the legitimate governments in the region…." It also states the United States’ commitment to opposing "Iranian efforts at hegemony" in the Middle East. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh recently reported in The New Yorker that the Bush administration, with the consent of the Democratic leadership, has begun a secret war on Iran.
Hersh’s report shows that H. Con Res. 362 isn’t the only thing linking the Democrats to hawkish policy on Iran. Some leading Democrats have also endorsed Bush’s Presidential Finding which requests $400 million for "a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources."
The U.S is attempting to destabilize Iran’s government by funneling money to extremist groups including the Jundallah, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq or M.E.K. (on State Department’s terrorist list for decades), and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK. ("Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran," New Yorker, July 7, 2008)
According to Hersh, the funding request to wage this covert war occurred around the same time the Bush administration was dealing with the National Intelligence Estimate’s (NIE) December 2007 report on Iran. According to the NIE on Iran, "National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are the Intelligence Community’s (IC) most authoritative written judgments on national security issues and designed to help US civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect US national security interests."
The NIE on Iran stated a "high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." It also stated "with high confidence" that Iran would not even be "technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015."
The report concluded that Iran is more a rational actor than one hell-bent on destroying the world, as it has been portrayed. "Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously."
Impact of Pro-Israel Lobby
Despite the NIE’s findings, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) states that "Iran poses a growing threat to the United States and our allies as it continues rapidly advancing toward a nuclear weapons capability." In fact, the organization’s position paper, "U.S. Must Do More to Prevent Nuclear-Armed Iran" reads like a virtual guide to Res. 362. Nearly every point of the Bill, including a ban on petroleum sales to Iran, sanctions on Iran’s Central bank and foreign investors in the oil and energy sectors are found in AIPAC’s paper. AIPAC’s stated aim is to pressure the regime to "change course" by severely impacting the economy with a gas shortage.
On July 2, The Real News Network reported that Res. 362’s broad support "has been credited to the pro-Israel lobby, specifically the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which sent thousands of its members to Capitol Hill to lobby for the resolution in early June." In the news feature, historian Gareth Porter argued that Congress "was responding more to the Israel lobby than to any new intelligence on Iran or events on the ground." Porter added that Congress has been so in-bed with AIPAC that most politicians "simply accept whatever AIPAC gives them, without any question, without any discussion, and to turn that into legislation."
A review of a handful of co-sponsors’ top five contributing industries finds Democrats significantly benefiting from the "Pro-Israel" lobby between 2007 and 2008. For example, Alcee Hastings has received $29,600; Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has received $27,550; and California congresswoman Jane Harman has received $23,600.
To date, Stop War On Iran (SWOI), United for Peace and Justice, and Code Pink have taken the lead in opposing the march to war with Iran and calling for action against Res. 362. More recently, Veterans For Peace has joined the chorus condemning the bill.
Months ago SWOI issued a letter, "Stop the war on Iran before it starts," urging the United States to end its "campaign of sanctions, hostility, and falsehood against the people of Iran." Thousands signed the letter opposing "any new U.S. aggression against Iran" and demanding "funds for human needs" rather than "endless war for empire."
SWOI was the first organization to call for nation-wide protests against the growing tide of war against Iran. The group and its grassroots affiliates are planning protests on August 2 in dozens of cities including New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, and Melbourne, Florida. Go to www.StopWarOnIran.org for more information.
More recently, United for Peace and Justice, supported by Code Pink, has called for actions against war with Iran for July 19 to 21.
In early July, Code Pink activists created a theatrical "blockade" of Congressman Gary Ackerman’s house boat. In the morning, about a dozen or more activists greeted the representative with whistles, chanting, and bullhorns. They demanded the representative renounce talk of sanctions in favor of diplomacy.
The organization is urging peace activists to contact Ackerman’s office (202-225-2601) to urge him to withdraw H. Con. Res. 362. For more information on Code Pink’s campaign go to this website.
Actions and Additional Resources:
• Jeff Nall’s Blog featuring information on actions against the build-up for warwww.JeffNall.com/blog • Organize or participate in an August action: www.StopWarOnIran.org • Organize or participate in an July action: http://www.unitedforpeace.org/index.php • Tell Congressman Gary Ackerman (202-225-2601) to withdraw H. Con. Res. 362 and promote diplomacy, not war. Code Pink: "Your calls will strengthen the impact of our direct action, and will help Ackerman and the rest of Congress understand that the American people want to avoid another tragic and unnecessary war." - www.codepink4peace.org • Sign: Code Pink’s petition urging Barack Obama to pursue diplomacy with Iran. • Sign: StopWarOnIran.org’s "Tell Bush and Congress: No War against Iran" petition.
Jeff Nall is a writer and activist. He is a graduate of Rollins College, Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) and is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University. His book, Perpetual Revolt: Essays on Peace & Justice and The Shared Values of Secular, Spiritual, and Religious Progressives was released in June 2008. For more information go to www.JeffNall.com