The American political establishment is banging the war drums again. This time, the target appears to be Iran.
Bush administration officials have been barking about the Persian nation in bellicose language, as The Nation pointed out in a recent editorial, while the Senate approved an amendment accusing Iran of meddling in Iraq and classifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
“Led by George W. Bush, the Administration has accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of training and arming Shiite insurgents who have killed US troops in Iraq, which it calls an act of terrorism,” the magazine wrote. “Gen. David Petraeus reinforced such claims when he called the Iranian ambassador to Iraq ‘a Quds Force member’ of the Revolutionary Guards. Whatever the truth of these allegations, they are illegitimate grounds for war with Iran. But by declaring Iran an agent of terrorism, the White House may claim that the only approval it needs to strike Iran is the 2002 Iraq War authorization.”
Iran, like Iraq before it, is a convenient bogeyman. Its president has cast himself as a dangerous demagogue and the country has a terrible human rights record. It has a history of antagonism to successive presidential administrations, beginning with the hostage crisis that to this day still colors Americans’ perception of Iran.
All of this will make it easy for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to paint the Iranian leadership in the same black-and-white terms the administration used to describe Saddam Hussein before the 2003 invasion.
And once you’ve established Iran’s bogeyman credentials, you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from firing a first strike.
As Andrew Greeley, a Chicago priest and sociologist, pointed out recently in the Chicago Sun-Times, “Once you’ve played the fear card to start one war, the second time is easier.”
Just ask the 29 Democrats -- including New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination -- who have decided to go along. Clinton’s vote should give pause to those progressives who have been willing to set aside their reservations as the former first lady rides her train of inevitability to the nomination.
The other Democratic frontrunners -- Barack Obama and John Edwards -- have managed to hedge on the issue. They’ve been willing to criticize Clinton, but have avoided taking a hard stand on the issue of war.
Mike Gravel, the former senator running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has no interest in hedging. He says the anti-Iran amendment “gave Bush the green light to attack Iran” because it “labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.”
“Bush can now attack the IRG as a counter-terrorism measure,” he wrote on the Common Dreams New Center Web site. “All he needs is a ‘Gulf of Tonkin incident’ in Iraq that can be tied to the IRG, and he will begin bombing IRG facilities in Iran. Of course Bush will disregard Hillary’s resolution demanding he check with Congress before attacking Iran. No president since James Polk has felt the need to check with Congress before ‘defending’ American troops.”
Gravel, of course, has a sense and knowledge of history that most politicians lack. He knows what can happen when an out-of-control president digs in his heels and refuses to acknowledge reality. He served in the Senate during Lyndon Johnson’s war in Southeast Asia.
While he is as guilty sowing fear among antiwar forces as Bush and Co. are of creating a climate of fear around the terrorism issue -- he describes a massive regional war in the wake of an invasion, followed by an international economic depression -- he is right to continually challenge the faulty assumptions of both the administration and the leading Democrats.
“If we immediately and consistently inform the American public what their government is up to,” he says, “I believe we have a shot at stopping this war. Without any sort of public outcry, we are most certainly heading for disaster.”
That’s why it’s important that Gravel and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich be allowed to participate in the Democratic presidential debates to keep the party from being hijacked by what Salon’s Glenn Greenwald calls “the endless, meaningless blather from the Washington establishment.”
And that’s why average citizens need to get involved, to protest, to keep the heat on. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low, but the Democrats in Congress act as though he remains popular.
We need to remind them why they were elected to a majority last year: to end one war and prevent the foolish rush to another.
Hank Kalet is a poet and managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog, Channel Surfing, can be found at www.kaletblog.com.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2007
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