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From Warren to Gordon to J Street to Ploughshares, wide range of voices oppose ‘idiocy’ and ‘forever war’ with Iran

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In recent days we have focused on the many media enablers of a possible war with Iran. But a wide array of political figures are trying to block the war plans, and many are doing so valiantly. A galvanized coalition will be necessary to stop the “idiocy,” warns Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares, so it is important to highlight the statements of opposition so that the American people who are feeling left out by this hawkish policy know who is standing up for them now.

California Rep. Ro Khanna and several other congresspeople, including presidential hopeful Seth Moulton, have sponsored a resolution to stop the Trump administration from proceeding on the path toward war.

“A war with Iran would be an unconstitutional and illegal strategic blunder,” said Congressman Khanna. “I will continue to work with my colleagues when the defense bill comes to the floor next month to prevent funds from being used for a war with Iran.”

Yesterday Khanna and Barbara Lee and a couple of Republican colleagues– Andy Biggs of Arizona and Ken Buck of Colorado — launched a war powers caucus, “reaffirming Congress’s constitutional responsibility on matters of war and peace.”

Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares is once again rallying efforts to prevent another calamitous war.

This is not a drill. A new Middle East war is coming, perhaps soon. Only dramatic political action by the American people and their political leaders can stop it.

He and Mary Kaszynski of Ploughshares write at Lobelog there is a real political will to stop the madness. Notice their strong words: “idiocy” and this war would make Iraq look like a “warm-up” act.

Fortunately, an alternative strategy is forming. Both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would bar funding for an illegal, unauthorized war with Iran. All the top Democratic presidential candidates have publicly committed to rejoining the anti-nuclear agreement, returning to diplomatic talks with Iran and our allies, and rebuilding U.S. credibility and global leadership. Activists, veterans organizations, and mass movement groups are mobilizing to prevent a war that would make the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan look like warm-up acts.

These activists and political leaders grasp the idiocy of the Pompeo-Bolton strategy: that somehow Iran is so powerful that it is the source of all evil in the Middle East, yet so fragile that a small cruise missile attack on an Iranian civilian nuclear plant will cause it to crumble. But has the American public become so overwhelmed by Trump’s daily outrages that it will fail to grasp the dangers of this moment?

This is a race between peace and war, between reason and fantasy.

J Street is leading opposition to Trump policy among Democrats with this petition drive:

You can help prevent the Trump administration from pushing us into a disastrous war of choice with Iran. TAKE ACTION: Join the tens of thousands of pro-diplomacy advocates telling their members of Congress to say…  this president is too unpredictable and unhinged to be left unchecked in matters of war and peace.

On National Public Radio, Philip Gordon the former Obama aide said last night that the Iranians have shown restraint in the face of provocations, but there are limits.

[T]hey actually showed a fair degree of patience. You know, the U.S. pulled out of the deal more than a year ago, increased sanctions, made clear that other countries couldn’t buy Iranian oil. And the Iranians didn’t want to escalate. They sort of sat tight.

If Iran is responsible for the attacks, it’s understandable. They need to send a signal, the escalation is unacceptable.

I think Iran is going to continue to send these signals that there’s a price for squeezing them. They’re not just going to sit there and take it.

Gordon said the Iranians made numerous concessions in negotiating the Iran deal that their leaders don’t want to revisit, and Trump is taking a “big risk” of a major conflict that serves no one’s interests.

 [W]e saw about a month ago a rocket land near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Probably that was a case of wanting to send a signal, right? And it landed, didn’t harm anybody. People hardly noticed. But that’s the sort of thing that can go wrong. And if that rocket, you know, doesn’t land an empty street but kills some Americans, then we’ve suddenly got a real crisis on our hand. People on this side who somehow seem to think because we’re stronger than Iran, they won’t dare do X or Y. But, you know, we’ve seen this in the Middle East before. The Iranians may well – I don’t think they want a war, but they may well not believe that the United States is really prepared to escalate and in a certain way sort of say, bring it on. Let’s see who’s prepared to have bloody incidents in the Middle East. This is our neighborhood, and we care more than you do.

So there are plenty of scenarios in which this can get out of hand. And what’s so unfortunate about it is that it was so unnecessary.

Democratic presidentials are against the Iran war-drums. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard and Cory Booker all said it would be unconstitutional for the Trump administration to use the 2002 authorization for the use of military force, the one that gave us Iraq, to begin hostitilites with Iran.

Warren warns about a “forever war.”

Trump provoked this crisis. He has no strategy to contain it, he’s burned through our friends and allies, and now he’s doubling down on military force. We can’t afford another forever war.

Pete Buttigieg says that national security adviser John Bolton, “an architect of the Iraq war,” should be nowhere near decisionmaking. Buttigieg was cautious, on CNN:

There’s also no question that there is a pattern that is disturbingly reminiscent of the run up to the war in Iraq, in some cases being driven by the same people

Bernie Sanders was unequivocal, yesterday on MSNBC:

If you look at the recent history of this country, I think we understand that the two worst foreign policy disasters were based on lies that came from the White House. You remember the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident that led us to increase military involvement in Vietnam. Man, I could speak — that was my generation. 59,000 brave young men never came home from that war. Tens of thousands more died, committed suicide, got into drugs when they came home. That was based on a lie.

Then you look more recently at the war in Iraq, which I oppose because I did not believe Cheney and I did not believe John Bolton. I did not believe the Bush administration. Again, based on a lie that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Let me just say this, I’ll do everything I personally can as a United States Senator to stop the United States attacking Iran.

Tim Kaine blasts the president for getting out of the nuclear deal. “Why choose war over diplomacy?”

Senator Rand Paul has been outspoken that a war with Iran would be a huge mistake.

“One of the things I like about President Trump is that he said the Iraq War was a mistake. I think an Iran war would be even a bigger mistake than the Iraq War. We lost over 4,000 soldiers over there. I don’t think we need to get involved in another war.

Paul points out that the U.S. has been aiding the Saudis in a massacre in Yemen without any authorization to do so. (From Daniel Larison)

What are the Saudis doing with all the weapons we give them? Well, for one, they’re bombing civilians in Yemen. They’ve been using our bombs and up until recently they were refueling their bombers with our planes. We’ve got no business in the war in Yemen. Congress never voted on it. It’s unauthorized, it’s unconstitutional, and we have no business aiding the Saudis in this massacre.

Steve Walt at Foreign Policy has a column assailing David Brooks’s nostalgia for the new liberal world order, titled: “When Zombie Neoconservatives Attack.” The American public is fed up with wars that have undermined global stability, and pundits who pay no price for advocating them.

There is a far more obvious explanation for the trends that worry Brooks, which he alludes to only in passing. Americans are unhappy with the foreign policy that he and others have been peddling for the past quarter century for one simple reason: It has been a near-total failure, time and time again…

Exhibit A, of course, is the invasion of Iraq in 2003—the war that Brooks and his fellow neoconservatives worked overtime to sell to the American people—but the list of failed efforts at global social engineering also includes the forever war in Afghanistan, the toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, President Barack Obama’s premature declaration that Bashar al-Assad must go, and the United States’ active support for anti-Assad forces in Syria…

The Middle East is in flames, and U.S. actions over the past 25 years have done far more to destabilize the region than Iran’s have. The United States squandered trillions of dollars in unnecessary and unsuccessful wars, some of them justified by lies. Yet as Brooks’s own career illustrates perfectly, the people who supported these actions paid little or no price for their mistakes. Instead, most of them failed upward to even more influential posts in the media or in government….

They are tired of paying for wars the country didn’t need to fight, didn’t win, and that left Americans weaker and less safe than they were. They aren’t eager to keep subsidizing wealthy allies who refuse to do enough to defend themselves or to keep giving unconditional support to reckless Middle East partners [links to MbS and Netanyahu] whose values are at odds with their own.

At The American Conservative, Daniel Larison says a dangerously irresponsible president has been egged on by a lot of Iran war ennablers.

Trump is to blame for creating a completely unnecessary and avoidable crisis. It is the U.S. that has been ramping up pressure and inflicting collective punishment on all Iranians. It is the U.S. that reneged on the JCPOA, and it is the U.S. that has issued unrealistic ultimatums effectively demanding Iranian capitulation. After strangling and kicking Iran for more than a year, the administration tries to pretend that Iran is engaged in “aggression” when it pushes back against relentless economic warfare and escalating threats. “Maximum pressure” is what has brought us to the verge of war, and Trump is the proud owner of that policy. If we want to avoid further escalation, the U.S. needs to back off on its pressure campaign at a minimum.

Trump’s hawkish allies have cheered him on every step of the way as he has pursued his destructive “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, so they also share in the blame for bringing the U.S. and Iran so dangerously close to war.

Dylan Williams of J Street speaks to the absurdity of the situation. Again, no mincing of words.

We don’t have a Secretary of Defense but our president is barrelling toward a war of choice with Iran – a country that is nearly four times the size of Iraq and has more than twice the population

Last month Wendy Sherman, the former negotiator of the Iran deal, warned in the New York Times that Bolton has always sought regime change and Trump may see a polling advantage in war.

[M]aybe even Mr. Trump sees promise in a “wag the dog” strategy in the run-up to the 2020 election, rallying his supporters around a “wartime” president.

Her column bears rereading; we are seeing a “march” toward war and the media and politicians must take strong stances against it. As they failed to do with Iraq.

it is crucial that the news media in the United States and elsewhere continue its crusade for the facts about what is going on with Iran. We cannot repeat the days before the Iraq war when even many of our most reliable news outlets repeated and amplified what was, in fact, a flimsy case for war.

I hope folks are listening. It would be good to hear from some chastened hawks. P.S. Dennis Ross was on CSPAN yesterday talking up the evidence against Iran, and almost all the callers were skeptical or even contemptuous. One spoke of false flags, another brought up the Israel lobby and WINEP (Ross’s thinktank; he claimed that WINEP has a diversity of voices). The people don’t want this confrontation.

Thanks to Allison Deger and James North. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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9 Responses

  1. JWalters on June 19, 2019, 7:49 pm

    Bernie Sanders is “unequivocal” and Buttigag is “cautious”. Stealth candidate Buttigag needs to preserve his option to backpedal for his masters
    “Wall Street Has Its Top Democratic Hopefuls All Picked Out “
    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/wall-street-has-its-top-democratic-hopefuls-all-picked-out/.

  2. Citizen on June 19, 2019, 9:43 pm

    Tulsi Gabbard tells Tucker Carlson a US-Iran war would be ‘devastating’ https://fxn.ws/2Ev41rv FoxNews
    “How does a war with Iran serve the best interest of the American people of the United States? And the fact is it does not,” Gabbard said. “It better serves the interest of people like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Bibi Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia who are trying to push us into this war with Iran.”

    • JWalters on June 20, 2019, 1:59 am

      Excellent interview. Tucker and Tulsi are on “opposite” sides of the political spectrum, but agree on this threat to America and the whole Middle East. Short interview, but extremely effective. Common sense and uncommon clarity.

  3. wondering jew on June 20, 2019, 6:34 am

    I justified my support for the 2015 agreement with Iran based upon Efraim Halevy’s support for the agreement. https://www.npr.org/2015/07/31/427990359/ex-mossad-chief-supports-iran-nuclear-deal
    An ex mossad chief, he considered it flawed but worthwhile. Could it have been possible for the US to get a better deal? Tough to tell. It seems to me that the term limitations of the presidency worked against a better agreement with Iran. Obama might have been confident enough of his own reelectability that he might have been willing to put more pressure on Iran and take a couple more years negotiating it, but the pressure of the end of his presidency was such that he was forced to go for a quicker agreement and accept problems that a longer negotiations could have eliminated. I don’t know.

    would it have been possible for a responsible republican president to come in and disavow the agreement and get a better deal by pressuring iran? this is also in the realm of the unknown.

    what seems clear is that trump lacks a strategy and certainly seems irresponsible. (his lack of responsibility in other realms is quite clear.) he wants to get a better deal, but it does not seem clear that he knows how to get there without getting into a shooting war.

    the war against iraq in 2003 was unwise, although i must add that the situation of fighting in 1991 and leaving saddam in power, although possibly the only way to avoid the morass that iraq turned into, was certainly an anomalous way of fighting a war. if you asked the prime minister of israel in 2003, who was sharon and not bibi, which of the axis of evil should be the focus of US attention, he would have said iran and not iraq. george bush junior went for the obviously “achievable” shooting war against the country that tried to kill his father rather than a complicated policy of diplomatic conflict with iran. bibi of course had no business testifying in front of congress, he was finance minister in israel and sharon should have forbidden his testimony.

    the launching of israel in may of 48 involved the nakba, a great harm to the Palestinians, but also involved getting into the game of international balance of powers of the superpowers and for this reason i feel that judah magnes was on to something and in more practical terms, but still in alternative history terms, i wish moshe sharett had been given the opportunity to negotiate a peace with nasser back in the 50’s rather than allowing ben gurion’s march for regional domination to become israel’s goal and mindset.

    (I realize that Judah Magnes was not acceptable to those who viewed the moment after the cataclysm in europe to be a tipping point where the jews (represented by the zionists) had to reject soft power and pursue hard power. nonetheless bibi invading the congress and giving his speech against obama’s treaty was as blatant as one can get, that is blatant rather than discreet and I certainly prefer discreet.)

    • RoHa on June 20, 2019, 6:48 pm

      Of course, there was no need for a deal in the first place. Iran was not breaking its commitments under the Non – Proliferation treaty. It was not attacking its neighbours. It was not imposing sanctions on the USA or Europe. It was not building dozens of military bases all over the world.

      This whole thing stems from the fact that Israel didn’t like Iranian rhetoric, even though Iran showed no inclination to go beyond rhetoric.

      • Sibiriak on June 21, 2019, 1:13 am

        A central goal was to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

      • RoHa on June 21, 2019, 3:51 am

        But there was no need to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

  4. RoHa on June 21, 2019, 2:45 am

    And here’s a little extra for you.

    “THE DRONE IRAN SHOT DOWN WAS A $220M SURVEILLANCE MONSTER”

    https://www.wired.com/story/iran-global-hawk-drone-surveillance/

    That’s $220m of your tax money. Well spent?

  5. Mooser on June 21, 2019, 2:00 pm

    “Well spent?”

    Jeez, if they shoot down a bunch of those drones, we could be talkin” real money.

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