George Bush has already lost the illegal war of aggression that he initiated in Iraq. In the process, he has spent enormous sums of money, stretched the US military to the breaking point, undermined international law and the US Constitution, been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well as more US citizens than died on September 11, 2001, and brought respect for the United States to new lows throughout the world. He now appears poised to initiate a new war against Iran.
In advance of the war against Iraq, Mr. Bush moved US forces into the region. In an ominously reminiscent set of maneuvers, he has already moved two naval battle groups into the Persian Gulf, and has another battle group on the way. It is likely that Mr. Bush will opt for air attacks against Iran rather than “boots on the ground,” as too many US troops are already tied up in Iraq. There should be grave concerns about Mr. Bush’s inability to think strategically beyond threat and attack, given the dismal consequences of his actions in Iraq.
Mr. Bush believed our forces would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. One wonders what Mr. Bush thinks will happen if he attacks Iran, a regional power in the Middle East. The US could end up bogged down in the Middle East for decades. There have also been reports by respected journalist Seymour Hersh that the US military has contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, an act of terrorism that could open a global Pandora’s Box.
Speaking recently to a security forum in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin had some strong criticism for the Bush policies. While Mr. Putin’s credentials are far from impeccable, his words bear consideration. “One state, the United States,” he said, “overstepped its national borders in every way.” Putin observed, “It is a world of one master, one sovereign…it has nothing to do with democracy. This is nourishing the wish of countries to get nuclear weapons.” Mr. Putin was particularly critical of the way in which the United States is undermining international law.
Congress opened the door for Mr. Bush’s attack against Iraq. Congress should now be responsible for closing the door to a US attack on Iran. Congress should go on record before it is too late foreclosing the president from attacking Iran without specific Congressional authorization as well as appropriate authorization by the United Nations Security Council. The hour is late, but not too late, for Congress to assert its Constitutional responsibility. Under the US Constitution, only Congress can declare war and allocate funding for war.
Senator Robert Byrd has already put forward a resolution that requires Congressional approval of any offensive US military action taken against another country. In introducing Senate Resolution 39 on January 24, 2007, Senator Byrd stated, “I am introducing a resolution that clearly states that it is Congress…not the President – that is vested with the ultimate decision on whether to take this country to war against another country.” He called his resolution “a rejection of the bankrupt, dangerous and unconstitutional doctrine of preemption, which proposes that the President – any President – may strike another country before that country threatens us….”
As bad as things are in Iraq – and there is no doubt that they are bad – for Mr. Bush to initiate a new war by attacking Iran would only make matters worse for the United States. The US needs to pursue an exit strategy for Iraq, not a preemptive attack against yet another country that has not attacked the United States. Through its actions, the US needs to return to respecting and supporting international law. The Congress of the United States needs to go on record now to assure that Mr. Bush understands this and the limits of his authority under the Constitution.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).