War talk is in the air again, and because of the looming November election, it has to be taken extra seriously.
The latest to warn about a Bush War III is former Democratic senator and failed presidential contender Gary Hart, long an expert on national security issues, who says that targeting drones and special forces targeting specialists are already operating over and inside Iran, sizing up and locating as many as 400 targets for U.S. cruise missiles and bombers. This is in anticipation of an aerial strike which my own investigating suggests could come as early as late October (See the article "War Signals" in www.The Nation.com )
Of course, this could all be bluster–a Karl Rove/Dick Cheney strategy to get the public all worked up they way they used to get over color-coded terror alerts until that strategy wore out its effectiveness through overuse. But the actual sending of Special Forces units into harm’s way in Iran, and the preparation of Navy battle groups for deployment to the Iran Theater, make it more probable that an actual attack is in the offing. Word that regular military units are being prepared for third tours to the region, that the administration is changing the guidelines to make longer call-ups of National Guard units for longer and more frequent overseas tours of active duty, and that units in Iraq are being given stop-loss orders to delay their return home also suggest something major may be in the offing. Otherwise logic would lead to the expectation that the administration would be announcing a reduction in troop levels in Iraq before Election Day, as was past practice.
Ordinarily one would say that the real sign of an imminent attack would be a convening of Congress to approve a use of force authorization, or perhaps an attempt in the United Nations to win endorsement for an attack from the UN Security Council, but clearly this is not happening. And for good reason. Bush would never succeed in winning Security Council approval for a military action against Iran, particularly after insulting the council members by the massive package of lies that he and Colin Powell presented the last time he sought such a vote–for an attack on Iraq–in 2003. Nor would he likely be given the go-ahead by Congress this time around, with all of the House and a third of the Senate facing re-election on November 7 by an electorate that has grown weary of war, angry at a half trillion dollars wasted, and sick about the thousands of flag-draped coffins and broken GIs returning home, with nothing to show for it all but two dysfunctional, war-torn former countries in the Middle East.
The problem is that Bush, who has trashed the Constitution to the point that it is now little more than a historical artifact, doesn’t think he needs approval from the UN or even from the Congress to embark on his most dangerous, bloody and immoral war yet.
According to this confirmed White House criminal (Bush has been found guilty by the US Supreme Court of violating the US War Crimes Statutes and by a Federal District Court of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment), he has the power as "commander in chief in time of war" to act in violation of both Constitution and law, as he sees fit.
The "war" in question is the so-called "War on Terror." The title "Commander in Chief" derives from the wording of Article II of the Constitution, in which the Founding Fathers said that a president would simultaneously be the top general of the military. Bush claims, with the backing of his mob attorney, Alberto Gonzales, the head of what used to be known of quaintly as the Justice Department, that when Congress, in the wake of the 9-11 attacks in 2001, voted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Al Qaeda–a measure that was meant to give the go-ahead for an attack on Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan–it was also giving him the power to act as Commander-in-Chief in a war on terror that would have no end and that would extend anywhere and everywhere in the world and within the borders of the U.S.
He claims, in other words, that the October 2001 Congressional AUMF effectively made him a generalissimo, a dictator, for as long as there were terrorists foreign or domestic trying to harm Americans or American interests.
We need only note how Bush, in his address at the UN General Assembly last week, was careful to describe the leaders of Iran as "supporters of terror." Be warned: this was a deliberately chosen linguistic construct which means he is asserting his right to attack them as part of that phony "war" on terror, based upon the long-outdated and grossly misrepresented 2001 AUMF.
Unless the American people and their ostensible representatives in Congress act quickly to make it clear that the 2001 AUMF does not apply to an attack on Iran, and that it did not make the president a dictator with the power to make war at will, I’m betting that we’ll be at war with Iran before Election Day.
Let’s be clear. This has nothing to do with a threat to America. Even by the most generous of interpretations of administration-hyped "evidence" about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons development efforts, Iran could not have a nuclear weapon for four years or more, with some estimates saying ten to 15 years. That’s plenty of time to mount a successful diplomatic campaign to block it.
No, incredibly this is all about a domestic election. To put the matter bluntly, we have a president who is willing to put tens of thousands of American soldiers’ lives at risk, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iranian lives at risk, simply to avoid having the Congress fall into the hands of the Democratic Party.
Why would Bush be willing to do such a thing, against the advice of his generals, against the wishes of the American people, and against all logic and decency?
Clearly he is afraid–afraid that a Democratic Congress will finally start calling him to account for his accumulated crimes against the nation and the American People. That’s why he is desperately trying to get the Republican-led Congress–while it still can–to pass legislation retroactively exonerating him and his subordinates for their criminal violations of law and Constitution. That’s why he is racing around the country raising money for candidates–even including liberal Republicans whose positions he privately abhors.
At this point, all this president cares about is saving his own sorry ass.
It’s a disheartening spectacle, but hardly surprising for a man who worked so hard and shamelessly to protect that same ass during the Vietnam War by joining the National Guard and then checking a box saying he would not be available for overseas assignment.
He must not be allowed to get away with this ultimate crime of a war for personal gain.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org