The Pentagon’s most likely next target is Iran.
Hillary Clinton says “no option can be taken off the table.”
Barack Obama says that the Iranian government is “a threat to all of us” and “we should take no option, including military action, off the table.”
John Edwards says, “Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons.” And: “We need to keep all options on the table.”
A year ago, writing in The New Yorker, journalist Seymour Hersh reported: “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.”
For a presidential candidate to proclaim that all “options” should be on the table while dealing with Iran is a horrific statement. It signals willingness to threaten — and possibly follow through with — first use of nuclear weapons. This raises no eyebrows among Washington’s policymakers and media elites because it is in keeping with longstanding U.S. foreign-policy doctrine.
This year, with their virtually identical statements about “options” and “the table,” the leading Democratic presidential candidates — Clinton, Obama and Edwards — have refused to rule out any kind of attack on Iran.
If you’re not shocked or outraged yet, consider this:
On Feb. 22, the national leaders of MoveOn sent an e-mail letter to more than 3 million people with the subject line “War with Iran?” After citing a need to give UN sanctions “a chance to work before provoking a regional conflict,” the letter said flatly: “Senator Hillary Clinton has provided some much needed leadership on this.”
The MoveOn letter quoted a passage from a speech that Clinton had given on the Senate floor eight days earlier: “It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further congressional authorization. Nor should the president think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.”
But, while quoting Hillary Clinton’s speech as an example of “some much needed leadership,” MoveOn made no mention of the fact that the same speech stated: “As I have long said and will continue to say, U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. And in dealing with this threat, as I’ve also said for a long time, no option can be taken off the table.”
Earlier this year, David Rieff noted in The New York Times Magazine on March 25, “Vice President Cheney insisted that the administration had not taken any options off the table’ as Iran continued to defy United Nations calls for it to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The response from Democrats was not long in coming. Senator Clinton helped lead the charge, reminding the president that he did not have the authority to go to war with Iran on the basis of the Senate’s authorization of the use of force in Iraq in 2002.
“But what Senator Clinton did not say was at least as interesting as what she did say. And what she did not say was that she opposed the use of force in Iran. To the contrary, Senator Clinton used virtually the same formulation as Vice President Cheney. When dealing with Iran, she insisted, no option can be taken off the table.'”
To praise Hillary Clinton for providing “much needed leadership” on Iran — and to mislead millions of e-mail recipients counted as MoveOn members in the process — is a notable choice to make. It speaks volumes. It winks at Clinton’s stance that “no option can be taken off the table.” It serves an enabling function. It is very dangerous.
The stakes are much too high to make excuses or look the other way.
NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.