There are now 238 members of the House signed on as cosponsors of House Concurrent Resolution 362 “expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.”
On Wednesday, William Lacy Clay, Jr. of Missouri’s 1st District became the first and only member to withdraw his sponsorship. On Tuesday afternoon, a group of fifteen of us visited Clay’s St. Louis office and spoke with him for 30 minutes via teleconference. While we would like to claim that our conversation with him and our subsequent refusal to leave his office at closing time were key to his reversal, this isn’t the time for tallying political wins.
House Concurrent Resolution 362 and its companion, Senate Resolution 580, pave the way for open war with Iran. It is that simple, and we must be equally clear and bold in our opposition.
In a series of “whereas” clauses, the two resolutions make a bogus case against Iran. They repeat the big lie, accusing Iran of twenty years of covert, illicit nuclear activity aimed at the production of nuclear weapons. Iran’s compliance with the protocols of the NPT and the IAEA is ignored. Iran is flatly accused of being intransigent and unwilling to negotiate. Claims the administration has been unable to substantiate about Iranian activity in Iraq are repeated as fact. The failure of diplomatic efforts and U.N. sanctions to halt Iranian nuclear ambitions is asserted as a way to justify further aggression by the United States.
Representative Clay began his conversation with us with us this way: “Look, I’m sure that we all agree that we need to send a clear message to Iran that they cannot continue building nuclear weapons and killing our soldiers in Iraq.”
“No,” we replied, “that is precisely what we do not agree on because neither of those claims has been substantiated and repeating them only propagandizes for war.” The fifteen people sitting around the table Tuesday were not a naïve bunch. It included young and old, veterans and veteran activists, teachers and students. We’re not naïve about the history of U.S. aggression and war making nor do we harbor any illusions about how a self-described liberal, anti-war Democrat like Lacy Clay can be as much a part of the war machine as anyone.
What caused me to sit bolt upright was not anything new or shocking in what he said, but rather the banal familiarity of his words. “I don’t know what atmosphere you all live in,” he said, “but I have my sources.” “Iran is a threat that needs to be dealt with, but don’t worry, the president cannot start a war with Iran without Congressional authorization, and I for one will not vote for that.”
The United States is already at war with Iran. Congress has approved $400 million for covert activities within Iran that have been underway for months. The Treasury Department has moved aggressively to strangle Iran’s economy by blacklisting its banks and thwarting its activity in the global market. The Big Lie has been firmly planted in the head of the American public, making it pliant and ready to accept whatever comes next.
And the resolutions before the House and Senate make it clear what comes next. They “demand” that the president take action to put enhanced economic sanctions in place, cut off Iran’s import of refined petroleum, and establish a stringent regime to inspect all traffic entering and exiting Iran. When we mentioned to Lacy Clay that military analysts agree that such an undertaking would require a military blockade, and that erecting one without U.N. approval was an act of war, he replied, “Well, I don’t want to get into semantics.”
Learning why Representative Clay withdrew his sponsorship would be mildly interesting, but why he cosponsored the resolution in the first place, along with so many of his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate, is, for me, related to the much more serious question. How will Senator Barack Obama vote when Senate Resolution 580 comes up for a vote and what does that portend from an Obama administration?
Indications are not good. After Iran’s missile test earlier this week, Obama said in a prepared statement, “Through its nuclear program, missile capability, meddling in Iraq, support for terrorism, and threats against Israel, Iran now poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation.” This is nothing but a shorthand version of H. Con. Res. 362 and S. R. 580, a string of assertions and accusations crafted to bolster the Big Lie.
Later in the day, Obama’s campaign put an anti-McCain spin on the message, saying, “with Iran now spinning 3,800 centrifuges, threatening Israel, meddling in Iraq, and funding terrorists, the current policy toward Iran that Senator McCain has fully supported is clearly failing.”
This is too clever by half as it leaves us to fill in for ourselves what the alternative policy might look like, though we don’t have to look far. “I will do everything in my power,” Obama told AIPAC last month, to ensure Iran does not gain a nuclear weapon. “Everything.” He repeated it three times. What does he have in mind? Why isn’t he being asked?
The peace movement, the antiwar movement, citizen activists, voters—we’ve all been effectively paralyzed by the neuralgic propaganda bombarding us from every direction. Over the past seven years I’ve seen people of good will and more than average intelligence jump into the fray, attempting to meet and parry each new revelation, allegation, or accusation from the war machine only to find themselves worn out, deflated and disempowered. The only antidote is to speak clearly the truth that we do know, unapologetically and with boldness, while protecting ourselves against the mind numbing lies. I saw that conviction crossing peoples’ faces as we gazed at Clay’s 2-dimensional body on the screen and listened to the scratchy, disembodied voice. “Hey, this is crazy!” “Hey, what is he talking about? This doesn’t fit with anything I’ve read.” I saw the people gaining renewed courage. We were deciding to be human beings.
On Friday we visited Representative Russ Carnahan’s St. Louis office. He represents Missouri’s 3rd District. Michael McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace and a resident in Carnahan’s district, spoke on behalf of our group, requesting a teleconference with Carnahan and urging him to withdraw his sponsorship of the resolution. We are now scheduled to meet with him on Thursday. Our group is ready.
In the meantime, our message to Carnahan and the other sponsors of these twin resolutions is this: “Stop lying about Iran.” “Stop threatening Iran with further war.” H. Con. Res. 362 and S. R. 580 do both.
We will not tolerate leaders who lie about other countries. It decimates our ability to talk, resolve differences, and live in peace on the planet. We will not tolerate leaders who threaten other countries with war.
And where will Barack Obama stand when the Senate votes on S R 580? This is a vote he cannot miss. Ducking out on the vote would be a cowardly abdication of his responsibility. Voting in favor will put him firmly in the war camp.
As human beings we are sickened by the slaughter that continues in Afghanistan and Iraq. Can we bear hearing the recitation of horrors any longer?
We are not naïve. We recognize and will name the lies and the liars. And we will call out and condemn as war criminals those who are leading this country to war with Iran.
ANDREW WIMMER is member of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis. CTSA members are actively involved in the Iran Peace Shield project. He looks forward to comments and conversation at email@example.com.