Building a Case to Fight Iran

As if the imperial hubris displayed by the Bush administration in Iraq wasn't enough, we're seeing the pieces to another pre-emptive war puzzle fall into place.

Last week, the Senate passed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, 76-22 -- a resolution urging the State Department to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a "terrorist" organization.

The Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Jon Kyl proposal drew bipartisan support, while a small group of Democrats sounded alarms that the Iranian "terrorist" label could be interpreted as congressional authorization to use military force against Iran.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who voted against the amendment, reminded his spineless colleagues about the 2002 congressional vote authorizing President Bush to launch the illegal Iraq invasion. "We shouldn't repeat our mistakes and enable this president again."

Sen. James Webb, D-Va., called the Lieberman-Kyl measure Dick Cheney's "fondest pipe dream" -- a reference to Cheney cheerleaders and other Bush hawks who have been beating the war drums over Iran.

On Sunday, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and now a war-mongering shill for the American Enterprise Institute, gave a speech in England over the weekend, frothing at the mouth about how the U.S. should "consider the use of military force" against Iran.

Bolton talked about "a limited strike against their nuclear facilities," adding that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "pushing out" and "is not receiving adequate push-back" from the West. He said air strikes should be followed by an attempt to remove "the source of the problem" -- Ahmadinejad.

"If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change as well, because I think that really sends the signal that we are not attacking the people, we are attacking the nuclear weapons program," he said. Sigh.

Norman Podhoretz, who is now a senior foreign policy adviser with Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, told London's Sunday Times that he urged Bush to bomb Iran in a meeting with the current White House Occupant late last spring at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

Regime change? A reality-distorting demonization campaign focusing on one man? Sounds familiar.

One hint that the attack-Iran crowd is not dealing with reality is symbolized by the amateurish attempt of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to give Ahmadinejad a tongue-lashing. Look, Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial is disgusting, nor is he a champion of human rights, but we shouldn't let emotion blind us to reality. As the Hasidic proverb reminds us, when you add to the truth, you subtract from it.

Bollinger called Ahmadinejad "a dictator." As a well-known legal and free-speech scholar, I hope Bollinger was embarrassed. He ought to know that the Iranian president doesn't really run the country. The big decisions in Iran are made by the Grand Ayatollah, who has forbidden the development of nuclear weapons by Iran as being contrary to Islam.

And what about the 1981 Algiers Accord, which secured the release of the American hostages held in Tehran? The U.S. pledged in that agreement to forsake overthrow attempts of the Iranian government, as we did to the Mossadegh regime in 1954.

In typical Bush-world fashion, Bolton calls for "regime change" without acknowledging the reality, on-the-ground.

While neocons argue that air and missile strikes against Iran would cripple the regime to a point where opponents would rise up against the government, Iranian opposition leaders, on the ground, say that war "would certainly unify the (Iranian) population around the regime and would be used to justify further repression," Middle East expert Stephen Zunes points out.

Zunes also rightly dashes unrealistic hopes for a coup, given that pro-U.S. elements in the Iranian military were "thoroughly purged soon after the revolution."

"The leadership of Iran's military and security forces, while not necessarily unified in support of the more hard-line elements in government, cannot be realistically expected to collaborate with any U.S. efforts for regime change in their oil-rich country."

What recent history has shown, over and over again, is that the most effective means for democratic regime change comes from internal nonviolent movements, like the kind that toppled dictatorships in countries such as the Philippines, Bolivia, Madagascar, Czechoslovakia, Indonesia, Serbia, and Mali, Zunes elaborates, citing a study by the conservative-leaning think-tank, Freedom House.

The Freedom House study, after examining the 67 transitions from authoritarian regimes to varying degrees of democratic governments over the past few decades, concluded that the changes were not because of "foreign invasion, and only rarely through armed revolt or voluntary elite-driven reforms, but overwhelmingly by democratic civil society organizations utilizing nonviolent action and other forms of civil resistance, such as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and mass protests."

Lord, wake us from our slumber.

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