When the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released noting that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the council moved into action. Unanimously, it passed a resolution ensuring that no preemptive military attack by the United States against Iran would take place.
Surprised you didn't hear about this courageous act? That's because it happened in the town of Gary, Ind., not in our nation's capitol.
Organized by the Northwest Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War and introduced by Councilman Charles Hughes, the City of Gary has passed the most common-sense strategy to deal with Iran. The resolution called for Congress to:
- Ensure that no preemptive military attack by the United States against Iran takes place.
- Make clear to the administration that such a preemptive attack has not been authorized by any law, resolution, court ruling or article of the Constitution.
- Support diplomatic engagement with Iran.
- Maintain pressure against all escalations of war in the Middle East.
Free of the widely held belief by Washington insiders that our president and Congress should look tough on defense at all costs, the council members in Gary were able to objectively look at the facts. While Bush has warned of the prospect of World War III, the council recognized what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) found: that Iran is at least three to eight years away, in a best-case scenario, from acquiring the technical know-how to create a nuclear weapon. Though nobody wants to see another nation in the Middle East acquire a nuclear weapon, this timeframe indicates that time is on our side for diplomacy to work. No rationale exists for a preemptive attack to take place.
The council also recognized the importance of engaging the international community and moving away from Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy. Iran stopped its weapons program precisely at the time the international inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began their in-depth investigations. The work of the IAEA in places like Iraq and now in Iran has been effective in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Beyond inspections, the international community is determined to continue negotiations, as those in Gary suggest. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley concurred in a public statement on Dec. 3, saying, "The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically -- without the use of force -- as the administration has been trying to do."
Finally, council members note the hard reality of the U.S. position in the Middle East, where we are militarily overextended and are widely disliked. Additional saber rattling stands the chance of pushing the entire Middle East, not just Iran, into chaos. Further military conflict must be avoided at all costs.
But instead of recognizing they had made a mistake, as the NIE did in reversing its assessment from two years ago, and moving forward with a plan similar to the one proposed by the Gary City Council, Bush and the neoconservatives are choosing to bury their heads deeper in the sand.
Seeking to keep the pressure on Iran, Bush said in a press conference a day after the NIE was released, "Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Challenging the conclusions of the NIE and the IAEA, Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, argued at a press conference that "Iran could restart a weapons program and may still have one that is not known to the outside world." Hard-line Republicans in Congress have also jumped on board, questioning the truthfulness of the NIE. For example, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is proposing a congressional commission to investigate its conclusions.
Most of these same lawmakers had no such problems with the intelligence estimate on Iraq back in 2002 before the invasion and occupation. Indeed, Ensign's call for a congressional commission for the Iran NIE is a clear example of the very type of politicization of facts that led us to war in Iraq.
Fortunately, efforts like those in Gary may help keep lawmakers more honest in their assessment of Iran's intentions and the direction of U.S. foreign policy. Responding to the NIE, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said, "This newest information supports what I have said all along: We need to give diplomacy with Iran more of a chance." Also echoing Gary's recommendations, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., stated, "The United States must employ a comprehensive strategy that uses all elements of its foreign policy arsenal, in particular offering 'direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks' with Iran -- where all issues, ours and Iran's, are on the table."
With the facts from the NIE, the success of the IAEA inspections and the majority of the international community favoring continued diplomacy, it may seem like the threat of war with Iran has been avoided. But as Bush and the hard-liners push back, Gary, Ind., cannot stand alone. It's time to offer a clear alternative to war. With hundreds of other towns standing shoulder to shoulder with those from Gary, we can have that opportunity.