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Cheney's Flash-Bang Grenade

08.15.2007 | POLITICS

In an article for McClatchy on Friday entitled "Bush, Congress could collide on Iran," Matt Stearns provides us with a ray of hope that, despite Cheney & Co.'s relentless efforts to mount one, an attack on Iran can still be averted.

"At a press conference Thursday," he writes, "Bush warned of unspecified 'consequences' if Iran's alleged interference in Iraq continues." But, given "the hindsight about the intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq congressional authorization for a military strike [that] would be no easy sell. 'I think you'll find a lot of skeptical Republicans, no less Democrats, on the Hill,' said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Highlighting Democratic wariness of Bush, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia introduced a bill earlier this year that would prevent money from being used for a strike against Iran without congressional approval."

Furthermore, as Kaveh Afrasiabi reports in an Asia Times Online piece posted Saturday entitled "US diplomacy with Iran is working": "After three rounds of face-to-face meetings, diplomats from both the US and Iran in Baghdad have reported tangible progress, by agreeing to set up joint expert committees, with participation by the officials of the Iraqi government."

Not only that, writes Dr. Afrasiabi, but if the "IAEA's reports of Iranians slowing down on the centrifuge program and openly entertaining the 'time out' option do not constitute progress and a major plus, then what does?"

But this is no time to relax our vigilance. As Dr. Afrasiabi reminds us, far from yielding to the diplomatic gains of the Rice and Gates faction, Cheney & Co. are "upping the ante against" Iran. Also, it was just mid-July that the Senate voted 97-0 for an amendment written by Joe Lieberman which states that "the murder [by Iran] of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act against the United States."

Fortunately Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was able to attach a qualifier to Lieberman's bill: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran."

But, wrote Pham Binh on Dissident Voice, "If you're thinking, 'phew! That'll stop a war on Iran!'. . . think again. The Iraq Liberation Act passed by Congress in 1998 and signed by Bill Clinton had the same text." In the long run, of course, that failed to prevent the Iraq War.

Finally, recall the vogue for table talk, barely a season out of fashion, with which top Democratic presidential candidates greeted the issue of Iran. Hillary Clinton: "No option can be taken off the table." Barack Obama: "No option, including military action, off the table." John Edwards: "We need to keep all options on the table." These quotes were widely believed to refer not only to reserving the right to attack Iran, but with tactical nuclear weapons, if deemed necessary.

Cheney & Co. are using the introduction of nukes into the discussion as a flash-bang grenade with which to distract us. While they've got us worrying about a worst-case scenario, they can slip a conventional attack in the back door.

Should that come to pass, we must not succumb to the temptation to breathe a sigh of relief that at least they didn't release the nuclear genie from the bottle. Bombing Iran with conventional weapons is not just another ill-advised military adventure that we can ride out with no concerns about domestic damage.

In fact, it could hit home in ways undreamt of. From an onslaught of attacks on our troops in Iraq, to terrorism on our shores, to -- thanks to disruptions in the Persian Gulf oil flow -- severe damage to our economy.

This article also appeared on AlterNet's the Peek.

About the Author
Russ Wellen is an editor at Freezerbox who specializes in foreign affairs and nuclear deproliferation.
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