"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In dealing with this threat, no option can be taken off the table."
~ Senator Hillary Clinton
The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
~ Senator Barack Obama
In this postmodern age, when marketing and media stand athwart our culture like titans, intellectual issues are often reduced to trite slogans. Our leaders discourage complex thought and assume that the masses have neither the capacity nor the desire to analyze anything more complicated than an advertising jingle.
For those following the Democratic Party’s presidential campaign, the latest example of this trend involves the debate over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The major candidates have been mindlessly repeating the same mantra: Nothing can be taken "off the table."
But when we brush away the rhetorical fog, what are they telling us?
What the slogan means is that the Democrats, whose complicity and cowardice paved the way for the Iraq War debacle, are doing the same thing all over again. They are once again writing a blank check for the Bush Administration to run the United States over yet another Middle Eastern cliff.
So, for the benefit of the morally impaired Democratic candidates, allow me to list a few things that most assuredly should be taken off the table:
#1 Don’t incite a race war in Iran
Over the past year or so, stories have been bubbling around the media about a covert CIA war being fought inside Iran. Apparently, the Bush administration has decided to arm and train various ethnic militias in an effort to destabilize and intimidate the Iranian government. These militias have been carrying out a campaign of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations.
ABC notes that one of our hired guns, a Baluchi ex-drug-smuggler named "Regi," has been particularly busy:
Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera,” Debat said.
Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.
By what twisted plan has our government — which allegedly is intervening in the Middle East to "stop terrorism" — become a sponsor of state terrorism?
Iran is an ethnically complex society. Only half of its population is Persian, with the remainder comprised of Azeris, Kurds, Arabs and others. Since many of these groups have significant historical animosities with one another, the Bush administration’s actions could easily ignite a horrific conflagration.
Do we really want to be responsible for a massive, Bosnia-style race war in the heart of the Middle East? Will such a policy somehow advance the legitimate interests of the American people?
And if the sheer evil of such a policy isn’t enough, how would we feel if a foreign nation began to arm and finance racial and ethnic terrorists right here in the USA? What if another country armed Hispanic terrorists to kill whites in the Southwest, or armed whites in the South to kill blacks?
Would not such deeds be an act of war? Would we not view such a policy as a legitimate cause for retaliation?
The questions answer themselves.
#2 Don’t launch a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran
Were we not living in Bizarro World, this assertion would be more or less self-evident.
Even under dire circumstances, the use of nuclear weapons is fraught with moral hazards. These terrible weapons are capable of wiping out whole cities without discrimination between friends and foes. In the ensuing holocaust, both the guilty and the innocent die together.
While these effects are bad enough, the actual explosion is just the beginning. Nuclear weapons seed the atmosphere with radioactive debris and render whole regions uninhabitable. Even decades later, survivors often suffer debilitating diseases and their children have drastically increased rates of birth defects.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration has been kicking around the idea of surprising the Iranians with a nuclear first strike. Since Iran’s alleged nuclear sites are hardened, the neocons believe that only atomic weapons can "get the job done." (Lest anyone accuse the neocons of being heartless and cruel, administration sources claim they’ve decided not to use regular nuclear weapons, but rather "mini-nukes." If you believe the propaganda, using these cute, cuddly little weapons will avoid some of the nastier side effects of bigger bombs.)
That such a policy is even being considered speaks volumes about the contemporary American political landscape and the depths of depravity to which our government has fallen.
#3 Don’t ignore the Constitution
Article I Section 8 of the Constitution invests Congress with the following powers:
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; To provide and maintain a navy; To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
Clearly, if the Bush Administration wishes to launch a surprise attack against Iran, it can only legally do so with a formal declaration of war. Congress wormed out of its constitutional responsibility before the invasion of Iraq. The result was a tainted military escapade that continues to bleed our nation of blood and money all these years later.
Congressional apologists argue that the post-9/11 atmosphere of panic and fear created an unusual circumstance that was craftily exploited by the neocons. After all, who wanted to quarrel with the administration at such a critical moment in history?
Whether that assertion is legitimate or not (and I think it’s a load of horse manure), the post 9/11 moment is gone. However pathetically Congress behaved during the Iraq War debate, the situation now is dramatically different. The American people have turned against the Iraq war and do not support a war with Iran.
If America is going to embroil itself in a third Middle Eastern war, let us do it the right way. Let Congress do its duty. Let the members stand up, be counted for posterity, and take personal, moral responsibility for our government’s actions.
After all, given the consequences for our troops and for the Iranian people, such a demand is hardly unreasonable.
The leading Democratic presidential candidates seem to be having difficulty finding anything to take "off the table" regarding Iran. This odd intellectual deficiency is all the more curious given the overwhelming opposition to another war among Democratic primary voters.
But even if we discount political expediency, what about simple humanity? Is it too much to ask that a candidate should foreswear the unprovoked nuclear incineration of innocent people? Is it too much to ask that our aspiring leaders should declare the instigation of racial and ethnic wars to be off-limits? Is it unreasonable to insist that they should promise to obey the constitution and to seek congressional approval before launching an unprovoked attack?
If any presidential hopefuls are so morally impaired, so intellectually crippled, that they are incapable of making such simple ethical distinctions, it is their candidacy that should be taken "off the table."
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.