Watching the slow-motion march to war against Iran is a bit like watching a terminal cancer patient in a hospice. We know how it's going to end. We know it's going to be tragic and ugly. But we are powerless to stop it.
There is a difference of course.
For the cancer patient, there really is no alternative.
For us, there is an alternative to the catastrophe which President Bush and his regent, Dick Cheney, are preparing for us all.
We could rise up as a nation and demand that our elected representatives pass a Boland-type amendment banning any use of the military in Iraq. We could demand that a resolution be passed revoking the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. We could demand the revocation of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force which the president has improperly cited as giving him extra-Constitutional powers. And we could demand that Congress tell the president and vice president that if they attack Iran without explicit congressional authorization they will both be immediately impeached.
The votes could be there for such an action, as even some Republicans are clearly opposed to this insanity, but the courage to call the presidentâ€™s hand and lay down the cards is not.
And so the horrible march to disaster continues.
The cynicism of this administration is beyond belief. We have the supposedly "straight talking" defense secretary Robert Gates telling Congress that there is no plan "at the moment" to attack Iran--even as he sends two aircraft carrier battle groups into the Persian Gulf and stockpiles Patriot anti-missile batteries in the region (of what use are carriers and anti-missile rockets in a counter-insurgency in Iraq?). We have the president authorizing a blatantly illegal and clearly provocative attack on an Iranian consulate in Irbil, Iraq, and violating international law by arresting six people in that raid.
Let's be clear. An attack on Iran, which poses no immediate or imminent threat to the United States, would be the most heinous of international war crimes--a "crime against peace" violating the UN Charter and the Nuremburg Charter. It would also be a strategic disaster that would dwarf even the presidentâ€™s collassal strategic blunder in invading Iraq.
There are no more troops left to fight in Iran, so all the U.S. could hope to do would be to bomb that country. But bombing that country would do nothing to stop Iran from retaliating in myriad ways that could bring the U.S. to its knees.
Take sappers. Iraq, which has a sophisticated and well-equipped espionage apparatus, could set out on a campaign of sabatoge, blowing up U.S. chemical plants, petrochemical refining and storage facilities, and power plants. Since these are all known to be on the target list of U.S. bombers in Iran, Iran would be well within its rights retaliating in kind inside U.S. borders. If the U.S. were to follow its usual criminal practice of also attacking Iraqi hospitals and other civilian targets, Iraqis could and likely would follow suit. I wouldn't be surprised, given how long the administration has been talking about attacking Iran, if its military strategists hadnâ€™t already smuggled bombs into place in shipping containers, ready to blow if we attack.
Iran has other options too, to hurt us. The Shia militias in Iraq, which have largely ignored U.S. forces unless harassed, are tight with the Iranians, having received shelter and support from Iran during Hussein's brutal rule, and sharing, as they do, a common religion. If Iran comes under attack, it is hard to believe that the Iraqi militias will now turn their substantial firepower on outnumbered US forces in Iraq.
When you think of it, attacking Iran would be a wonderful way of doing what the U.S. claims it has been wanting to do for several years now: uniting the Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq and ending their fratricidal conflict. The only problem is that they will be joining hands the better to attack U.S. troops! How clever this administration is!
And then there's the economic costs of an Iran War. Here Iran really has to do nothing, though it could make things all the worse by using one of its high-tech anti-ship missiles to sink an American naval vessel or even just a civilian tanker in the gulf. Even without such an action, an invasion of Iran would lead to a shutdown of oil coming from the Persian Gulf. That's one quarter of all the oil supplies in the world. Even if Iran never fires a missile, the insurance industry will make it financially impossible for any ship-owner to sail into the gulf.
So forget $80/barrel oil. Crude oil would quickly soar past $100 a barrel, past $160 a barrel, probably. Some analysts have even talked of $200 a barrel. No matterâ€”after $100 a barrel, the world economy would grind to a halt. And the American trade deficit would go through the roof. We're not talking slowdown here,; weâ€™re talking global depression.
All this is clear,.
But it is also clear that the Congress doesn't have the guts and principle to halt this march to madness.
And so we just continue to watch the patient die.