World War III

By David Swanson

The administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is set on a course that leads directly to a third world war. And a third world war leads almost inevitably to most of us dying horrible deaths. And we’re not talking about it.

The White House has made clear it is seriously considering attacking Iran with massive bombing aimed at destroying the nation’s military and changing its government. Iran will certainly retaliate. If attacked, and possibly even if not attacked, Israel will join in the fighting. The resistance in Iraq will intensify dramatically. Controlling the oil of Iran and Iraq will be out of the question short of thorough genocide. Anti-American furor will sweep the Muslim world. The nuclear nation of Pakistan will be a prime target for an Islamic revolution.

If we don’t have a world war on our hands immediately, one will be very hard to avoid. We will have taught every nation, again, that the only path to safety is acquisition of nuclear weapons. We will have isolated the United States from most of the world, including many of our traditional allies. Terrorist attacks against American targets will come, and the United States will retaliate, again, not with law enforcement but with additional aggressive warfare.

If the United States attacks Iran, we will be openly at war with the world in a nuclear age. If the thought isn’t terrifying, something’s wrong with our ability to fear. Our politics is almost always driven in the wrong direction by fear of the wrong things. I’d love for once to see fear knock some sense into us.

The founders of the United States feared these moments for us. To protect us, they gave Congress the sole power to declare war. The current Congress, building on the misdeeds of others in recent decades, has given up its power. In fact, we’ve reached the point where Congress cannot easily take it back. Were Congress to declare with a veto-proof majority that Bush must not bomb Iran, is anyone sure Bush would listen?

Back at the start of this Congress, eight months ago, some of the new committee chairs from the progressive caucus spoke on a panel organized by the Institute for Policy Studies. Congressman John Conyers, the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on this occasion that he would take up the impeachment of Bush and Cheney if they attacked Iran. Congressman Dennis Kucinich at the time was saying the same thing. He has since introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney (H Res 333) that include the charge of threatening aggressive war against Iran (which happens to be a crime). Currently 20 Congress Members support H Res 333, but none of them with any sense of urgency. None of them are lobbying their colleagues to sign on or to introduce their own articles of impeachment. Nobody in Congress, and certainly not the leadership, is pushing hard for impeachment as the means to prevent an attack on Iran.

But impeachment is the only leverage the Congress has over an outlaw executive branch. Conyers recently said that he opposes impeachment because he carries the Constitution in one hand and a calculator in the other, and he uses the calculator to tell himself he doesn’t “have the votes” to pass impeachment. Of course, by that argument, he should take his name off his bill for single-payer health care, his bill for slavery reparations, etc. But, more importantly, an impeachment effort can serve a purpose short of successfully impeaching anyone. A serious movement to impeach Gonzales helped show him the door. A serious movement to impeach Bush and Cheney is the only way Congress can deter an attack on Iran or end the prolonged attack on Iraq. If articles of impeachment had 100 cosponsors, Bush and Cheney would understand that attacking Iran would move that number to 218.

Has Bush even told the Congressional leadership of his plans to attack Iran? If he has not, will they have the decency to feel indignation? And will they do so BEFORE the bombing? If he has told them, then Congressional leaders have a duty to the citizens of this nation to immediately expose and oppose such plans. Congress exists to determine our nation’s course of action, not to be informed of it. Any member of Congress who has been informed of new plans for illegal war and not spoken out should be tried as an accomplice in war crimes.

As the White House continues to leak news of its likely attack on Iran, our demand must be for impeachment now, not after the slaughter when we have all been made less safe than ever. And we must not get caught up in the nonsense questions in the media over exactly who lied about exactly how many nuclear facilities in Iran. If possessing some particular number of nuclear reactors, or for that matter nuclear bombs, justified other nations in launching aggressive war, then any nation would be justified in attacking the United States. Nothing, in fact, can justify a war of aggression, legally or morally, because such a war is certain to be worse than whatever might be found to try to justify it.

We cannot, of course, be certain at this point that Bush and Cheney will attack Iran. Whether they do or not, the task of Congress remains the same: impeach these dictators and end the occupation of Iraq. But if our nation continues on this path of unchecked executive power and military aggression, the path of Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Iraq, then expanded war is inevitable, and that means war that eventually hits the United States. The clearest I can possibly frame our situation is as a choice between one word and another. We are unlikely to get neither or both. We are likely to get one or the other. Impeach or die.