How to Talk About Iran

By David Swanson

John Aravosis suggests some talking points on Iran, but I’d like to suggest some changes in bold.

George Bush has decided to use Iran as a foil to help his sagging poll numbers and to help Republicans in the fall congressional elections. I’m going to discuss why this is true, and what the Dems should do about it.

Iran is ten years away from developing nukes.

I’ll say it again, TEN YEARS away. And that’s not according to some peacenik liberal, it’s according to the best estimate of US intelligence

From the US State Department’s own Web site:

Iran is likely years away from producing weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium. Vice Adm. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2005 that Iran is expected to be able to produce a weapon early next decade. According to one report, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran assesses that it will be ten years before Iran has a bomb.

So why, suddenly, in the second week of April, 2006, have we found ourselves in a media feeding frenzy of speculation over whether the US will be soon be launching a massive (possibly nuclear) attack on Iran to eliminate an “impending” nuclear threat that won’t appear until 2016?

And why are we allowing to go unchallenged the idea that it would be all right to attack another nation if it did have nuclear weapons? Or (in some people’s talking points and MoveOn’s Email) that it might be all right to attack another country as long as we don’t use nuclear weapons to do so? MoveOn says that a conventional attack would probably be a disaster. No. It would be a crime. It is illegal, immoral, and destructive in every way for one nation to attack another, no matter what weapons it possesses. And let’s drop the pretense in any case that we would be attacking because of weapons. The US attacked Iraq and would attack Iran because they do NOT have weapons. If they did, the US would no more attack them than we are attacking Korea. The key point here is that the US should respect international law and stop launching aggressive wars, not that we should wait until Iran has weapons.

Iran is a convenient way to change the subject

The answer is that Iran is a convenient way for the Bush administration to get America’s attention off of the Iraq debacle, rising gas prices, Valerie Plame, New Orleans lost, Republican corruption, the massive budget deficit, and a growing number of revelations of how Bush lied to the American people in trying to sell them on the Iraq war.

Start saber-rattling about how Iran is going to nuke America’s babies, and people may very well forget all the other problems on their plate.

Bringing up Iran now is a convenient way to help Republicans in the fall congressional elections

But in reality it’s much more likely to hurt them.

There’s a second benefit to this strategy as well. Bush can again look presidential – the strong leader taking on more evil dark-skinned false-god worshippers. Bush’s hope is that all of this will help the Republicans sagging poll numbers, and thus help them retain the House and Senate in the fall.

Bush is also hoping that going to war in Iran, like the war in Iraq, will divide Democrats. Some Dems will have the courage to say publicly that the Bush administration can’t be trusted with a war in Iran, while other Dems will fear looking too dove-ish if they take on Bush. All Bush and the congressional Republicans need to do is bring up the Iran war resolution in September, right before the elections, and hope the Democrats fall apart.

So how should Democrats respond to the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat?

They should all push now, and with some Republicans, for a resolution explicitly forbidding another aggressive war.

Let me suggestion a number of possible talking points and positions.

1. George Bush is the wrong man to be launching yet another war.

The same president who made a disaster out of the Iraq war now wants to launch another war with Iraq’s neighbor, Iran. Bush has already proven he is incompetent at running an effective war. America simply cannot afford another rash Bush misadventure.

Anyone is the wrong person to launch an illegal war. Bush wanted to occupy Iraq and make huge profits for oil companies. Bush wanted a launching pad for attacking Iran. He is far less incompetent than depicted, and people do not care and should not care about his alleged incompetence the way they do and should about his criminality, cruelty, and dishonesty.

2) Slow down, we’ve got ten years.

America’s intelligence community estimates that Iran is still ten years away from building a nuclear weapon. There is no reason we need to prepare for war in the next few months, or even before Bush’s term runs out in 2008. Give diplomacy and the international community a chance. We’ve got years, not months.

We’ve got forever. There will never be a good time to attack someone else’s country.

3) Since we have ten years, we can at the very least wait seven months until the congressional elections this fall.

America needs a Congress that is going to look into Bush’s claims about Iran’s nuclear program and determine if those claims are even credible. The Republican-controled Congress has already shown that it is unwilling to provide any oversight on any matters involving the Bush administration. We need someone who isn’t on George Bush’s team to use their subpoena power to get administration officials under oath, review the evidence, and see if Bush is right this time around. That someone is a Democratically-controled Congress.

There will never be a good time to attack someone else’s country or to take Bush’s BS about Iran seriously. We need to be pushing for impeachment over his lies about IraQ.

4) It is ridiculous to consider any congressional resolution on Iran until after the fall elections.

George Bush proved with Iraq that he has no intention of using diplomacy to avoid war. His first option is always to declare war, then ask questions later. It would be foolhardy and naive not to think that Bush would take any congressional Iran resolution and immediately use it to declare war prematurely. The resolution comes ONLY after we know the intelligence is right, that Bush is telling the truth, that we have exhausted ALL other options to avoid war.

And finally, NO resolution is considered until Congress has verified that our military has been given a real plan for victory and sufficien resources to achieve it. Such a verification will NEVER happen under a Republican Congress – they simply cannot politically oversee their own president. It can only happen with a Congress run by the other political party – and that means a Democratic Congress.

There will never be a good time to attack someone else’s country or to talk about “victory” in doing so. We need to investigate, impeach, remove, indict, convict, and imprison. We do not need to fight our illegal wars more competently.

5) There is no reason we need to even go to war until Bush has left office.

George Bush has proven that he is unable to wage war effectively. We will have new presidential elections in 2008, a good eight years before Iran will have nukes according to our best estimates. We should wait until Bush leaves office before considering any possible military action against Iran. There is simply no reason to rush things and permit this administration to prove its incompetence in foreign and military policy once again.

There will never be a good time to attack someone else’s country. If the Democrats want to be a majority party, they need to speak for the majority of Americans who know that.

6) Bush is the not the president we want exercising the nuclear option.

There are credible news reports that President Bush isn’t just considering using nuclear weapons against Iran, but that he is strongly leaning towards that option. Regardless of one’s opinion on such an option, George Bush has already proven that he is not competent to run a conventional war. It would be insane to trust him to run a nuclear war.

There will never be a good time to attack someone else’s country or to use nuclear weapons in any way, no matter who the president is.

7) Bush either lied to us, or was unable to determine the truth, about Iraq’s WMD program (which we now know didn’t exist). Why should we believe claims from the same president and same intelligence agencies about Iran’s WMD program? We need more than President Bush’s assurances.

The evidence that he knowingly lied is overwhelming and well established and at .

8) What military and what money are we going to use to launch a war against Iran?

Our troops are stuck in Iraq, and Bush says he refuses to withdraw them. So what troops are we going to use to invade Iran? And is America truly prepared to fight 3 wars at the same time? That has never been US military policy, at least not in the past several decades, to be able to fight a three-front war. Our military simply is not made to fight three wars simultaneously.

Just as importantly, Iraq has cost us over $300 billion, and the estimates of the total cost of the Iraq war is in the trillions. George Bush inherited a budget surplus when he came to office, he has now put the budget into a massive deficit. We simply no longer have the money, so how is Bush going to finance a massive invasion of Iran?

Incompetence comes at a cost. George Bush has run our military into the ground our and bankrupted our government, and now wants us to give him permission to do it all over again?

This is criminal, not incompetent. That money if well spent could have saved more lives than it was used to destroy.

9) Why is it always us?

If Iran is such a threat, then why not let the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese take care of it? Clearly none of those countries wants a nuclear Iran on their back porch. So why is it always America that has to give our money, our soldiers’ lives, and our goodwill?

Our goodwill? Conquering the MiddleEast is a show of goodwill? Let’s get away from this way of thinking, white man.


Having explained all of that, I think the Democrats’ message and policy can be distilled into one single point:

There is no discussion of America rushing into another premature war until either Bush is out office, or the Democrats take back Congress and are able to provide effective oversight of, and can serve as a counter-balance to, the Bush administration’s incompetence.

An illegal war cannot be premature or conducted under the inappropriate party. It is always the highest of crimes.

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