Parts I, II and III examined the roles of Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, military public affairs and the media in selling and justifying a preemptive war with Iran. Part IV discusses how the administration may pull off yet another war hoax.
Jim Webb (D-Virginia) has introduced a measure in the Senate that would deny funding for military action against Iran without congressional approval. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) supports the bill, and according to Elana Schor of The Hill, "Anti-war activists have hailed the Webb plan for restraining President Bush’s ability to act unilaterally against Iran."
I too applaud Webb for trying to keep the Bush administration in its box, but even if the measure becomes law, I doubt it will do much good. Funding for everything has to be approved by Congress, so making a separate law that says the legislature has to agree to fund an Iran attack is little more than a symbolic redundancy.
They Don't Need No Stinking Appropriations
Bush has managed to get whatever funding he wants for his woebegone wars under the "support the troops" rubric, and there's no reason to believe that stratagem won't continue to work like a champ. Symbolic gestures made by the Democratically controlled Congress may pay dividends come election time in 2008, but so far, gestures have had as much effect on Mr. Bush as water has on a duck's back. And there's no reason to believe anyone can stay Mr. Bush's hand though legal arguments; in that regard, he has his ducks lined up from here to the horizon.
The administration claims Mr. Bush has a wide range of authorities because of "unitary" and "plenary" powers given to him in the Constitution. That the Constitution says nothing about these alleged powers hasn't kept Mr. Bush from doing exactly what he wants to (or doing exactly what Dick Cheney wants him to do.)
The War Powers Resolution that Congress passed in 1973 allows a president to introduce U.S. armed forces into hostilities in case of a national emergency created by an attack on said U.S. armed forces, which is what the administration accuses Iran of having done.
We have been living under a national state of emergency since Mr. Bush first declared one on September 14, 2001.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed days after the 9/11 attacks gave Mr. Bush specific statutory authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to prevent "any future acts of international terrorism against the United States" by "nations, organizations or persons." That goes a long way in explaining why the administration is eager to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
The foundation of the "Standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. Forces" is the inherent right of self-defense, which gives commanders the authority and obligation to use all necessary means in practicing the self-defense of their units and other U.S. forces. National self-defense calls for the defense of U.S. forces and may be exercised by declaring a "foreign force or terrorist(s)" hostile. As commander in chief, Mr. Bush is empowered to make such hostile designations and may delegate that authority to lower echelons of command.
In case you're wondering how this rules of engagement business sits with the international laws of armed conflict, the United Nations Charter recognizes the inherent right of self-defense.
In all, Mr. Bush has all the legal cards in the deck stacked in his favor should he decide to attack Iran. That presupposes, of course, that the main assumption--that Iran is actively contributing to attacks on American forces in Iraq--is valid. But then again, the Bush administration has led us into misadventures on the basis of faulty assumptions before.
Echo Chamber of Horrors
As journalist and historian Gareth Porter wrote in a September 27th piece for AlterNet, "The administration has not come forward with a single piece of concrete evidence to support the claim that the Iranian government has been involved in the training, arming or advising of Iraqi Shiite militias."
Incredibly, the Bush team has managed to create a compelling narrative about Iran's collusion with Iraqi militants out of gossamer weight evidence that consists of:
a) Allegedly captured documents and computer database files that haven't been verified by any reliable independent source.
b) Intelligence gained from interrogations of captured militants. Officials have not produced transcripts of the prisoner interviews or described what kinds of interrogation methods were used. (Keep in mind too that prisoners have been known to tell interrogators anything they want to hear for as little as a pack of Camels and a roll of toilet paper.)
c) Photographs in a PowerPoint presentation that mortar rounds supposedly made in Iraq. For all anyone really knows, those pictures could have come from an Army Field Manual.
d) The say so of an anonymous "military weapons expert" that the weapons shown and described to reporters in Baghdad came from Iran.
e) Testimony by seemingly thousands of politicians, generals, officials, experts, think tankers, pundits, journalists, talking heads, fakers, fumblers, mumblers, bumblers, gypsies, tramps and thieves who reference things a) through d) and each other over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until you have to believe that the Iranians are killing our boys because that's what everyone says!
Next: What happens when we push the button down…
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword and ePluribus. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.