Thursday, October 04, 2007

Neo-connecting the Dots to Iran (Part IV)

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.


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    I'm glad you mentioned the ongoing, endless state of national emergency for this has been a largely ignored subject. I mentioned it to Armando on his new site the other day and he thought I MUST be wrong about it,that surely Congress would have to ratify such a declaration (wrong) and there the ball was dropped. As you and I both know, they only have to be notified(they were-as you have linked) and that these states of emergency go on and on and on. It is not clear whether they respond to the notification--I cannot find it anywhere.
    I am not a lawyer and I'll grant you that the subject is stunningly convoluted when you get down in the weeds of it but some very interesting aspects emerge--especially about the right to claim the petroleum rights and to nullify any agreements that the Iraqi government might enter into on its own on the manufacture and distribution of the oil. This and other nifty powers are invoked by the codes Bush cites in the National Emergency notification you link to.

    I note this because the Iran hissy fit is made from the same cloth. Oil. Protect our way of life. All sound and fury signifying nothing. Until we get our act together, we do, indeed, need fossil fuels. Whether we need to attack Iran to get them in a ginned up passion play is debatable.

  2. Ah, yes. Destroying our way of life to save it.

  3. "In all, Mr. Bush has all the legal cards in the deck stacked in his favor should he decide to attack Iran."

    That is correct.

    Note the IRGC has NOT yet received its special designation and, it is my strong suspicion, will not.

    The Admin doesn't have hard links between the Iranian government and attacks on Coalition Forces in Iraq. Much as it'd undoubtedly like to. The Iranian government just isn't dumb enough to give them the opportunity for anything more than innuendo and assertion. Maliki didn't help the Admin by coming out last week and saying, "Iranian problem? What Iranian problem?" (Karzai's done essentially the same.)

    But is it an attack on Iran that the White House is interested in pursuing? Some individuals, yes. But Bush, Gates, Rice? I think not.

    'Sides, gonna have to walk over the dead bodies of the JCS to do it. Just for starters. Not bloody likely.

  4. I hope you're right about JCS dead bodies, Trish.

  5. It's also worth asking: If external agents, the Iranians among them, were that deadly and insurmountable an obstacle to our aims in Iraq, why have we never sought to protect our investment by closing down and mining the border, funneling all and sundry through a very small handful of (Coalition-guarded) crossings and forcing everything else in by air - a perfectly legal and practical step?

    If it never merited even that preventive, it certainly doesn't merit the chickenhawk response of going to war over. Does it?

  6. The JCS aren't the only ones standing in the way (I think Bush himself stands in the way, along with some essential NSCers) but if we had another post-9/11-type Body Snatchers scenario in which the not-yet-fully-senile were persuaded by, oh, the OVP, say, the Chiefs would register their protest and walk before it ever came to fruition. Why? Because otherwise they'd be the ones left holding that bag of sh*t.

    Hands full; don't need any more of those, thanks.

  7. Anonymous5:33 PM

    I keep wondering who will fight this war if Bush decides to start one with Iran. It's not like our military is operating at full throttle any more. I see the potential for a seriously embarrassing defeat because of this. Of course, it would be fully deserved. Also, all the rightwingers carry on that the anti-war people want the US to lose the war. In my opinion, it is already lost and has been for a long time.

  8. Bonnie,

    I'll touch on that in part V.