Most people in the United States have little contact with Iran or its culture. Iran comes up as a scary threat in the speeches of demagogues. A range of debate is offered between obliterate it and pressure it into compliance with our civilized norms, or at least the civilized norms of some other country that doesn't obliterate or pressure people.
So how do Americans view Iran? Many view it, like all governmental matters, through the lens of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. The Democratic President has come to be seen as on the side of preventing a war with Iran. The Republican Congress has come to be seen as pushing for that war. In this framework, something remarkable happens. Democrats begin recognizing all of the arguments against war that ought to be applied to every war.
Liberals and progressives are full of talk about respecting their president and their commander in chief and following his course to tame the Iranian threat, and so forth. But they are also pointing out that war is optional, that it is not a justifiable last resort because there are always other choices. They are pointing out the undesirability of war, the horrors of war, and the preferability of a diplomatic resolution, indeed the generation of friendly and cooperative relations -- albeit in some cases as a means to fighting another war with Iran as an ally. (This seems to be Obama's scheme for using war to fix the disaster left by a past war.)
Online activist organizations that identify with the Democratic Party are actually doing remarkably well at arguing against a war with Iran. They've largely dropped the President's own rhetoric that baselessly claims Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, preferring to rail against the danger of Republican warmongering. That's a reality-based position held by neither Party -- the Republicans don't claim they're starting a war and the White House doesn't generally focus on accusing them of it. Yes, these groups are still pushing the idea that Republicans disrespecting their president is an even bigger deal than starting a war, but when they turn to the topic of war they truly sound like they oppose it and understand why we always all should.
If you see Iran through that left-Democratic lens, that is if you are opposed to Republican efforts to start yet another unnecessary catastrophic war, this one with Iran, I have a few ideas I'd like to run by you.
1. What if President Obama were opposed to efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Venezuela? What if Republicans in Congress were ridiculously claiming that Venezuela was a threat to the United States? What if the Republicans were writing letters of encouragement to the leaders of coup attempts in Venezuela to let them know that they had U.S. backing regardless of what the State Department might say? Would you oppose the overthrow of the Venezuelan government?
2. What if Congress had sent a delegation to instigate a violent coup in Kiev, behind the back of the State Department and the White House? What if pressure was building toward a war with nuclear Russia, and Republican leaders of Congress were eagerly fanning the flames while the White House pursued the alternatives of diplomacy, demilitarization, ceasefires, negotiations, aid, and the international rule of law? Would you oppose U.S. Congressional support for the rightwing coup government in Ukraine and its antagonization of Russia?
3. What if President Obama gave an eloquent speech acknowledging that not only is there "no military solution" in Iraq or Syria but that it's wrong to keep saying that while pursuing a military solution? What if he pulled U.S. troops out of that region and out of Afghanistan and asked Congress to fund a Marshall Plan of aid and restitution, at a much lower price tag than the troop presence of course? And what if Republicans introduced a bill to put all the troops back in? Would you oppose that bill?
4. What if the Congressional armed "services" committees set up panels to review kill lists and ordered men, women, and children targeted and murdered with drone strikes, along with anyone too close to them and anyone with a suspicious profile? What if President Obama accused Congress of violating national laws on murder, the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Ten Commandments, and the lessons of the past that show such reckless actions to generate more enemies than they kill? Would you protest drone kills and demand the elimination of armed drones?
Here's what worries me. There are some positive signs right now and were some in late 2013 and at moments since. But the anti-Republican-war movement of 2002-2007 may not be matched again until the U.S. President is again a Republican (if that ever again happens). And by then, President George W. Bush's wars will have long passed without any penalties for those responsible. And President Obama will have increased military spending and foreign presence and privatization, given the CIA the power to wage wars, eliminated the practice of gaining UN approval for wars, ended the custom of gaining Congressional sanction for wars, established the practice of murdering people with missiles anywhere on earth (and armed half the earth's nations with similar ability), while continuing to spread violence and weaponry through Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and on and on.
One last question: If you had a chance to oppose things you dislike, even though they're the result of bipartisanship, would you?
~ David Swanson serves as Secretary of Peace at the Green Shadow Cabinet