Thursday, August 21, 2008

This Is Not the Change We Hoped For: House Concurrent Resolution 362

This Is Not the Change We Hoped For: House Concurrent Resolution 362

by: Camillo "Mac" Bica

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Though America voted for change in 2006, the subsequent two years have demonstrated that the Democrats in Congress, while avowing a "new direction for America," are as willing and as skilled as their Republican/neocon counterparts at utilizing half-truths, innuendo, deceit and scare tactics to mislead the American public along the path to another devastating and unnecessary war. Consider, as a case in point, H. Con. Res. 362, introduced by Representative Gary Ackerman (D-New York) and co-sponsored by 261 members of Congress (at this writing), many of them Democrats. This bipartisan resolution is flawed - perhaps even suspect - for a number of reasons.

First, it asserts as fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and intimates that it would share its nuclear material and technology with terrorists and "rogue" states. The reality is that as of the end of July 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had conducted over 3,000 man-days of scrupulous inspections, including nine visits that were unannounced.

In a report to the IAEA Board of Governors dated May 26, 2008, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei affirms, "The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear materials in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities." The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) corroborates the IAEA's findings. "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.... We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007" (November 2007).

Credible evidence exists, therefore, to refute H. Con. Res. 362's claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and engaged in "illicit nuclear activities," the primary premise upon which this resolution builds its argument for sanctions and a blockade. The fact that this evidence is readily available to members of Congress raises concerns regarding their intent and motivation in sponsoring a resolution that exaggerates, if not fabricates, a "threat" posed by Iran to stability in the Middle East, the survival of Israel and the vital security interests of the United States.

Second, the argument as presented in the resolution is of questionable construction. Initially, it speaks of "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability" - a concern, perhaps, if true, which many Americans can at least sympathize with and understand. It then, however, resolves to accomplish this end - to deal with this threat - by compelling Iran to "verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities." That is, it ignores and/or conflates the critical legal distinction between enriching uranium for weapons production and enriching uranium for peaceful purposes which is Iran's sovereign right under Article IV of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of which it is signatory. Now, this is not just careless language, but is integral to the basic purpose of this resolution. By conflating the two uses of uranium enrichment, the resolution misleads the American public into believing that since Iran has admitted to enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, despite evidence to the contrary it must also be guilty of enriching uranium for weapons production.

Third, H. Con. Res. 362 demands that the president immediately impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran." Such a land, sea and air blockade, with no mention of seeking a Security Council Resolution, is more than mere provocation; it constitutes an act of war. In fact, the International Criminal Court will include blockade in its list of acts of war in 2009. It doesn't require a degree from the War College to understand that the effectiveness of a blockade hinges upon a credible threat of military action.

A resolution that demands a blockade, therefore, is also authorizing inter alia the use of military force should, for example, ships bound for or leaving Iran refuse to be boarded and stringently inspected. But yet, when confronted with the concern of many of their constituents that the resolution is not an alternative but a prelude to war, sponsors are quick to note that H. Con. Res. 362 includes the disclaimer that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran."

Clearly, this proviso indicates that the sponsors of this resolution are either unfamiliar with the nature of blockade or have learned a lesson from their ill-fated support for the Iraq resolution. If the former, then they are negligent in their responsibility to familiarize themselves with how blockades function before sponsoring a resolution that could quite easily lead to violent confrontation and war. If the latter, then sadly, the lesson they learned from the Iraq debacle was not that they should avoid supporting resolutions based upon lies and deceptions, but, rather, that they should prepare beforehand the means for escaping responsibility and culpability for involving our nation in a another tragic and devastating conflict.

If we are to believe that the Democratic Party and its candidate truly offer hope, change and an alternative to the politics of fear, lies and deception, then members of Congress must, for one thing, follow the lead of Tom Allen, Danny Davis, Steve Cohen, William Clay, Barney Frank and Robert Wexler and withdraw their sponsorship and support for H. Con. Res. 362.

If the Democrats truly wish to distinguish themselves from the Republicans and offer a "new direction for America," as Representative Ackerman claims on his web site, they must draft a new resolution - one that demands not threats of violence but diplomacy, not blockade but face-to-face negotiations with no preconditions, not sanctions but the exchange of ambassadors, not embargo but the opening of embassies, not covert operations intended at inciting unrest, ethnic conflict and regime change, but a nonaggression pact - all with the condition, of course, that both nations abide by the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). That is, in return for an Iranian guarantee that its nuclear program is intended only for peaceful purposes and its cooperation in ensuring scrupulous inspections, the United States must end its bellicose posturing, sanctions and embargo, and abide by Articles I, II and VI of the NPT and reduce its nuclear arsenal, cease its development of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, and end its deployment of nuclear weapons around the world. This is the change we hope for; this is the new direction for America we must demand.

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