Monday, August 17, 2015

Riding the Red Horse of War

The opposition expressed by Senator Charles "Chuck" Schumer and Congress Member Eliot Engel to the nuclear accord with Iran evokes memories of the 2002 debate over the Joint Resolution authorizing George W. Bush to commence war in Iraq. The war that was authorized by that vote led to 5,000 military deaths, tens of thousands of wounded veterans and the death of more than a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians. It has cost an estimated three trillion dollars and counting.

Schumer's opposition to the Iranian accord is uniquely challenging. He is the designated successor to Harry Reid as leader of Senate Democrats when Reid retires at the end of his current term.

Among the Democratic Senators who voted for the 2002 war resolution were Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards and Schumer. Engel was one of 81 Democrats in the House of Representatives who supported the war authorization while 126 Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, opposed it.

In the 2004 Presidential Election, the Democratic ticket consisted of war "liberals" Kerry and Edwards. By that time, the antiwar movement had grown geometrically. Barak Obama, an Illinois state legislator who had opposed the war, electrified the 2004 Democratic Convention and went on to win election to the United States Senate. In 2008, his early opposition to the war played a major role in mobilizing his support and in the defeat of his pro-war opponent Hillary Clinton.

The vote for or against the Iranian accord is ultimately another vote for or against war. The same forces that cowed Kerry, Clinton, Edwards, Schumer and Engel into supporting the Iraq war authorization are now at work opposing the Iranian accord. That accord was the result of years of painstaking negotiations. John Kerry was its principal negotiator; Hillary Clinton has announced her tentative support but Chuck Schumer and Eliot Engel have announced their opposition.

The opposition is based upon fantasies spun by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who also supported the Iraq war. The defeat of the Iranian accord may very well be more devastating, than the Iraq vote. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a myth swallowed whole. Iran's program to build a nuclear bomb is not. Other than war, the consensual Iranian accord is the only path open to stopping Iran obtaining nuclear weapons short of war.

The international sanctions regime was carefully crafted under the United States' leadership. Included were Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council among them Russia and China. If the the accord is defeated those sanctions, other than the United Sates, will collapse. So will United States pretense to international leadership in the Middle East.

Lined-up in support of the Iranian nuclear deal are an impressive array of three dozen retired Generals and Admirals[1] and 29 scientists including several Nobel Prize winners.[2]

The opposition includes in addition to Tea Party "know nothings" the Republican leadership of the House and Senate who are committed to making Obama fail whatever the cost to the nation. Powerful pro-Israeli and Netanyahu lobbying groups give the appearance of a unified Jewish community but that is hardly the case. According to a national poll of self-identified Jews conducted by LA Jewish Journal in July, more Jews supported the Iranian accords than opposed it.[3]

On August 17th, 340 US Rabbis issued a statement supporting the Iranian accords that was published in the National Catholic Reporter.[4] Among other things they noted that "[w]e've seen many of the leaders of Israel's military and intelligence community declare that this deal is the best path for Israel moving forward.

In 2001, I was Chair of a Sierra Club task force that reported on the relationship of terrorism to the environmental movement in the wake of 9/11. I also was allied with those in the Club who sought to have the Club oppose the 2002 war resolution. When Nancy Pelosi opposed the resolution, the San Francisco Chapter sought to honor her for her decision but was forbidden to do so by the national Club leadership. Ultimately, the Club leadership belatedly opposed the war ‑ but it was too late. Kerry and Clinton had already supported it and in 2004, I believe that Kerry and Edwards paid a price for their early war support. Certainly in 2008, Clinton did.

Schumer and Engel will win only if they lose.

Should the opposition to the Iranian accord fail, whether by senate filibuster or failure to override a threatened Obama veto, it is likely that neither Schumer nor Engel will suffer for their opposition. Already, some Senate supporters of the accord state for the record their support for Schumer apart from his opposition to the Iranian accord. But what if Schumer and Engel stumble to a win for their position? What if their opposition does drag enough Democratic legislators with them to defeat the Iranian accord?

If the Iranian accord is defeated inevitable chaos will ensue in the already chaotic Middle East. The international sanctions regime that brought Iran to the negotiating table will evaporate. The door to Russian and Chinese hegemony in the Middle East will be opened wide.

Israel's only remedy will be to attack Iran. That seems to be Netanyahu's aim, but the blood will be on the hands of Engel and Schumer. Neither of them have any record of military service nor scientific training. That may seem a harsh judgment but that is what is at stake. Eventually, that blood may very well be American as well as Muslim and Israeli.

Listen! Can you hear them? The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding; they are just beyond the horizon, but they are fast approaching. Their horses are white, black, pale and red.They embody pestilence, famine, death and war.

The Red Horse symbolizes War. Too many people, often for their own selfish reasons, are eager to follow the rider of the red horse. In another context recall Moby Dick and the crazed decision of crew of the Pequod to follow Captain Ahab to their extinction. Only the narrator Ishmael survived.


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