Has Congress given George Bush a green light to attack Iran?
For he is surely behaving as though it is his call alone. And evidence is mounting that we are on a collision course for war.
-- Iran has detained several Iranian-Americans, seemingly in retaliation for our continuing to hold five Iranians in Iraq.
-- The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says Iran is making progress in the enrichment of uranium and denying it access to Iran's nuclear sites.
-- Bush is calling on Russia and China to toughen sanctions.
-- A flotilla of U.S. warships, including the carriers Stennis and Nimitz, has passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.
-- U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell has told CNN there is "very credible intelligence" Iran is funding Sunni extremists engaged in the roadside bombing of U.S. troops.
-- CBS reports the United States has engaged in the industrial sabotage of Iran's nuclear program by making the equipment Iran acquires on the black market unusable or destructive.
-- ABC reports that Bush has authorized the CIA to mount a "black" operation to destabilize Iran, using "non-lethal" means. The absence of White House outrage over the leak suggests it may have wanted the information out.
-- ABC.com reports U.S. officials are supporting a militant group, Jundallah, in the "tri-border region" of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Jundallah, a Sunni Islamist group seeking independence for Baluchistan, claims to have killed hundreds of Iranians.
While U.S.-Iran discussions have begun, there are reports Vice President Cheney and the neo-con remnant, along with the Israelis, are opposed to talks and believe that the only solution to Iran's nuclear program is military. Whether this is part of a good-cop, bad-cop routine to convince Tehran to suspend enrichment, we do not know.
But this much is sure. If the U.S. government is aiding Islamic militants who are killing Iranians, and Iran is providing roadside bombs to Iraqi militants, Sunni or Shia, to kill Americans, we are in a proxy war. And it could explode into a major war.
So the questions come. Where is the Congress, which alone has the power to take us to war? Why are the Democratic candidates parroting the "all-options-are-on-the-table!" mantra, when as ex-Sen. Mike Gravel noted in the first Democratic debate, this means George W. Bush is authorized to attack Iran.
Why does Congress not enact the resolution Nancy Pelosi pulled down, which declares that nothing in present law authorizes President Bush to launch a pre-emptive strike or preventive war on Iran -- and before launching any such attack, he must get prior approval from both houses of Congress?
If we are going to war, is it not imperative that, this time, we know exactly why we must go to war, what exactly the threat is from Iran, what are the likely consequences of a U.S. attack on a third Islamic country and what are the alternatives to war?
For there are arguments against war, as well as for war -- and the former are not receiving a hearing, as both parties compete in their fulminations against Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Hitler of the Middle East.
What are those arguments?
On Iran's nuclear progress, there is a real question as to whether they are producing purified uranium. Iran's refusal to let the IAEA see what it is doing suggests it may be covering up failure.
Second, though Iranians sound bellicose, Iran has not started a single war since the revolution of 1979. Indeed, Iran was the victim of a war launched by Saddam Hussein, whom we secretly supported. Not within living memory has Iran invaded or attacked another country.
But in the last 110 years, peace-loving Americans have fought Spain, Germany twice, Austria-Hungary, Japan, Italy, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq twice and Serbia. We have intervened militarily in the Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Lebanon and Grenada. We bombed Libya. Now, a case can be made for most of these wars, whose fallen we honor on Memorial Day.
But the point is this. Why would Iran, with no air force or navy that can stand up 24 hours against us, no missile that can reach us, no atom bomb, and no ability to withstand U.S. air and sea attack, want a war with us that could mean the end of Iran as a modern nation and possible breakup of the country, as Iraq is breaking up?
Whether one is pro-war or antiwar, ought we not -- if we are going into another war -- do it the right way, the constitutional way, with Congress declaring war? Or does the Democratic Congress think that what is best for America is to let "the decider" decide?
Because that is what George Bush is doing right now.