On Native Ground
BARBARA LEE WAS RIGHT
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Rob Morse, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently pointed out that it may already be too late for Congress to put the brakes on the impending U.S. attack on Iraq - even as President Bush declares he won't do anything precipitous and now claims he's open to non-military approaches.
Morse wrote that he came to that conclusion after reading a piece by Rush Limbaugh entitled "Congress Already OK'd Iraq War" in The Wall Street Journal.
According to Limbaugh, there's no need for President Bush to seek a formal declaration of war, because on Sept. 14, 2001, Congress passed a joint resolution which authorizes the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The Senate approved the resolution unanimously. The House vote was nearly unanimous, except for Barbara Lee, D-Calif. She was the only person in either chamber with the guts to vote against the war resolution and take a stand against a headlong rush into war.
"In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration," Lee wrote in a column in the Chronicle after the vote. "It was a blank check to the President to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events - anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit."
Lee was called a traitor and received numerous death threats from would-be patriots after her vote. But events have once again proven a dissident opinion correct. As Mahatma Gandhi once observed: "First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
In its haste to be seen as good, red-blooded patriotic Americans, Congress gave President Bush the power to wage a war that has no geographic limits, no clearly defined enemies, no clearly defined goals and no clear beginning or end. But too few people voiced this opinion last September and those who did were effectively drowned out in the flag-waving, hyper-patriotic fervor after the attacks. Eleven months later, Lee now looks like a visionary as the Bush administration plans for a war wider than any sane person would have imagined last fall.
Together with another piece of hastily passed and equally ill-thought out legislation - the U.S.A PATRIOT Act, one of the most blatantly unconstitutional laws ever enacted in this nation's history - Congress completely caved in to the wishes of a corrupt and fraudulently elected administration that quickly glommed onto "the war on terror" as its political salvation.
We now stand at the abyss of what Brent Scowcroft calls "an Armageddon in the Middle East." In an piece that the retired general and Republican foreign policy advisor wrote recently for The Wall Street Journal, Scowcroft warned that "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken."
But that's the least of it. If Iraq lashes out at Israel, as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israel has Washington's blessings to retaliate, possibly with nuclear weapons. All bets are off if that happens.
No one's marching in the streets yet, but the opposition is building against the Bush administration's "war on terrorism." In Washington, we're seeing the unusual sight of the generals urging caution while the policy makers - many of whom either never spent a day in uniform or had cushy National Guard gigs during the Vietnam War - pushing for all-out war. Up to 250,000 U.S. troops could be involved in an Iraq invasion and the risk of substantial U.S. casualties is high.
On Wall Street, we have business leaders expressing fear that a war with Iraq will destroy the already-fragile global economy. In the 1991 war, about 80 percent of the estimated $61.1 billion cost of the war was covered by the U.S.' allies. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Japan picked up most of the tab, but none of those nations or any other U.S. allies have offered to do likewise to cover the estimated $80 billion-$100 billion initial cost of the upcoming war.
Between President Bush's tax cuts, a recession and yet another massive military build-up, the federal budget is back in the red and the deficits are likely to grow larger in the next few years. With the prospect of a lengthy stay in Afghanistan, a messy war in Iraq and who knows how many other battles around the globe, who knows how much debt will be racked up in the coming years.
The runup to the 1991 war saw the price of oil go from $15 a barrel to $40 a barrel in less than three months. Any disruption in oil supplies by a new Iraq war would cause a similar spike in prices and cause a recession. Every sector of the domestic and global economy would be badly hurt.
But the economic costs of a second Iraq war pale before the human costs. The worst case scenario - the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by Iraq, Israel and the U.S. in an all-out attack - would be disastrous beyond imagination. And wouldn't logic tell us that if Saddam Hussein does indeed possess these weapons of mass destruction (something that's still subject to debate), he would be more likely to use them if he was attacked?
Almost a year after the horrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a set of events has been set into motion that appears almost impossible to stop. The Bush administration was given almost unlimited power to wage an unlimited war by the legislative body that under the Constitution has the sole authority to send the nation to war.
President Bush and his administration seized upon that and embarked on an unprecedented policy of threatening preemptive strikes on more than 60 countries, starting with Iraq. And if anyone besides Barbara Lee had the foresight to see what happens when you give a president a blank check for war, they were too afraid to open their mouths last fall when it really mattered lest they be seen as unpatriotic.
Dissenters in Congress, on Wall Street and at the Pentagon are starting to raise their voices. The question is whether its already too late for their objections to a second Iraq war to make a difference.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).