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Wanted: A Binding Resolution on Iran | The Nation

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Wanted: A Binding Resolution on Iran

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Question posed to Dick Armey, House Republican leader, 1995-2003, by Dave Montgomery of the McClatchy Newspapers: "You voted for the resolution to go to war?"

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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Answer: "I did, and I'm not happy about it. The resolution was a resolution that authorized the President to take that action if he deemed it necessary. Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively. I had a tough time reconciling doing that against the duties of majority leader in the House. I would have served myself and my party and my country better, though, had I done so."

The Republicans have a point. They ask what will be accomplished by Congress passing a watery, nonbinding resolution expressing lukewarm reservations about sending reinforcements to our bedeviled expeditionary force in Iraq. They argue that it will be something of a downer for our troops, who are none too happy even without a resolution.

For those who are disgusted and angry about this war, the resolution seems more like a backdoor way of telling Bush that, though we all are a bit grouchy about it, he should go ahead and stick more of our people into what Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel calls "that grinder."

The repeated references to the thing as the nonbinding resolution only reinforce the feeling that it has all the force of a flick of a feather duster. At one point such a resolution might have meant a lot, but time marches on and by now voting on a statement as tepid as this one is less than a spitball fired off in the general direction of the White House.

The Senate, as closely divided as it is between the two parties, is not going to be passing any binding resolutions or much else of moment right now. The House is a different matter. The House, with its small but decisive Democratic majority, is in a position to pass a binding resolution and one with no small impact. It can do it without a vote in the Senate. The House can pass a resolution binding on itself.

The House can pass a resolution stating that if, in the next six months, the President orders a military attack on Iran, such an action will be considered a "high crime," as the term is used in the Constitution. The House will then immediately vote to instruct the Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings.

The resolution should include language saying that Bush must no longer be allowed to plunge the country into one disaster after another and then, in the midst of a mess of his own making, turn around and demand approval because anything less would be a failure to support the troops. The pattern of confronting the country with imbecilic and costly faits accomplis must be ended. Congress has got to get out ahead of Bush before he can pull his support-the-troops ploy one more time. By limiting the time the resolution is in force to six months, which is always renewable, the House avoids accusations that it would be tying the President's hands and making it harder for him to defend the country. What the resolution would do is push Bush into using diplomacy instead of force. Apparently the man does not understand that he has a State Department full of diplomats whose job it is to solve problems without shooting anyone.

But would such a resolution have much of an effect on Bush? Yes, it would. Impeachment hearings for any White House are a nightmare. Almost everything comes to a stop while the President and staff have to prepare answers to the million and one questions the House committee's lawyers will be asking. The publicity and fuss are endless. Ask Bill Clinton what impeachment proceedings can do to an administration. Everything more or less comes to a stop, which is exactly what you want in this case.

The Bush Administration will counter by saying it does not have the slightest intention of attacking Iran. It is already saying so, but how believable are such statements? Defense Secretary Robert Gates has insisted that "the President has made clear, the Secretary of State has made clear, I've made clear--nobody is planning--we are not planning for a war with Iran. What we are trying to do is, in Iraq, counter what the Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement in activities, particularly these explosively formed projectiles that are killing our troops."

Notice the wiggle words at the end of the paragraph. To forestall the passage of the binding resolution, Bush might be pressured into giving the House a no-wiggle commitment. He just might make a statement agreeing, in Washspeak, to take the military option off the table for six months.

He might use the time to practice diplomacy. If he ignores diplomacy but is still stopped from dropping bombs on the Iranians, it's half a year without a new war. Somehow or other we and the rest of the world have got to get through the next twenty-two months until he leaves office. This should help.

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