The Iraq Study Group recommended that the Bush Administration engage Iran. Instead, the Administration chose to threaten it.
In recent weeks President Bush attacked Iran in a speech announcing his escalation in Iraq, deployed a second naval battleship to the Persian Gulf and ordered the raid of an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, along with the arrests of six Iranians. The current march to war sounds eerily familiar.
Now members of Congress have launched their own pre-emptive strike on the Administration, introducing legislation requiring the President to gain Congressional approval for any attack on Iran. The effort is spearheaded by Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who's emerged as a leading critic of the war in Iraq and a harsh opponent of confrontation with Iran. Jones has assembled a diverse coalition of lawmakers, ranging from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats, who believe it's time to teach the Administration a lesson in government 101.
"Our constitution states that--while the Commander in Chief has the power to conduct wars--only Congress has the power to authorize war," Jones said at a press conference today. "It's time for Congress to meet its Constitutional responsibility...This legislation makes it crystal clear that no previous resolution passed by Congress authorizes such a use of force [against Iran]."
Such a basic expression of the separation of powers should be obvious. But with the Bush Administration, one never knows. So H.J. Res 14 spells it out. "This resolution says a strong message that Congress won't stand idly by and it won't get railroaded into another war that will only make America and the world less safe," said Rep. Marty Meehan. "A lot of people in Congress are fearful that this war will expand," added Rep. Ron Paul. Containing an expansion of the war, said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, is "the most important issue this Congress will face aside from Iraq."
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was in boot camp when Congress approved the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 that led to the war in Vietnam. Today he sees another possible war predicated on "ignorance, arrogance and dogma."
A fellow Purple Heart recipient, Senator Chuck Hagel, recently grilled Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about whether the Administration was planning to push the war in Iraq into Iran's borders. Hagel sees echoes of Richard Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia. "Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary," Hagel told Rice, "and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia. In fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.
So, Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the President is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous."
Moments earlier, Senator Joe Biden asked Rice: "Do you believe the President has the constitutional authority to pursue across the border into Iraq (sic/Iran) or Syria, the networks in those countries?"
Rice responded that the President's constitutional authority was "broad as commander in chief."
After trusting the president on Iraq, the new Congress might be inclined to disagree.