Here we go again. The administration says "regime change" is needed. Warnings are issued about the threat posed by the "mad man" who leads the oil-rich country. Alarming intelligence estimates are leaked about nuclear weapons programs.
The vice president warns about "monumental consequences" if the alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons are continued. The president is said to feel invasion is his mission. Neoconservatives call for military action.
Administration operatives express scorn for diplomacy and international monitoring. The Pentagon is already launching mock bombing runs to measure air defense capacities. Covert military incursions are said to be active on the ground.
No, this isn't about the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. These reports concern the administration's drum beat about Iran and its fundamentalist government.
Iran has oil and gas — lots of it, second only to Saudi Arabia in reserves. It controls the straits of the Persian Gulf, where 40 percent of the world's oil passes. It is headed by a firebrand Islamic fundamentalist who vows that Israel should be wiped off the map. Iran admittedly has a nuclear energy program in process, and many believe that it is committed to building nuclear weapons.
But this may well be more about the United States than about Iran. Just as in 2002, the president's polls are at record lows. Karl Rove, Bush's political adviser, has pledged to make the war on terror a partisan issue in the fall. It surely isn't an accident that the White House is turning up the heat on Iran now, just as it did against Iraq in the run-up to the 2002 elections.
The White House preparations are ominous. The president has said that an Iranian bomb is unacceptable. The White House reportedly sees little hope in a diplomatic solution. It is putting Iran and much of the world on notice — we're ready to strike if Iran goes on with its program. Despite reservations from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reports the White House is contemplating the first use of nuclear weapons to "take out" the underground Iranian facilities that may be part of the weapons program.
Is it conceivable that a president who sees himself on a divine mission has learned nothing from the debacle in Iraq? Remember the bit about being greeted as "liberators" there? Now, according to an anonymous contractor in Hersh's story, the White House is said to believe that bombing Iran will turn the people against the mullahs that run the government. That will counter the experience of every bombing effort since the invention of the airplane.
The question now is whether the Congress and the American people will simply roll over once more or will stand up and call the administration to account. Surely, this is the time for Republicans to put aside their partisan zealotry and hold hearings — open and public — that explore the nature of the threat posed by Iran, the programs already under way by the administration, the intelligence estimates and what they really say.
We should not be rushed into another war in the Persian Gulf — and congressional hearings are vital to explore what we've already begun to do in relation to Iran.
Reportedly, the White House is briefing selected legislators — those that are cheerleaders for the war in Iraq. It doesn't want hearings because it doesn't want to inform the minority Democrats — much less the American people. The president believes he has absolute authority to launch a war of his choosing, without congressional approval, United Nations mandate or imminent threat.
Somehow, the administration must come to learn that bombs don't build democracy and respect — they destroy hope and fuel hatred. War would destabilize the Persian Gulf. Terrorism would spread. Osama bin Laden and others would rouse 1.2 million Muslims with cries that the United States is seeking to destroy Islam. America would be supported by few if any of our allies.
We need international diplomacy, not unilateral bomb rattling towards Iran. We need a concerted plan for energy independence, reducing our reliance on foreign oil. We need to engage the world's nations in a grand alliance against terrorists — not isolate America as a rogue nation. It is time for Congress to act before the administration rolls out another war in time for the fall elections.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.