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  Global Views
How to Prevent a War With Iran
Saber Rattling for War with Iran Gets Louder and Louder
By Lawrence K. Altman
Special Contribution
Iran military personnel during Iran-Iraq war

Unfortunately, some Evangelicals are among the loudest voices crying for war with Iran. President Ahmadinejad is worse than Hitler, according to the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. In the March/April 2007 issue of Israel My Glory, published by this ministry, Elwood McQuaid, the executive editor, maintains that "annihilating the Jewish state is merely a warm-up. Although the lynchpin of Ahmadinejad's crusade is a first-strike success against his near neighbor Israel, the next move is westward to Europe and then on to finish off the hated United States." Another piece in the same issue of Israel My Glory quotes Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that "unless the United States stops Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, America has only two to five years left." In the recent May/June 2008 issue, we see more of the same: "Replace the name Hitler with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who rants against his selected scapegoats, Israel and the Jewish people, blaming them for every iniquity and offering the only ‘acceptable' solution: genocide and annihilation of the Jewish state. His desire is not for a 1,000-year Reich but for a global, Islamic caliphate."

The American people cannot just stop their ears and expect that all the saber rattling, drum beating, and war crying will go away after the election of a new U.S. president. We already know that John McCain — who had no problem bombing Vietnam back to the Stone Age — is a crazed warmonger. But the election of Barack Obama instead of John McCain will not mean anything different when it comes to Iran. Obama considers the danger posed by Iran to be grave and real — so much so that his goal "will be to eliminate this threat." But regardless of who occupies the U.S. presidency, there is really only one sure-fire way to prevent a war with Iran.

The fact that Iran is not a threat to the United States will not stop us from going to war. Was Iraq a threat to the United States? Was Afghanistan? Was Vietnam? Germany couldn't cross the English Channel to invade Great Britain. How was Germany a real threat to the United States? Japan was goaded into/allowed to bomb Pearl Harbor, but was Japan really a threat to the United States? Were the Central powers a threat to the United States in 1917? Was Spain a threat to the United States in 1898? None of the many incursions of U.S. troops into other countries was because of a credible threat to the United States. To say that war with Iran is justifiable because Iran might someday possibly become a threat to the United States is ludicrous. Should we go into the ghettos of U.S. cities and jail or kill young boys because they might grow up and become a thug and possibly carjack someone?

The fact that Iran is not a threat to Israel will not prevent a war with Iran. Now, whether country A is or is not a threat to country B should have no bearing on U.S. military activities. Following the wisdom of Washington and Jefferson, the United States should not have entangling alliances with any country. Unfortunately, the United States has many entangling alliances, and we have intractably entangled ourselves in the Middle East. The fruit of years of an aggressive, interventionist, and imperialistic U.S. foreign policy is increased hatred of both the United States and Israel.

The fact that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and, according to the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate, has not been working on a nuclear weapon since 2003 will not stop the Bush administration from foolishly and immorally launching a preventive strike against yet another country. Bush has even said that the NIE "in no way lessens" the threat of Iran.

It doesn't matter if Iran's nuclear program is entirely for civilian use. The United States, or Israel, or both countries, could still try to destroy anything in Iran that could possibly be used in any kind of a nuclear program. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently claimed that Iran "is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons." But the fact that Iran's civilian nuclear program may really be for military use or might in the future be converted to military use is immaterial. Three of Iran's neighbors — Israel, Pakistan, and India — have such weapons. Plus nearby China and Russia. And of course, the great Satan, the United States, not only has more nukes than any other country, it is the only country that has used them and is now currently threatening Iran.

The fact that the U.S. military is already stretched to the breaking point — "dangerously thin," according to a recent survey of military officers — is of no consequence to Bush the decider in chief, who maintains that "all options are on the table." No one in his family will ever suffer the horrors of war. The price of gas, which is certain to rise much higher in the advent of war with Iran, is inconsequential to anyone in the Bush family.

The failure of the anti-Iran resolutions introduced in the Senate (S. Res. 580) and the House (H. Con. Res. 362) to pass will not prevent a war with Iran. Congress long ago abrogated its constitutional war-making authority to the president. If Bush announced today that he ordered U.S. forces to bomb, invade, and occupy Iran, the Congress — Democrats and Republicans — would begin allocating billions of dollars for the war effort to support the troops.

Public opinion against war with Iran is not enough to prevent such a war from taking place. We know this because of the Iraq war. When Vice President Cheney was recently told that polls showed that about two-thirds of the American people believed that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, Cheney arrogantly replied: "So?" And furthermore, U.S. presidents may be evil, but they are not stupid (okay, with one exception). Every president knows that Americans are in love with the U.S. military. Americans will support the troops no matter who they are fighting against, even if they can't locate the country of our "enemy" on a map.

The repercussions of a war with Iran would be devastating, for as Tom Engelhardt recently explained, Iran has "a remarkable capacity to inflict grievous harm locally, regionally, and globally." Since most Americans are relatively unconcerned about the number of innocent Iranians that might be wounded or killed in any U.S. military action against Iran (all Muslims are terrorists; and besides, their skin is darker than ours) or even the number of U.S. soldiers who might be wounded or killed (they enlisted of their own free will; and besides, they are defending our freedoms), I will just mention one area in which grievous harm will occur: the price of oil. A war with Iran, as Engelhardt also noted, "would result in a global oil shock of almost inconceivable proportions." And this time, it would be clear to all from the beginning that the price of oil was directly related to the war.

Engelhardt doesn't think war with Iran is likely, and I hope he is right. But when it comes to this evil administration, nothing is out of the question, nothing is off limits, nothing is too far-fetched.

But if Bush the decider in chief is determined to multiply his war crimes by attacking Iran, or giving Israel a green light (or not issuing a red light) to do so with the promise of U.S. military backup, what can be done to prevent such a war from taking place? I see only one solution: the troops.

The troops? But they are the ones who will be doing the fighting. Exactly. Bush, Cheney, Gates, Petraeus, the secretaries, under secretaries, and assistant secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the members of the Joints Chiefs of Staff won't be lifting a finger against Iran. Only U.S. troops — the ones who will suffer and bleed and die for a lie — will be fighting an illegal, immoral war against Iran.

But because it is only the troops that will be doing the dirty work, and because the troops greatly outnumber their commanders in the field and the bureaucrats in the Pentagon, and because it's impossible for the American people to support the troops in their war effort if the troops themselves refuse to prosecute the war — the troops refusing to fight is the only sure-fire way to prevent a war with Iran.

Now, for this to happen, it is apparent that the hearts and minds of the troops must be changed.

The troops need to see that Iran is not a threat to the United States, that Iran is not a threat to Israel, that Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon, that Iran is perfectly justified if it obtained a nuclear weapon, that the U.S. military is stretched to the breaking point, that the president has no constitutional authority to begin a war with Iran, and that the American people will support them in their decision.

The troops need to see that an attack on Iran would be unnecessary, unwise, unjust, illegal, immoral, and in violation of the Constitution they swore to uphold. It would be anything but fighting to defend our freedoms.

The troops need to see that attacking Iran perverts the purpose of the military. Defending the United States against attack or invasion is admirable; attacking and invading foreign countries is not. In defense of the United States, the U.S. military should guard U.S. borders, patrol U.S. coasts, and enforce no-fly zones over U.S. skies. It should not do these things in other countries, and should certainly not induce other countries to do these things because of a threat by the United States.

The troops need to see that American foreign policy is responsible for much evil throughout the world. It is contrary to the wise, noninterventionist foreign policy of the Founding Fathers. So contrary in fact that the Founders wouldn't recognize what their constitutional, federated republic has become. Fighting an offensive, foreign war perpetuates an evil U.S. foreign policy.

The troops need to see that they are the ones who will be responsible for waging an unjust war. They are the ones who will be dropping the bombs and firing the bullets. They are the ones who will be doing the wounding and killing. They are the ones who will be destroying property and infrastructure.

The troops need to see that there are some orders that they just shouldn't obey — even if they come directly from their commander in chief. Why is it that Americans insist that German soldiers should have disobeyed any commands to kill Jews, but that American soldiers should always obey their superiors? In reality, however, Americans really don't believe that all orders should be obeyed. If an American soldier were ordered to kill the president or to kill his mother, we would condemn him if he obeyed. What we really expect of our soldiers is to unconditionally obey any order that involves the killing of any foreigner in any country. But this is something that no soldier with an ounce of morality should do.

If the troops don't see these things, then war with Iran will come should the president be dumb enough, and evil enough, to order an attack, an invasion, a regime change, or a preemptive strike.

But if the troops do see these things, war with Iran will be impossible. Bush, or any future president, can try to lie the country into war as much as he wants, but the troops refusing to fight an unjust war will prevent any conflict from occurring.

If a U.S. soldier really wants to be a hero, he should refuse to fight in any foreign war. "Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person" (Deuteronomy 27:25).

Laurence M. Vance writes from Pensacola, FL. His latest book is a new and greatly expanded edition of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his web site(






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