President Bush is
invoking his "commander in chief" authority to escalate the war in Iraq,
and he will likely also invoke it to launch an aerial attack against Iran. Congress
has long ago abdicated
and delegated to the president its
constitutional responsibility to initiate wars. Yet Congress still has one
surefire way to influence events: it has the constitutional authority to make
the "nuclear option" against Iran illegal. In so doing, it would stop the
relentless drive to
war against Iran dead in its tracks.
Joe Biden's threat of a "constitutional confrontation" if Bush attacks Iran
without Congressional authorization, the fact is that such an attack would be
perfectly legal: the
War Powers Act gives the US president legal
authority to wage war against any country for 60 days. It would also
be legal for Bush to order nuclear strikes against Iran:
under NSC-30 of 1948, "the decision as to the employment of atomic weapons
in the event of war is to be made by the Chief Executive." Neither
Congressional "resolutions" nor
votes to withold funding will have
any effect on preventing such events.
However, Congress could pass a law
making a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear nation
in the absence of Congressional authorization illegal.
In so doing, Congress would effectively be preventing Bush from launching
any attack against Iran without its authorization,
thus reclaiming its broader
constitutionally assigned duties. Because Bush will not dare putting
150,000 American lives in Iraq at risk of Iranian retaliation without having
nuclear option on the table.
By removing the
from the Bush toolkit,
Congress would be forcefully imposing its will and that of the
American people on an administration gone mad.
If Congress chooses not to face the fact that US military action against
Iran is likely
to lead to the first US use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki,
each one of its members will share responsibility for the nefarious chain
of events that is likely to follow, and should be preparing to face his/her
nuclear Nuremberg trial.
Preparations for the Iran Attack
following recent events have led to
on Iran is
nuclear bunker busters
such bombs at Incirlik
A conventional aerial attack against Iran will not destroy the underground
the US have set their sight on. And it will provoke a violent
Iranian response, with missiles targeting US forces in Iraq and Israeli
cities. The US administration will argue that these missiles
could potentially carry chemical or biological warheads as
"justification" for nuclear strikes on Iran, as anticipated in the
new US nuclear weapons policies, to achieve "rapid
and favorable war termination on US terms."
How Congress Can Act
Congress can pass a law that will have a real,
immediate and historic effect:
outlaw the US use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states.
I, Sect. 8, Clause 14 of the US constitution empowers Congress to
regulate the Armed Forces. Congress cannot micromanage the conduct of war,
that is up to the president, the Commander-in-Chief. But Congress can outlaw
broad war practices,
the use of nuclear weapons in any or all circumstances, by regulating what
US Armed Forces can and cannot do. An example of such a bill, vetted by prominent
constitutional law experts,
is given here.
say that nuclear weapons may be necessary against countries on the
verge of acquiring them. The law can allow for it: it should specify that Congress
has the authority to designate any country it chooses as a "nuclear weapon state,"
not subject to this restriction.
Congress could even outlaw the US "first use of nuclear weapons" against anybody without
"the prior, explicit authorization of Congress." Such legislation
was considered and voted down by the US Senate in 1972.
We are suggesting here a much milder restriction on presidential authority.
Would the passage of such a law implicitly condone a conventional attack on
Iran? In no way. On the contrary, it would instantly bring the drive to attack
Iran to a screeching halt, because Bush will not dare attacking Iran without
his "nuclear option" on the table. Such a law will absolutely constrain
the choices the president has. No matter how much "Commander-in-Chief" power
President Bush thinks he has, he would not be able to ignore such
a law without committing an impeachable offense. If Congress decides that attacking
Iran is a good idea, Congress can vote to declare that Iran is a nuclear-weapon
state, subject to US nuclear attack, putting the nuclear option back on the
table (and by showing its determination, making the "nuclear option" a more
"deterrent"). The president, however, would be forced to bring his
case to Congress.
Would the passing of such a law "embolden" Iran? Not likely. Iran has not been deterred
from continuing enrichment by US threats, UN sanctions, nor
statements that the
"nuclear option" is on the table. A forceful statement by the US that it will
use overwhelming conventional force against Iran if necessary, and reserving the
right to declare Iran a nuclear country subject to US nuclear attack at any time,
should be more than enough to keep Iran in check.
Such a bill would put the momentous decision to use nuclear weapons against
non-nuclear states in the hands of Congress, closer to the American
people, where it belongs, rather than at the sole discretion of an Executive
More sweeping measures
"abolishing nuclear weapons"
are unrealistic and
have no chance of succeeding, hence they are counterproductive.
Majority vote of both chambers, then overturning
the presidential veto: a mere 2/3 of Congress willing to
avert a course of action that
would bring humanity to the brink, is
all that's needed.
Which Congressperson will have the courage to step up to the plate and
get the ball rolling? Dennis
Or, Congressmembers can choose to continue the posturing, make
lofty speeches, write
letters to the president,
pass "sense of Congress"
cut funding, all the while balancing their
for 2008. None of it will
stop this administration.
US Nuclear Weapons Use
This column and
others have been exposing for
many months the evidence that this administration has been carrying
to set up the
conditions that will lead to the US use of nuclear weapons
against Iran, and its motivations for it
Congress is on notice and cannot claim ignorance. The president has
publicly refused to take the "nuclear option" against Iran off the table.
US nuclear weapons policies
have undergone sweeping changes in the last 6 years, laying the doctrinal
foundations that invite
US nuclear strikes against non-nuclear adversaries under
a variety of easily satisfied conditions. Military
command structure and
Pentagon guidelines have been
"transformed" by Rumsfeld for that purpose. The
B61-11 nuclear bunker busters are in the stockpile, ready to be used.
The president has sole full authority to order their use, Congress has no
Congress knows full well what this president is capable of doing. By not acting,
Congress is condoning this state of affairs, effectively putting its seal of
approval on what is about to happen. America will hold each member of Congress
fully responsible for it.
The German Reichstag in 1933 formally voted to
transfer its powers to the Executive, thus avoiding
being complicit in the impending war crimes. The US Congress
has not had such good sense, even while abdicating its powers in practice,
and it will face the consequences of its inaction.
Time is running out.
Crimes Against Humanity
Using nuclear weapons against Iran,
even just destroying one Iranian underground facility with
nuclear bunker busters, with minimal "collateral damage," is
a crime against humanity because:
- It will break the 60-year old taboo against the use of nuclear weapons.
Once a nuclear weapon is used again, it will invite use by others.
There is no sharp line dividing small from large nuclear weapons, nor between
nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting humans,
civilians or military.
- Iran is years away from the capability of acquiring nuclear weapons by
any estimate, hence it is a "non-nuclear-weapon state" (NNWS).
use of a nuclear weapon against a NNWS will instantly
destroy the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
and lead to widespread nuclear proliferation.
for weight, the energy produced by a nuclear explosion is millions of
more powerful than a conventional explosion."
So is the number of people it kills.
- With no NPT and many more nuclear countries the potential for
escalating nuclear war will be exponentially enhanced.
- Nuclear war can lead to hundreds of millions of deaths, to the destruction of
to the destruction of all life on earth.
The American Physical Society,
representing the community of scientists that
brought nuclear weapons into existence, has recently for the first time
in its history
issued a statement of deep concern about "the possible use of nuclear weapons
against non-nuclear-weapon states" and its consequences for the Nonproliferation
Treaty, and some of America's most eminent scientists recently
wrote to President Bush that such action
would be "gravely irresponsible" and lead to "disastrous consequences."
Does Iran Share Responsibility?
Iran is pursuing a civilian nuclear program,
allowed under the NPT. There is
no evidence whatsoever that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, only
"suspicions." It is always possible to interpret any action by Iran in a
negative way. If Iran slows down its enrichment activity,
the press reports that "diplomats in Vienna began to worry that there was
so little activity at Iran's main nuclear site that perhaps work had started
on a secret site elsewhere in the country." (Of course no mention on who those
"diplomats in Vienna" are). If Iran accelerates its enrichment activity,
"Iran heightened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had
enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges." Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
"chose war" by not being able to allay "concerns" that he didn't have the
weapons he didn't have.
Vice President Cheney stated last Sunday on national TV "There's no reason
in the world why Iran needs to continue to pursue nuclear weapons." This is
the same Vice President that
stated in 2002 "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now
has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use
against our friends, against our allies, and against us." His statements then
were as categorical and as unsubstantiated as his statements today, and
the 2002 statements were proven categorically false. Why doesn't Congress
demand that Cheney substantiate his statements today or else shut up or else
step down? Isn't lying on matters of national security an impeachable offense?
Iran bears no responsibility for the rising tensions.
When Cheney states "Iran's a problem in a much larger sense. At the same
time, of course, they're pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons. They are
in a position where they sit astride the Straits of Hormuz, where over 20 percent
of the world's supply of oil transits every single day, over 18 million barrels
a day. So the threat that Iran represents is growing, it's multidimensional,
and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region" he is candidly stating
the Bush administration agenda,
just as he did in 2002. And Fox News' Chris Wallace is happy to spell it
out: "In fact, it was the basis of the Bush doctrine: You will not allow the
world's most dangerous powers to get access to the world's most dangerous weapons.
Can you pledge that, before you and the president leave office, you will take
care of the threat of Iran?" Cheney's ominous answer: "I think we're working
right now, today, as we speak, on key elements of that problem," as America
massing up its military power in the Persian Gulf, just like it did
at this same time of the year in 2003.
On March 6, 2003, when asked whether or not the US would attack Iraq, President
Bush answered "we're
days away from resolving this issue at the Security Council," and "we're
working with Security Council members to resolve this issue at the Security
Council." 14 days later the US attacked Iraq, without Security Council's approval.
Watch for a similar script in the weeks ahead.
Each member of Congress knows that the US president
has full legal authority today to launch a nuclear attack against any country
in the world. Each member of Congress knows that the Constitution assigns Congress
the responsibility to regulate the Armed Forces, and that Congress has the authority
to regulate the use of nuclear weapons. Each member of Congress knows the
sweeping changes in US nuclear weapons policies and planning undertaken
during this administration.
Any private assurances that Bush may have given to members of Congress that
he will not order the use of nuclear weapons against Iran without congressional
authorization are worthless. He can legally do it, and he will.
Any arguments the administration may put forth that legislating over nuclear
weapons use will have a detrimental effect on the diplomatic effort vis-à-vis
Iran will be as disingenuous as the arguments in September 2002 that Congress
should authorize the use of force against Iraq so that diplomacy could succeed:
"I've asked for Congress' support to enable the administration to keep the peace";
"If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use
force. But it's – this will be – a chance for Congress to indicate support.
It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to
keep the peace. That's what this is all about."
Crimes of omission are punishable under
US domestic law.
VII of the Nuremberg tribunal
"Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or
a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under
If Congress doesn't legislate on the US use of nuclear weapons, and President
Bush orders the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, he will be doing it in
the name of
each and every member of the 110th Congress.
The United States will have instantly offered the world 535 new defendants
for future war crimes tribunals. Nuclear weapons are a
million times more powerful than conventional weapons. If 535 million people
die in ensuing nuclear conflicts, each member of the 110th Congress will have
1 million human lives on his/her own personal account.
Saddam Hussein and Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti went to the gallows for a mere