ACTION ALERT: 41 Senators Could Stop the War

February 23rd, 2007 - by admin

Dr. Norman Robbins / Cleveland Plain Dealer & John V. Walsh / CounterPunch & BBC – 2007-02-23 08:46:14

Dr. Norman Robbins / Cleveland Plain Dealer & Common

Seventy-five percent of Americans want negotiations instead of war with Iran, but the Bush administration is charging ahead. Once again, military preparations are being paired with misinformation, and peaceful options are being dismissed. This time, Americans must inform themselves and take action BEFORE it is too late.

The fear and disinformation campaign is on. The administration repeatedly asserts, without definitive evidence, that Iran is developing the bomb, and the public is buying it. Citing legitimate concerns with Iran’s past undeclared nuclear activity, Mohamed El-Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran, stated that “we haven’t seen any smoking gun in Iran.”

According to the New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh, a recent classified CIA report came to the same conclusion: no evidence. But regime change, not factual evidence, is the Bush administration’s goal. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who estimated a 5-to-10 year window before Iran might have a weapon, is being replaced. The Pentagon’s intelligence study group, known as the “Iranian Directorate,” will selectively quash and cherry-pick information, as was done on Iraq. This should ring alarm bells.

The Bush administration would also have us believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, master of outrageous statements, determines Iranian nuclear and foreign policy. In fact, it’s mainly determined by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who issued a religious decree that Iran shall REJECT nuclear weapons.

Moreover, his newspaper advised Ahmadinejad to stay OUT of nuclear issues. Ahmadinejad is also rapidly LOSING support because opposition leaders object to his policies, and sanctions are hurting the country. None of this gets mentioned by the Bush administration, whose anti-Iranian rhetoric only bolsters Ahmadinejad.

Congress needs to shine a light on all this by demanding access to undoctored CIA reports, interviewing El-Baradei and Iran experts who are NOT neoconservative ideologues, and determining what type of inspections would provide reasonable assurance about the direction of Iran’s peaceful civilian nuclear energy programs.

An administration intent on forcible regime change could easily take us to war. The US has already begun risky provocations with clandestine activities inside Iran, aggressive kidnappings of Iranian nationals in Iraq, and placement of a massive offensive armada close to Iran’s shores, inviting clashes with Iranian ships. Any intentionally provoked skirmish leading to American casualties could trigger a congressional war resolution.

Israel is another wild card. Its leaders have stated that they may preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear research installations even without US approval. Meanwhile, Bush has ominously said he “could understand” an Israeli attack, knowing Congress would rally to Israel’s support if Iran does what any attacked nation would do by counterattacking.

Finally, Bush could fabricate some pretext to first launch and then announce a naval attack, regardless of congressional concern. Knowlegeable insiders say that plans for a US attack are in place and that the administration believes it has prior authorization. Again, if Iran strikes back, Congress is not likely to deny the president military support.

Therefore, prevention is urgent. Americans need to support Congressional resolutions, such as H.J. Res. 14, which seek to PREVENT the president from attacking Iran without a prior Iranian attack on either America or its troops, or without prior Congressional authorization. These resolutions should also address provocation and Israel.

Americans must force the Bush administration and Congress to examine and openly disclose the disastrous consequences of an attack on Iran. Incredibly, administration planners may believe that air-naval attacks won’t involve American troops, and will topple the Iranian regime.

However, military and security exerts, such as retired colonel and War College teacher Sam Gardiner, totally disagree. They expect the predictable consequences to be slaughter of American troops in Iraq with more potent weapons and attacks, disruption of oil supplies, skyrocketing oil prices, more recruits for jihadists, and attacks on Israel.

Americans must reject the administration’s fraudulent choice between war or surrender. Am overwhelming number of experts on Iran and national security, such as Flynt Leverett, formerly a member of the CIA and National Security Council, believe that negotiations with Iran on a wide variety of issues (e.g., stabilizing Iraq, nuclear inspections, Hezbollah, Hamas) could be productive.

But the Bush administration, blind to these opportunities, foolishly insists on regime change and sets preconditions which doom negotiations that might reduce tensions and violence in the Middle East.

The administration is intransigent. Its current policy is catastrophic. Only the media and Congress, UNDER PUBLIC PRESSURE, can expose the flaws, explore the possibilities for negotiation, and stop the rush to war.

Dr. Norman Robbins is Emeritus Professor at Case Western University in Ohio. SOURCE: Published on 2-9-07 by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Common Dreams.

• SEE ALSO this “Open Letter From Legal And Human Rights Groups”:


Filibuster to End the War Now!”
It Takes Only 41 Senate Votes to End the War:
Republicans Show the Way

John V. Walsh / CounterPunch and Information Clearinghouse

(February 9, 2007) —We hear over and over again that it “takes 60 votes to get something serious done in the Senate.” That is a lot of malarkey. It takes only one senator to begin a filibuster against any bill. And then it takes only 41 votes to uphold that filibuster and prevent any proposed law from coming to the floor.

Thus, the present authorization for defense funding in the coming fiscal year can be stopped cold if it contains funds for the war on Iraq. And this can be done by just one courageous Senator, backed by 40 colleagues.

Let me propose the following scenario. Just one Senator, Ted Kennedy or Russ Feingold or Robert Byrd, arises in the Senate and declares that he will filibuster the present defense authorization bill if it contains funds for the war on Iraq or Iran.

That bill is then dead unless there are 60 votes (3/5ths of the 100 Senators) to end the debate, i.e., to invoke cloture. That is it. Bush no longer has the funds to prosecute the war. He has to come back with a funding bill acceptable to the 41.

At the same time, the filibustering Senator could put forth a resolution similar to Congressman McGovern’s in the House, which is aptly named “The Safe And Orderly Withdrawal Act.” It provides funds to ensure the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in a way that guarantees their safety, but no other funding for the war.

If the opponents of our hypothetical, courageous Senator wish to oppose such legislation, let them go on record in so doing. They are then on record as refusing funds to bring the American troops home safely.

The Republicans have shown, in their very first weeks as the opposition, that they have the ovaries to do what the Democrats will not. Today (February 5th), they raised 49 votes in the Senate to prevent consideration of a relatively harmless non-binding resolution against Bush’s so-called “surge” plan. Incredibly, these votes included Democrats Joseph Lieberman and Henry Reid, the Senate majority leader! [1]

Right now, there are 18 sitting Senators who voted against the Iraq war in 2002. And there are 13 more who voted for the war and now say they regret it. That comes to 31 nominally antiwar Senators. [2] In addition there are 4 new Senators, Barak Obama among them, who claim to be against the war. That brings the antiwar count to 35 of the necessary 41, leaving only 6 more needed. And the Democrats now have 51 seats, with at least one or two Republican antiwar Senators to boot.

Therefore, it would take only 41 out of 51 Senators who claim to be against the war to actually end the war. If they are not lying about their anti-war position, let them stand up and be counted.

For example, if Hillary Clinton, who is not among those who regret their pro-war vote in 2002, were to be one of a handful who refused to vote for cloture, what would happen to her presidential chances in 2008? Let her, and others who claim to be against the war, go on record for or against the filibuster.

As Charlie Richardson and other members of Military Families Speak Out said so eloquently in the UFPJ’s recent lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, Congressmen cannot be against the war and yet for its funding. If the Democrats continue to fund the war, then they own it. It is their war as well as Bush’s.

(And of course, to that I would add that it has been the Democrats’ war as well as Bush’s all along. Many voted for it in October, 2002, when they controlled the Senate, either for the sake of their presidential ambitions or because they faced a tough re-election campaign.)

What are the odds that even a handful of Democratic Senators will begin a filibuster against the war? Pretty minimal, I fear, given the power of the pro-Israel lobby (e.g., AIPAC and JINSA) and other pro-war forces within the Democratic Party. But we should pressure the Senators intensely, no holds barred, to do so anyway.

For example, we should have a version of the Occupation Project that targets our Senators to join this filibuster, and commit to upholding it by voting against cloture. Acts of nonviolent civil disobedience at local Senate offices will bring attention to their position–and to their hypocrisy if they claim to be against the war but then refuse to vote that way. Perhaps some Senators will give in to public pressure if they realize that their re-election is at stake.

And we are now at a moment of societal upheaval over the war, with splits among our plutocratic ruling class, one faction of which is furious with the neocons for creating this disastrous war. So anything can happen.

But even if the Democratic Senators refuse, we shall know where everyone stands. And if the Senators fail to do the bidding of We The People, it will help the antiwar movement to know that we must look beyond the Democratic Party for a true champion of peace in 2008 and beyond.


[1] It is also interesting that John McCain (R-AZ) abstained on this vote, no doubt fearing for his 2008 presidential ambitions. Nor did Martinez (R-FL) or Democrats Landrieu or Johnson vote. Unfortunately, the purportedly anti-war Chuck Hagel (R-NE) voted for cloture. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats against cloture, knowing that a vote on the other side could cost her re-election in Maine.


John V. Walsh can be reached at He recommends Alexander Cockburn’s remarks along some of the same lines:

US ‘Iran Attack Plans’ Revealed
BBC World News

(February 19, 2007) — It is understood that any such attack – if ordered – would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.

The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions. But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.

That list includes Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.

Two Triggers
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon – which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called “bunker-busting” bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground.

The BBC’s Tehran correspondent France Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians.

Authorities insist there is no cause for alarm but ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says.

Earlier this month US officials said they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shia militias. At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were “excuses to prolong the stay” of US forces in Iraq.

Middle East analysts have recently voiced their fears of catastrophic consequences for any such US attack on Iran.
Britain’s previous ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton, told the BBC it would backfire badly by probably encouraging the Iranian government to develop a nuclear weapon in the long term.

Last year Iran resumed uranium enrichment – a process that can make fuel for power stations or, if greatly enriched, material for a nuclear bomb.

Tehran insists its programme is for civil use only, but Western countries suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.
The UN Security Council has called on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium by 21 February.

If it does not, and if the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms this, the resolution says that further economic sanctions will be considered.