Before an audience of constituents, activists and veterans, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) issued a strong warning at a South Jersey Iraq War Forum in June:
There is a real and consistent concern that the government of Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Now there has been saber rattling about this. There’s going to be an attempt, I believe, to Gulf of Tonkinize this issue before the November election and I think you can anticipate all kinds of Naval adventures in the Persian Gulf that will try to be used as a pretext for an attack on Iran. I think that that will be the strategy in the November election. [video at 6 min]
Congressman Andrews made a similar charge two weeks prior while engaged in a bitter primary campaign against incumbent and fellow Democrat, Senator Frank Lautenberg.
In May, Max Pizarro of the Politickr quoted Rep. Andrews, "Every couple of weeks the administration tries to blow out of proportion a naval incident. If you look at their history - the way they beat up Max Cleland in 2002, and their use of the Bin Laden tape against Kerry in 2004 - I expect them to do something like that again, and I wouldn’t doubt their attempts to Gulf of Tonkinize Iran in an election year."
Pizarro either unconcerned or unfamiliar with what it would mean to "Gulf of Tonkinize" Iran zeroed in on Andrews' claim that the 84-year-old Lautenberg could not "fight back against this Republican attack machine." Other media outlets ignored the statement altogether.
What makes the June 13 remarks any different? Ten days earlier, Rep. Andrews lost decidedly to the senior statesman from North Jersey. The race for the U.S. Senate was no longer a factor. In addition, Rep. Andrews who held the House seat since 1990 announced in April that he would not seek reelection in November if he lost to Sen. Lautenberg.
Empty Rhetoric or Fair Warning?
The idea that the Bush administration would deliberately provoke a military conflict with Iran was not a new concept particularly among the mostly antiwar audience. Strong words, however, from a congressman tapped by President Bush to coauthor the House version of the Iraq Resolution in 2002.
Additionally, Rep. Andrews who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, co-founded the Iran Working Group and is on the board of advisors of the Israel Project is known to take a hard line when it comes to Iran. Regarding a nuclear Iran, he is clear: "A nuclear Iran would present the world with a danger never before realized." In a 2006 address on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Rep. Andrews foreshadowed a "nuclear 9/11 in Lower Manhattan" if Iran were allowed to continue enriching uranium.
By February 2007, as Andrews’ faith in the administration’s handling of the Iraq War was waning, he began to express concern over President Bush’s approach to Iran. Andrews took to the House floor and argued that the House needed to affirm its constitutional prerogative and sole authority to declare war.
I am troubled by recent signs that I have seen from our administration with respect to the issue of Iran. Placement of naval assets in that area of the world is justified as a defensive measure, but I worry that it may be a provocative measure. The words of our President are words which can be taken, and I hope they are meant in the spirit of warning and cooperation, but they could also be taken in the spirit of provocation, and I hope and pray that they are not meant in that regard.
On May 16, 2007, Rep. Andrews’ amendment to the Defense Authorization Act for 2008 that would prevent authorized funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from being used to plan a contingency operation in Iran was narrowly defeated. Among supporters was Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
Minutes later, the House voted on Rep. DeFazio’s amendment. It would clarify that no previously enacted law authorized military action against Iran. It prohibited funding authorized by the bill from being used to take military action against Iran without authorization from Congress unless there was a national emergency created by an attack by Iran. Andrews inexplicably voted against it.
The following month Rep. Andrews joined Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act of 2007. This bipartisan legislation would extend sanctions to entities that provide refined petroleum to Iran.
Now Congressman Andrews, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and Iran Working Group, predicts that in order to win an election for the Republicans, the administration will create a false flag, a casus belli, in order to attack Iran. Regardless of the reason, would the Bush administration take such sinister action? Journalist, Seymour Hersh, laid out such a case in his July article in the New Yorker, Preparing the Battlefield.
Were Rep. Andrews’ remarks partisan rhetoric or sincere warning? If it is the former, we may have stumbled upon a new low in partisan politics. If the latter, the question should be what is he going to do about it.