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Why a City Should Oppose Attacking Iran

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Tonight, Monday, October 6, 2008, a group of citizens in Charlottesville, Va., organized by the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, will attend the City Council's meeting to urge the Council to take up at its November meeting a resolution opposing a U.S. attack on the nation of Iran. Some members of the Council and of the public can be expected to respond with some well-intended but confused reasons to resist taking such a step. In hopes of clarifying the issue, let me suggest briefly three things: 1.-Why the United States should not attack Iran; 2.-Why there is a serious danger that the United States will attack Iran; 3.-Why Charlottesville City Council should pass a resolution opposing such an attack.

1.-Why the United States should not attack Iran.

We can begin with the fact that wars of aggression are illegal under international law and under treaties, including the United Nations Charter, that are the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. Were the nation of Iran to attack the United States, everything I'm saying could be ignored. But nobody, as far as I know, is even fantasizing about the possibility of such a suicidal action.

Wars are illegal because nothing is worse than them, and because wars do not work as a tool for preventing wars. If the United States attacks Iran -- and let's say it honestly: if WE attack Iran -- at a very minimum millions of people will very probably die, be wounded, be displaced, and have their environment rendered uninhabitable.

Numerous claims have been proven false that alleged the Iranian government was participating in attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, but let's assume for the sake of argument that Iran is conducting such attacks. We already know that Saudi Arabia is doing the same. Should we attack both Iran, which powerful people in Washington have long wanted to attack, and Saudi Arabia, which powerful people in Washington would never attack in a million years? And as we occupy Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, having reinstituted the draft here at home, what should we do if additional nations aid the resistance there? You can see where this leads. Legally, morally, and practically aiding a population against a foreign occupation is not grounds for war. The United States aided France against a German occupation and considers that action its most legal, moral, practical, and glorious ever engaged in.

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And, yes, the United States at the time was developing nuclear weapons. Possession of weapons is simply not grounds for war. The United States has more nuclear weapons and more illegal chemical and biological weapons than anyone else. This is not grounds to attack the United States. A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 2005 said that 2015 was the earliest Iran could possibly have a nuclear weapon. An improved National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 said that Iran had actually not worked on developing nuclear weapons at all since 2003. The best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is not war. U.S. threats and provocations are boosting support in Iran for a militaristic leader. Bombing would do the same, as well as resulting in massive death and destruction and likely retaliation against U.S. troops in Iraq and against U.S. client state Israel.

It's not always remembered that inspections worked in Iraq. Our government declared the inspections flawed, ordered the inspectors out, and bombed the nation flat, later dishonestly claiming that Iraq had ordered the inspectors out. If we want to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we need to keep the inspectors in, and we need ourselves to begin adhering to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bars new nations from developing nuclear weapons and requires that existing nuclear nations disarm.

Iran is open to negotiations. In 2003, Iran proposed negotiations with the United States with everything on the table, including its nuclear energy technology. President Bush refused. This past month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York. While he is not the top of the government in Iran and does not control the Iranian military, he is an important member of that government. While presidential candidate John McCain claimed falsely during a debate that Ahmadinejad was in New York proposing the destruction of Israel, Ahmadinejad while in New York actually told the radio program Democracy Now that he was open to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. He said that such a solution should be up to the Palestinian people to accept. We already know that most Palestinians are, indeed, open to a two-state solution. You'd think all Americans would consider this good news, but there are Americans who want war.

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During his visit to New York, Ahmadinejad also met with U.S. peace activists. Phil Wilayto of the Virginia Antiwar Network attended the meeting and reported that Ahmadinejad made a very similar statement on Israel and Palestine and also said the following:

"Neither the Iranian people nor nation will start a war … We've helped security in Iraq. The best help for security by the U.S. is to withdraw its troops from the region. … The Iranian people have good relations with people around the world. … The American people are friendly and lovable. One million Americans should visit Iran, and a million Iranians should visit the United States."

Perhaps Charlottesville should form a twinship with a town in Iran and create a student exchange. We do this with other nations. Why not Iran?

Polls show that strong majorities of Americans are opposed to attacking Iran, and you can be certain that a strong majority of Iranians are opposed to being attacked. Make no mistake that an attack on Iran would not be motivated by humanitarian concerns. The motivation for attacking Iran was laid out in 2000 by the Project for a New American Century, and as early as 1992 in defense planning guidance -- written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz, and Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad.

The people promoting an attack on Iran are the same ones who lied to us about Iraq. The results of those lies have been disastrous, including for Charlottesville.

2.-Why there is a serious danger that the United States will attack Iran.

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The two major candidates for president of the United States have refused to commit to not aggressively attacking Iran. One of them has excited his supports by singing "Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran."

Our representatives in Congress seem intent on escalating conflict with Iran, up to and including authorizing acts of war. A resolution that would encourage a blockade of Iran has enough cosponsors in both houses to pass if brought up for a vote. Thus far, public opposition has prevented that from happening.

However, the House this past month passed a bill requiring sanctions and divestment against Iran, including by local governments like the City of Charlottesville. The bill passed by a voice vote, so we do not know how our representative in the House voted, but I can guess. The bill failed to pass the Senate last week, but it is a safe bet that it will return. The Democratic leadership in the House has publicly expressed outrage at the Senate's action.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)

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