An Unlikely Alliance Against An Iran War

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran flag, Scud-B missiles and nuclear symbol AP / CBS

This column was written by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith.

Sometimes history - and necessity - make strange bedfellows. The German general staff transported Lenin to Russia to lead a revolution. Union-buster Ronald Reagan played godfather to the birth of the Polish Solidarity union. Equally strange - but perhaps equally necessary - is the addressee of a new appeal signed by Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright and many other leaders of the American peace movement:

"ATTENTION: Joint Chiefs of Staff and all U.S. Military Personnel: Do not attack Iran."

The initiative responds to the growing calls for an attack on Iran from the likes of Norman Podhoretz and John Bolton, and the reports of growing war momentum in Washington by reporters like Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and Joe Klein of Time. International lawyer Scott Horton says European diplomats at the recent United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York "believe that the United States will launch an air war on Iran, and that it will occur within the next six to eight months." He puts the likelihood of conflict at 70 percent.

The initiative also responds to the recent failure of Congress to pass legislation requiring its approval before an attack on Iran and the hawk-driven resolution encouraging the President to act against the Iranian military. Marcy Winograd, president of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, who originally suggested the petition, told The Nation:

If we thought that our lawmakers would restrain the Bush Administration from further endangering Americans and the rest of the world, we would concentrate solely on them. If we went to Las Vegas today, would we find anyone willing to bet on this Congress restraining Bush? I don't think so.

Because our soldiers know the horrors of war - severed limbs, blindness, brain injury - they are loath to romanticize the battlefield or glorify expansion of the Iraq genocide that has left a million Iraqis dead and millions others exiled.
Military Resistance

What could be stranger than a group of peace activists petitioning the military to stop a war? And yet there is more logic here than meets the eye.

Asked in an online discussion September 27 whether the Bush Administration will launch a war against Iran, Washington Post intelligence reporter Dana Priest replied, "Frankly, I think the military would revolt and there would be no pilots to fly those missions." She acknowledged that she had indulged in a bit of hyperbole, then added, "but not much."

There have been many other hints of military disaffection from plans to attack Iran - indeed, military resistance may help explain why, despite years of rumors about Bush Administration intentions, such an attack has not yet occurred. A Pentagon consultant told Hersh more than a year ago, "There is a war about the war going on inside the building." Hersh also reported that Gen. Peter Pace had forced Bush and Cheney to remove the "nuclear option" from the plans for possible conflict with Iran -- in the Pentagon it was known as the April Revolution.

In December, according to Time correspondent Joe Klein, President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a secure room known as The Tank. The President was told that "the U.S. could launch a devastating air attack on Iran's government and military, wiping out the Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the more obvious nuclear facilities." But the Joint Chiefs were "unanimously opposed to taking that course of action," both because it might not eliminate Iran's nuclear capacity and because Iran could respond devastatingly in Iraq -- and in the United States.

In an article published by Inter Press Service, historian and national security policy analyst Gareth Porter reported that Adm. William Fallon, Bush's then-nominee to head the Central Command (Centcom), sent the Defense Department a strongly worded message earlier this year opposing the plan to send a third carrier strike group into the Persian Gulf. In another Inter Press analysis, Porter quotes someone who met with Fallon saying an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch." He added, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional.... There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

Military officers in the field have frequently refuted Bush Administration claims about Iranian arms in Iraq and Afghanistan. Porter says that when a State Department official this June publicly accused Iran of giving arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander of NATO forces there twice denied the claim.

More recently, top brass have warned that the United States is not prepared for new wars. Gen. George Casey, the Army's top commander, recently made a highly unusual personal request for a House Armed Services Committee hearing in which he warned that "we are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies." While this could surely be interpreted as a call for more troops and resources, it may simultaneously be a warning shot against adventures in Iran.

An October 8 report by Tim Shipman in the Telegraph says that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has "taken charge of the forces in the American government opposed to a U.S. military attack on Iran." He cites Pentagon sources saying that Gates is waging "a subtle campaign to undermine the Cheney camp" and that he is "encouraging the Army's senior officers to speak frankly about the overstretch of forces, and the difficulty of fighting another war." Shipman reports Gates has "forged an alliance with Mike McConnell, the national director of intelligence, and Michael Hayden, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to ensure that Mr. Cheney's office is not the dominant conduit of information and planning on Iran to Mr. Bush."

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