In the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, a steady drumbeat of rhetoric and accusations from the Bush administration were leading the United States into war against Iraq.
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was planning to use against us. Hussein had worked with al Qaeda to carry out the 9/11 attacks. We could replace a brutal dictatorship with a democracy that would become a model for the Middle East. And so on.
After the invasion and 8½ years of war, all were proven false. Iraq did not have any WMDs, there was no connection with al Qaeda, and Iraq continues to be wracked with sectarian violence.
Now, writes Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, "We're doing this terrible thing all over again. As before, we're letting a bunch of ignorant, sloppy-thinking politicians and politicized foreign-policy experts draw 'red line' ultimatums. As before, we're letting them quick-march us off to war. This time their target is Iran. And heaven knows Iran’s leaders are bad guys capable of doing dangerous things. But if we’ve learned anything, anything at all, from plunging into war in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it is this: we must have a public scrubbing of fighting rhetoric before, not after, the war begins."
Tensions with Iran are rising. The U.S. and Israel are convinced it is close to having nuclear weapons capability. Rhetoric and action are being stepped up — cyber attacks, assassinations, carrier groups moving into the Persian Gulf, surveillance drones flying over the country, threats and counter threats.
Gelb suggests a series of public hearings, by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or a presidential commission to examine the pros and cons of war with Iran. He concludes “Senator J. William Fulbright’s brilliant hearings on Vietnam and the James Baker/Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group both came far too late to save us. But there’s still time now for a full-scale, nonpartisan, and systematic examination of policy.”
Before we are once again marched into war, with the cost in lives and money that would involve, let’s have an open and honest debate.
Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.