SYNDICATED COLUMN: Iran – Because Two Wars Aren’t Enough

Why Doesn’t Anyone Call Out Romney for Warmongering?

Mitt Romney had a barnburner of a weekend in Israel. The GOP nominee apparent shared his unique combination of economic and anthropological wisdom, attributing the fact that Israel’s GDP and average income is many times higher than those of the Palestinian Occupied Territories to Israelis’ superior “culture.”

As if spewing one of the most overtly racist lines in recent presidential campaign history wasn’t enough, eschewing “containment” (read: “diplomacy”), Romney also endorsed a preemptive Israeli military strike against Iran in order to prevent the latter’s nuclear program—Israel’s own, illegal nuclear weapons stockpile is OK since it’s a U.S. ally—from moving forward.

“We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions,” Romney said, stating that “no option should be excluded.”

He didn’t say how he knew the intentions of Iran’s leaders. Clairvoyance? Bush had it too.

Though Mitt slightly walked back his campaign’s sabre rattling, the message was clear. If he is elected, Israel will receive a blank check to begin a war against Iran, one of the most well-equipped military powers in the Middle East—a conflagration in which the United States could easily wind up getting dragged into. (In a subsequent interview he reiterated that “we have all options on the table. Those include military options.”)

Most criticism focused on Romney’s flouting of the traditional proscription against candidates questioning a sitting president’s foreign policy while visiting foreign soil. Though, to be fair, the differences between his and President Obama’s approach to Israel and Iran are tonal and minor.

As usual with the U.S. media, what is remarkable is what is going unsaid. Here we are, with the economy in shambles and the public worried sick about it, the electorate tired of 12 years of war against Afghanistan and nine against Iraq, yet Romney—who could be president six months from now—is out ramping up tensions and increasing the odds of a brand-new, bigger-than-ever military misadventure.

Warmongering has gone mainstream. It’s a given.

In a way, Romney’s willingness to risk war against Iran is merely another example, like the car garage and dressage, of how clueless and out of touch he is. Most Americans oppose war with Iran. For that matter, so do the citizens of the country on whose behalf we’d be killing and dying, Israel. But even Romney’s Democratic opponents give him a pass for Romney’s tough-guy act on Iran.

The reason for the somnolent non-response is obvious: it’s nothing new. Year after year, on one foreign crisis after another, American presidents repeatedly state some variation on the theme that war is always an option, that the military option is always on the table. You’ve heard that line so often that you take it for granted.

But did you know that “keeping the military option on the table” is a serious violation of international law?

The United States is an original signatory of the United Nations Charter, which has the full force of U.S. law since it was ratified by the Senate in 1945. Article 51 allows military force only in self-defense, in response to an “armed attack.” As Yale law and political science professor Bruce Ackerman wrote in The Los Angeles Times in March, international law generally allows preemptive strikes only in the case of “imminent threat.” In 1842 Secretary of State Daniel Webster wrote what remains the standard definition of “imminent,” which is that the threat must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” The enemy’s troops have massed on your border. They have superior force. What must be done to stop them is evident. There’s no time for diplomacy.

Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t come close to this definition, even from Israel’s standpoint. Bruce Fein, deputy attorney general under Reagan, told Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! Magazine: “It is nothing short of bizarre to claim, as the Obama Administration is doing, that the mere capability to make a bomb is justification for a preemptive attack. That’s a recipe for perpetual war. Almost any country could have the capability to make a bomb. They are torturing the word ‘imminent’ to the point that it has no meaning.”

By endorsing an Israeli attack against Iran at a time when there is no proof that Iran has nuclear weapons, intends to develop them, or use them if it does, Romney is going farther than Obama, who has engaged in back-channel diplomacy.

The Allies’ main brief against the Nazi leaders tried at Nuremberg was not genocide, but that they had violated international law by waging aggressive war. Yet every American president has deployed troops in aggressive military actions.

Aggressive war hasn’t been good for America’s international image, the environment, our economy or the millions who have died, mostly for causes that are now forgotten or regretted. But unless we draw the line against reckless, irresponsible rhetoric like Romney’s, it will go on forever.

(Ted Rall’s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is This column originally appeared at


6 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Iran – Because Two Wars Aren’t Enough

  1. As Mr Rall says, war on Iran is completely wrong, and would have been illegal if there were really any International Law other than ‘unconditional defeat means the victors can do anything they want to the losers’.

    Unfortunately, KJP is right. The US is a democracy, and most voters support the military industrial complex and whatever it says it has to do.

  2. Ted,

    I realize the headline is somewhat sarcastic, but it points out the scariest part of this whole thing: When you have a military/industrial complex, you have to keep using the military. Whereas industry can be retooled for other purposes, the military really has only one purpose: to fight, almost always overseas.

    We HAVE to invade Iran. Or someone. Why? The analogy made in a Doctor Who episode comes to mind: it’s like a waterskin with a hole in it, and the hole’s getting bigger. You have to keep pouring in blood and treasure to sustain the military, and each expenditure requires additional blood and treasure.

    Consider what would happen if we DIDN’T invade Iran. Finish withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and what are we gonna do with all those military apparatus?

  3. The GDP of Israel and their so-called success is a fiction. What would Israel’s GDP look like if they did not receive billions in direct welfare payments from the US??? Romney, knows this but has chosen to pander.

    Providing a go ahead for Israel to attack Iran fits the reactionary Neo-Con agenda. Once Israel attacks and Iran fights back, the price of oil will sky rocket. The US will enter the conflict to protect “our interests.” Those interests being our Arab Puppet States and their oil resources. The US does not have the power to conduct a full fledged invasion of Iran, but would use the drones and cruise missiles.

    The Security-Wall Street Military-Industrial Complex knows how to make big bucks on War and this is the purpose of finding new enemies.

    By the way I knew Mitt was old enough to have been eligible for the Vietnam draft, but he avoided it. War is OK with Mitt, as long is he is not in the trenches.

  4. “Aggressive war hasn’t been good for America’s international image, the environment, our economy or the millions who have died, mostly for causes that are now forgotten or regretted. But unless we draw the line against reckless, irresponsible rhetoric like Romney’s, it will go on forever.”

    Unfortunately, Ted is missing the greater point. Go back to Gen Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket”. The concerns Ted raises are irrelevant to goals of the US and world elites. They are doing better than ever. Everyone else can go to hell.

    It is wrong to say the the US is the “world’s policeman”, the US is the world’s bully. That is “America’s international image”. As with any bully, people-or nations- put up with them; until another comes along. Talk to most non-Americans and you find they know the score exactly. It is Americans that live under the delusion of some great well-meaning force for good.

    The relatively high standard of living in the US (until lately) has been the direct result of devastation brought to others by the US military. You could cite the extermination of the native Americans, the war on Mexico, the invasion of the Philippines, the Iran-Contra affair, Iraq and on and on. Read a little Noam Chomsky, among many others, on the “American Empire”.

    Words by Romney in the middle east are entirely to reassure the power elite that he “gets it”, and that he can be counted on to play ball. You notice he didn’t take questions. Message delivered. It is supposed to “go on forever”.

  5. I think Syria is next, then Iran.

    War is a Racket on behalf of the Big Money Profiteers,
    the Banksters, and the ”Might Makes Right” politicians and civilians.

    From my time in Vietnam, I learned that the rice farmer
    just wanted to grow his rice, support his family and live in peace.

    I think the majority of people on this planet are the same way.

    So the villains are in the minority, but unfortunately they have all the power.

    Predatory capitalism will always win because money, and the power it buys,
    will always win.

    This will go on until we humans destroy our planet’s ability to support us.

    So our only hope is that an alien spacecraft will arrive, and mutate our genes
    so that we ALL wake up one morning programmed to live by our new genetic code:
    First Do No Harm.