As the threat of war "looms" amidst a coordinated push by the Trump administration that has ratcheted up tensions with Iran, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on the U.S. Congress and the American people to work together to ensure that another mistake like the 2003 invasion of Iraq—"the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history"—is not allowed to happen again.
"The constitution is very clear: it is Congress, not the president, who decides when we go to war. It is imperative that Congress immediately make it clear to the president that taking us into hostilities with Iran without congressional authorization would be both unconstitutional and illegal."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders"The drums of war are beating in Washington again," Sanders wrote in a Friday night Guardian op-ed as he demanded Congress "do everything it can to prevent this war" and that people speaking out against the prospect of a U.S. attack—ultimately ignored by lawmakers ahead of the Iraq War—be listened to this time around.
According to the op-ed:
Sixteen years ago, the US committed one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of our country by attacking Iraq. That war was sold to the American people based on a series of lies about weapons of mass destruction. One of the leading advocates for that war was John Bolton, who served as a member of the Bush administration and is now Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Incredibly, even today, Bolton is one of the few remaining people in the world who continues to believe that the Iraq war was a good idea.
That war led to the deaths of more than 4,400 American troops, with tens of thousands of American soldiers wounded, many severely, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed. It unleashed a wave of radicalism and destabilization across the region that we will be dealing with for many years to come. It was the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history.
Trump campaigned on getting the US out of "endless wars," but his administration is taking us down a path that has made war with Iran more and more likely.
As Common Dreams reported on Friday, progressive anti-war critics have sounded the alarm over the Trump administration's claim that it has outright authority to launch offensive strikes against Iran. While Trump admitted Friday that he called off a bombing raid just minutes before it was set to begin—a claim and timeline of events that new reporting has now called into question—Sanders argues that the U.S. Constitution is explicit in stating that the executive branch does not possess such power.
"The constitution is very clear: it is Congress, not the president, who decides when we go to war," wrote Sanders. "It is imperative that Congress immediately make it clear to the president that taking us into hostilities with Iran without congressional authorization would be both unconstitutional and illegal."
Congress, he added, "must do everything it can to prevent this war."
A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster.
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-It would further destabilize the region
-It would result in never-ending war
-It would likely cost trillions of dollars
-Thousands of lives would be lost
We must not fight another unnecessary war. https://t.co/mP3mYRvsl0
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 21, 2019
Backing Sanders' call, John Nichols, writing for The Nation late on Friday, detailed why, "since the shambling excuse for a president will not stand down, it is time for Congress to stand up."
With several provisions moving through both the House and the Senate, Nichols reports, there are specific ways that lawmakers could exert their authority to curtail the president if they so choose.
"The House and Senate," Nichols demanded, "need to send clear signals regarding the intentions of the branch of government that is constitutionally charged with responsibility for declaring wars and authorizing or rejecting military missions."
With powerful voices—both in government and in the media agitating for war against Iran—Sanders in his op-ed emphasized that the same mistakes that led to the disastrous decision of 2003 must not be repeated.
"Voices of dissent went unheeded in the lead-up to the Iraq war," Sanders said. "They must be heeded now."