In the months leading up to President Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq, I traveled around the world speaking to various international groups, including many parliamentary assemblies. I spoke about democracy and the need of any nation or group of nations espousing democracy as a standard to embrace the ideals and values of justice and due process in accordance with the rule of law. I spoke of international law, especially as it was manifested in the charter of the United Nations (a document signed and adopted by all of the countries I visited).Invariably, my presentation focused on the nation in question, whether it was Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan or Great Britain, and the status of its relationship with the United States. As an American, I said, I appreciated each nation's embrace of the United States as a friend and ally. However, as a strong believer in the rule of law, I deplored the trend among America's so-called friends to facilitate a needless confrontation which would severely harm the U.S. in the long run. These nations were hesitant to stand up to the United States even though they knew the course of action planned for Iraq was wrong.
Such permissive submission was deplorable, and invariably led to a comment from me about the status of genuine sovereignty in the face of American imperial power. If a nation was incapable of defending its sovereign values and interests, then it should simply acknowledge its status as a colony of the United States, pull down its disgraced national flag and raise the Stars and Stripes.
Now the tables have turned. Americans, through the will of the people as expressed in the November 2006 election, voiced their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the American war in Iraq, and empowered a new Democratic-controlled Congress to reassert itself as a separate but equal branch of government-especially when it came to matters pertaining to war and the threat of war.
This new Democratic leadership has failed egregiously. Not only has the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, been unable to orchestrate any meaningful legislation to bring the war in Iraq to an end, but in mid-March she carelessly greased the tracks for a whole new conflict. By excising language from a defense appropriations bill which would have required President Bush to seek the approval of Congress prior to initiating any military attack on Iran, Pelosi terminated any hope of slowing down the Bush administration's mad rush to war.
Despite the fact that Congress was only stating through this language a simple reflection of constitutional mandate, Speaker Pelosi and others felt that the inclusion of such verbiage put the security of the state of Israel at risk by eliminating important "policy options" for the president of the United States. In short, Israeli national security interests trumped the Constitution of the United States.
I consider myself to be a friend of Israel, a status which has been demonstrated repeatedly through words and deeds from January-February 1991, when I was involved in the effort to stop Iraq Scud missiles from striking Israel during the 1991Gulf War, to the period between October 1994 and June 1998 when I served as the lead liaison between the United Nations weapons inspectors and Israeli intelligence, working to find a final accounting of Iraq's proscribed weapons of mass destruction. I know only too well the precarious reality of Israel's security situation, and am sympathetic to its need to proactively deal with threats before they manifest themselves in a manner which threatens Israel's ability to survive as a nation-state.
However, as an American who served on active duty in time of war as an officer of Marines, I also remember the oath I took to "uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic." As such, I am troubled by the recent actions of Speaker Pelosi and other members of Congress who have not only abrogated their collective responsibility to uphold and defend the Constitution but have taken actions which, under normal circumstances and involving any other nation, would border on treasonous. Our collective duty as Americans must center on defending the very document, the Constitution, which defines who we are and what we are as a people and a nation. To have our elected representatives flagrantly push aside their constitutional responsibilities in the name of the security interests of another nation is unthinkable. And yet it has just happened, apparently without consequence.
Sadly, the new Democratic Congress has cemented its status as yet another iteration of a system which long ago sold its soul to special interests. Democrats can cackle about Republican scandals, including the Jack Abramoff affair, which brought down Rep. Tom DeLay among others. But history will show that the Pelosi-led sellout to Israeli special interests endangered the viability and security of America as a sovereign state governed by the rule of law more than Jack Abramoff ever could.
In this time of constitutional crisis, the American people need to wake up and demand that the basic tenets of the Constitution be adhered to. Congress is solely empowered by the Constitution to declare war. Demanding that the president of the United States adhere to this prerequisite is a logical and patriotic stance. Allowing any non-American interest, even one possessing such highly charged political and emotional sensitivities as Israel, to dictate otherwise represents nothing more than a capitulation of sovereignty. We the people need to rally around this defense of sovereignty. We must demand not only that Congress reassert its constitutional responsibilities and authority by demanding the president obey the letter of the law when it comes to war, whether against Iran or any other nation, but also to place in check the anti-American activities of one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, D.C., the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
For decades AIPAC has operated in the shadows of American foreign policy decision-making, exerting its influence on elected officials away from the public scrutiny of the very constituents who elected those officials to begin with. It is impossible to hold someone accountable for actions that are kept secret, and as such AIPAC's ability to secretly influence American foreign and national security policies represents a flagrant insult and threat to the very essence of American democracy. I am not advocating the dissolution of AIPAC. However, I am demanding that AIPAC be treated as any other representative of a foreign nation is treated. It should have to register as an agent of a foreign power so that the totality of its interactions with American officials can become a part of the public record. We require this of all other nations, including our good friends the British.
To state that AIPAC, and by extension Israel, is above the law in this regard is to acknowledge the reality that American national sovereignty no longer matters when it comes to the state of Israel. So be it. But then we are, collectively, no better than those nations I mocked prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as "colonies" of the United States. So if we are to continue to permit AIPAC to operate as an undeclared agent of a foreign nation, and to influence American foreign and national security policymaking at the expense of our Constitution, then we should acknowledge our true status as nothing more than a colony of Israel, pull down the Stars and Stripes and raise the Star of David over our nation's capitol. While representing the final act of submission, it would also be the first truly honest act that occurred in Washington, D.C., in many years.
Scott Ritter is a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998, and author of 'Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of America's Intelligence Conspiracy'