Those echoes that Americans are hearing in the noisy-and-getting-noisier debate about Iran are from 2002 and 2003, when members of the current administration were busy spinning the fantasy that the United States needed to attack Iraq.
George "Uranium From Africa" Bush sure sounds like he wants to attack Iran. Just last week, the president said, "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from (obtaining) the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Dick "Greeted As Liberators" Cheney sure sounds like he wants to attack Iran. This week, the vice president declared: "Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions."
Secretary of State Condoleezza "Mushroom Clouds" Rice sure sounds like she wants to attack Iran. "Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon..." Rice said on Thursday, as she announced drastic new sanctions against the country that serious analysts say poses little threat to its neighbors and no real threat to the U.S.
And, as in 2002 and early 2003, the most rational response is coming from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who says, "After the lies and deception used to lead us to war in Iraq, the belligerent Bush Administration cannot be given leeway with statements that suggest a preemptive attack on Iran is necessary," says Kucinich, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nod who deserves a much better hearing that he has been afforded so far by the media and Democratic power brokers. "We are systematically destroying every available route to restoring peace and security in the Middle East," he adds.
Kucinich may be running for the White House, but his message is most relevant to Capitol Hill. "Congress," he says, "must take back its exclusive authority to declare war from the Bush Administration."
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But being right is not always enough in tenuous times.
Being heard is what matters.
It could well be that the American experiment's best hope lies in the remote prospect that, having been proven right in 2002 and 2003, it will be Kucinich's counsel -- as opposed to that of Bush, Cheney and Rice -- that is heeded in this new moment of peril.
The point here is not a political one. This is not about whether Kucinich becomes president, or the Democratic nominee, or even a strong contender in his race with cautious Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This is about the most fundamental question in a democracy: At a time when talk of war is growing louder, will we hear a real debate or merely the exaggerated echoes of those who have never gotten anything right?
The answer could well be measured by the extent to which Dennis Kucinich and those who stood with him in 2002 and 2003 are afforded the forums that their record of having been able to cut through the spin of the past should afford them in the present.
John Nichols' new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"
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