July 4th and the 'Mischiefs of Foreign Intrigue'

While you're watching this fireworks this July 4th, take a moment to reflect on the words of International Atomic Energy Director Muhammad Al-Baradei, who said that a military strike on Iran would "turn the Middle East into a ball of fire." Also take a moment to reflect on just how far we have strayed from our nation's origins as a struggle for freedom and against the domination of an abusive empire.

George Washington cautioned our new nation against the "mischiefs of foreign intrigue". Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison all warned that the invasion and occupation of other lands would turn America into precisely the sort of occupying force they had rebelled against. "If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American," Thomas Jefferson said in 1791, "it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest."

Our founding fathers who fought against empire and foreign entanglements would be horrified that right before leaving for the July 4th break, Congress passed-and George Bush signed--the largest funding bill ever for the continued occupation of Iraq. Ignoring the will of the American people to end the war in Iraq, the Democrat-controlled Congress didn't even make any pretenses of trying to set a timetable for withdrawal or new benchmarks for evaluating progress. They passed the money with no restrictions whatsoever. Worse yet, they gave the President way more than he asked for ($108 billion) so they could avoid another war funding debate before the November election. There is now enough money in the pipeline to keep the war going until the end of June 2009, saddling a new president with an old, failed policy.
Not only has the 110th Congress failed to force any changes to Bush's open-ended war policy, it seems hell-bent on dragging us into a war with Iran. Instead of applying the lessons of the recent diplomatic success with North Korea-if we can negotiate with the super-secretive North Koreans surely we can negotiate with the far more open leadership of Iran-we are careening into another disaster. Take a moment to read the appalling language of House Resolution 362, sponsored by "liberal" New York Congressman Gary Ackerman with over 200 cosponsors . The arrogance of empire that underlies this resolution is stunning. It calls for imposing stringent inspection requirements "on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran." Do we really want to blockade Iran's borders? Wouldn't Iran be justified to view this as an act of war? As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asked in a June 24 editorial, "Are supporters of Res. 362 asleep at the wheel, or are they just anxious to drag us into another illegal war?"

Poll after poll shows that the American people want to bring our troops home from Iraq and do not want to get bogged down in another war. A May 19-21 Gallup Poll found that 6 in 10 Americans (59%) think it would be a good idea for the president of the United States to meet with the president of Iran. We want our leaders to use diplomacy to solve disputes, not violence. And with our nation confronting soaring gas prices, a rising jobless rate, and a shaky stock market, we can't afford to keep spending $12 billion a month on war.

So this July 4th, be a true patriot. Take some action to stop the U.S. domination of Iraq and prevent a new, even more disastrous war with Iran. Educate your friends and neighbors, write a letter to the editor, sign a petition. Call your elected officials (202-224-3121) and the offices of the presidential candidates and tell them not to support House Resolution 362 (Senate version Resolution 580), which is a prelude to war with Iran. Do something to move us towards a foreign policy our founding fathers would be proud of-a policy, as Thomas Jefferson urged, that would have "nothing to do with conquest."

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org).

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