By Robert Parry
So let me see if I’ve got this right: Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination, is demanding that George W. Bush take a more belligerent posture toward Iran.
In her view – and that of 75 other members of the U.S. Senate – President Bush hasn’t been aggressive or hasty enough in designating a large part of the Iranian military, the Revolutionary Guards, as an international terrorist organization.
The Senate resolution, approved on Sept. 26, recounts allegations that elements of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have supplied Iraqi Shia fighters with “explosively formed penetrator” bombs that have shattered U.S. armored vehicles and killed American troops.
In response, the Senate resolution calls on President Bush to list the Revolutionary Guards as “specially designated global terrorists.” In opposing the resolution, Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia, warned that the move could be tantamount to a declaration of war.
Despite Webb’s protest, 29 Democrats joined Republicans and neoconservative Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to pass the “sense of the Senate” resolution. The Democrats egging Bush on included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, California’s Dianne Feinstein and Michigan’s Carl Levin.
Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Richard Lugar of Indiana were the only Republicans voting no. Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut also opposed the measure. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was absent but said he would have voted against it.
But Hillary Clinton, who also voted to grant Bush the authority to go to war with Iraq in 2002 and staunchly supported the war for the next three years before reinventing herself as an Iraq War critic, now has reverted to her old hawkish self, jumping out ahead of Bush in urging a more hostile policy toward Iran.
Besides the extraordinary notion that Bush needs prodding into greater belligerence, there is the dangerous definitional problem of throwing the broad cloak of “terrorism” over Iraqis, who are resisting a U.S. military invasion force, and their alleged Iranian allies.
The classic definition of terrorism is violence directed against civilians to make a political point. The term shouldn't be applied to an indigenous population fighting an irregular war against a foreign occupying army, since that would have made everyone from George Washington to the French Resistance to the Afghanis confronting the Soviet occupation "terrorists."
Though Americans understandably detest anyone killing U.S. soldiers – whatever the circumstances – it is not "terrorism." In effect, the Senate resolution is choosing to use “terrorist” as a geopolitical curse word against any combatant who challenges U.S. military might.
While that "tough-guy/gal" stance might make political sense domestically – condemning anyone who dares take up arms against U.S. soldiers – the risk is that once the word “terrorist” is attached, it effectively dictates a course of action: negotiations with "terrorists" are prohibited and a host of draconian actions become unavoidable, even if they are counterproductive.
With a peaceful solution off the table, violence is almost guaranteed to escalate; more U.S. soldiers are likely to die; and American interests may be damaged. One might have thought that the lesson of loosely applying the epithet “terrorist” to an adversary would have been learned from the debacle that followed Bush falsely linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda.
That is a lesson now measured by the blood of some 3,800 dead American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. But it is a lesson that Hillary Clinton and those other senators – with their fingers to the political winds – apparently still haven’t learned.
-- Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.