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Bush's Heated 'World War III' Rhetoric

By Brent Budowsky
October 23, 2007

Editor’s Note: War clouds are building again over Iran, with Israeli and American hard-liners pressing for air attacks against Iranian military and nuclear sites. President George W. Bush added his own ominous thunder with a public warning about World War III, and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton voted for a Senate resolution calling on Bush to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity.

In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky urges some serious thought before things get out of hand:

The president speaks of World War III and potential war with Iran with fevered rhetoric, in a near hysterical atmosphere, at a moment of great danger in the world.

The Congress, which has surrendered much of its constitutional responsibility on war and peace while the president aggressively seizes it, treats discussion of World War III as business as usual in Washington.

Our military leaders, facing intense debate among junior and mid-level officers about their responsibility for the tragedy in Iraq, offer private warnings to the president while they present to the nation the false public face of unanimity.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said the probability of an American attack against Iran is higher than our public debate suggests, while the rhetoric from the president, vice president and Republican candidates for president becomes so fevered it borders on irrational.

World War III?

When the Senate passed a resolution declaring a faction of the Iranian government a terrorist organization, the faction is led by a commander in chief, the Supreme Ayatollah of Iran, who is declared, inherently, a terrorist himself.

Did senators realize the implications of this?

Senators had forgotten, again, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in Congress was distorted into an effective declaration of war in Vietnam.

Senators had forgotten, again, that the Iraq resolution in 2002 was distorted into an effective declaration of war in Iraq.

It is ominous to note the eerie parallels between the debate about Iraq in 2002 and the debate about Iran in 2007.

The president who used fear of mushroom clouds to frighten the country to war in Iraq now escalates his promotion of fear to World War III, quoting some of the most unwise voices in the history of American national security.

To compare our situation today with anything remotely resembling World War II is the height of extremism and distemper from a president who has allowed the real enemy who killed our neighbors on Sept. 11, 2001 to regroup and resurge.

If the president sincerely believes America may be on the brink of World War III he should address the nation and tell our people exactly how he defines the danger, exactly how he will ask our people to sacrifice for the solution, and exactly what are the costs and risks of fighting and winning this Third World War.

If the Congress intends on exercising its constitutional duty in 2007 more responsibly than it has since 2002, its leaders should directly address the dangers, costs and consequences of potential war with Iran and the state of the American military today.

If our military leaders are currently preparing plans that are even remotely comparable to what is being called World War III, they should testify before Congress and the people about exactly what resources they need today and will need tomorrow if America initiates yet another war at this dangerous moment.

Today the Iraq war appears interminable. The Afghanistan war is locked in bloody stalemate. The war against terrorism lags as al Qaeda has come back strongly. Pakistan faces a dangerous crisis. Turkey moves troops near the Iraq border. Putin monopolizes power. Cold War rhetoric returns.

Our military faces extreme disruption, yet the president considers a new war with Iran, and speaks in terms of World War III, with an election-year debate that is fearful, shallow and largely uninformed.

The military and intelligence communities should present a comprehensive and current analysis detailing all intelligence, regarding all matters involving Iran and the impact of a potential U.S. attack. Dissenting views should be clearly presented.

All members of the House and Senate should read it and fully debate the consequences on our current wars, and our dangerously distressed military.

Responsible members of the Senate and House, from both parties, should demand a highest-level diplomatic initiative toward Iran and Syria to determine whether the dangers, which are real, can be averted by diplomacy that is credible, bipartisan and substantial.

The president is not a congressman, columnist or blogger. When the man with his finger on the nuclear button and a history of major military misjudgment speaks of a Third World War, it is time for the most serious national debate and the highest level of American diplomacy to avoid these draconian dangers.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at [email protected]. [This article first appeared in The Hill.]

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