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Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!

25 August 2008

The blogosphere is humming with new efforts to prove that the Internet can make us dumber, with 11,000 stories (if I correctly read the Google search) about House Resolution 362 (aka “HR 362″).

Say No To War With Iran – H.R. 362“, by mediadude, posted at the Daily Kos, June 2008 — Opening:

I am not sure if anyone else brought this up yet. Over the last three weeks 77 House Democrats and 92 Republicans have agreed to cosponsor a new resolution against Iran that demands that President Bush “initiate an international effort” to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on Iran to prevent it from importing gasoline and to inspect all cargo entering or leaving Iran.

H.R. 362: Proposed U.S. Naval Blockade on Iran Amounts to ‘an Act of War‘”, By David R. Kimball, Indybay, 29 June 2008 — Excerpt:

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that, if it becomes law, would impose a naval blockade on Iran. It “demands” that the President impose “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran.” House Resolution 362 was introduced May 22, 2008 and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; by June 18th it had attracted 146 co-sponsors. According to an article by Andrew W. Cheetham: “experts say that the measures called for in the resolutions amount to an act of war”.

“HR 362 and the Alarming Escalation of Hostility Towards Iran”, CommonDreams and the Center for Research on Globalization (aka GlobalResearch — one of those circulating the rumors about an US armada sailing to the Gulf), 9 July 2008 — Excerpt:

The current tension among political observers as to whether the U.S. and/or Israel will undertake military action against Iran before president Bush leaves office has been greatly intensified by the prospect that Congress will pass a frightening resolution, HR 362, as early as this week. … The wording of the Resolution is chilling in the extreme … The “stringent inspection requirements” listed would require a naval blockade, thereby constituting an act of war.

Update: Dems bury resolution due to war fears“, Washington Times, 26 September 2008.

The bill that so many blogs reported as fact — American public policy — has been killed. This illustrates the folly of getting too worked up about pending legislation. Getting worked up to influence it is good; reporting on it as if already passed and signed is just misrepresentation.

Before hitting the panic button, let’s run the FM 2 minute forensic drill on this.

Contents

  1. What is HR 362?
  2. Status of the resolution
  3. Summary of the resolution
  4. The author’s interpretation of the resolution
  5. Other Representatives speak about the resolution

1.  What is HR 362

The full title is “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act“, passed by the House on 24 April 2007 – now awaiting Senate action.  How does this spark a war with Iran?  It does not (probably).  The rumor-mongers have confused this with …

House Concurrant Resolution 362: “Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes.”  Not a good sign that many of the rumor-mongers cannot correctly name the bill, but another example of their disinterest in the most trivial fact-checking.

A listing of blog articles about HCR 362, posted by OpenCongress (note:  they correctly described it).

2.  Status of the resolution

Introduced on 22 May 2008 by Gary Ackerman [D-NY], and on that date referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. So far there has been no hearings on it. As you can see from the summary below, it looks inconsequential. A statement by the bill’s author confirms this.

3.  Summary of the resolution

(A) Declares that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability through economic, political, and diplomatic means is vital to U.S. national security.

(B) Urges the President to use his authority to impose sanctions on:

  1. Iranian banks engaged in proliferation activities or the support of terrorist groups;
  2. international banks which conduct financial transactions with proscribed Iranian banks;
  3. energy companies with large investments in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector; and
  4. all companies which do business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

(C) Demands that the President initiate an international effort to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

(D) Urges the President to lead a regional diplomatic effort to support the legitimate governments in the region against Iranian destabilization efforts.

Note:  Senate Concurrant Resolution 580 is somewhat similar:  “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”  Introduced on 2 June 2008 by Evan Bayh [D-IN], and on that date referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Both resolutions were introduced by members of the Democratic Party.

4.  The author’s interpretation of the resolution — and a correction

Text of a press release by Representative Ackerman, dated 9 July 2008:

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, today {9 July} delivered the following opening statement on H. Con. Res. 362 during the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on U.S. Policy towards Iran. 

So it is with puzzlement that I find that some have described a non-binding resolution that I have introduced, along with Mr. Pence and cosponsored by a majority of the House, urging the President to “increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran.” They describe that as a resolution declaring war and calling for a naval blockade. Nothing could be further from the truth or my intent. So I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify what H.Con.Res. 362 does and does not do.

First, it is a concurrent resolution. As my colleagues know, it doesn’t get presented to the President, and it doesn’t get signed, and it thus does not either become law or have the force of law. It’s the sense of Congress. Assertions that the resolution constitutes a declaration of war are just absurd.

Second, the final whereas clause of the resolution states as explicitly as the English language will allow “Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.” Since a naval blockade is by definition the use of force, the language of this resolution renders the prospect of a naval blockade simply out of the question. This resolution should not be the straw man that some would seek.

Third, the resolution calls on the President to “initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran.” To point out the obvious, there is no mention of military pressure, much less a blockade and the effort the President is called upon to make is international and diplomatic, not unilateral and military.

Fourth, the resolution calls for the President to seek the international community’s support for an export ban on refined petroleum, not a blockade. Iran does not export refined petroleum products, it imports them. Therefore an export ban on refined petroleum would be enforced by customs inspectors and export administrators on the territories of the exporting nations, not in the Persian Gulf. This method is already in use by the international community, including the United States to enforce the four existing UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.

Fifth, the resolution calls for the President to seek the international community’s support for inspections of everything going into or coming out of Iran. This step, like the petroleum export ban, neither mandates nor requires a naval blockade to be put into effect. The inspections called for would be done at ports of embarkation and disembarkation, not by blockade.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, the whole idea that the resolution calls for a blockade can only be sustained by a determined refusal to read the resolution, or to accept the plain meaning of the words within it. Put simply, the only way to find a blockade or a declaration of war in the text of H.Con.Res. 362 is to insert them by the amending power of imagination alone.

Update:  Note the fourth item.  Ackerman understates the significance of a ban on export refined products to Iran.  The resolution does not authorize force, and this can be done by trade sanctions.  However, Japan’s response to a similar measure in 1941 was Pearl Harbor.  This is a serious measure, which will force Iran to either fold — or strike back hard.

5.  Other representatives speak about the resolution

(a)  On July 9 Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO) removed his name as cosponsor

(b)  On 9 July Represenative Robert Wexler (D-FL) called for changes to the resolution.  Excerpt from his press release:

It is clear that despite carefully worded language in H. Con. Res. 362 that “nothing in this resolution should be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran” that many Americans across the country continue to express real concerns that sections of this resolution will be interpreted by President Bush as “a green light” to use force against Iran.

The language that is most disconcerting in the resolution is the third resolved clause, which demands that the president initiate among several things an “international effort to impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.”

I firmly believe it was not the intention of the authors of this resolution to open the door to a US blockade or armed conflict with Iran. However, I fully understand and share the American public’s mistrust of President Bush and his administration, which has abused its executive powers, willfully misled this nation into a disastrous war in Iraq and disturbingly continues to beat the Iran war drum.

To that end, I am not willing to leave even the “slightest crack” open for this president to unilaterally set this nation down another disastrous path of war in Iran. It is unacceptable for Congress once again to leave the door open for President Bush to exploit — as he did when Congress authorized the use of military force against Iraq in a 2002 resolution. I believe it is essential that Congress remove the language in H. Con. Res. 362 that could lead to president Bush’s unilateral imposition of a blockade on Iran.

(c)  On 16 July Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) released a statement in support of HCR 362.

Hat tip to Patrick for bringing this to my attention.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

My other posts about this rumor

  1. More rumors of war: our naval armada has sailed to Iran!, 9 August 2008 — Tracing the origin of these rumors.
  2. Update on the rumored armada sailing to Iran, 13 August 2008 — With updates from Stratfor and Debkafile.
  3. A US naval armada is en route to blockade Iran and start WWIII (the story gets better every day), 14 August 2008 — More details from one of the bloggers who shot this story into cyberspace, and an official US denial.
  4. UPI reports on the multi-national armada sailing to Iran, 15 August 2008
  5. Stop the presses: no naval armada has sailed to blockade Iran!, 20 August 2008

Other posts about the Internet: does it make us smarter or dumber?

  1. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web, 7 February 2008
  2. Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis — and some lessons learned, 8 February 2008
  3. What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
  4. The oddity of reports about the Iraq War, 13 March 2008
  5. Euphoria about the Bakken Formation, 10 April 2008
  6. The Internet makes us dumber: the Bakken euphoria, a case study, 15 April 2008
  7. Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber? , 15 June 2008
  8. A Congressman ignites a netstorm about Twitter, 9 July 2008
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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Celebau permalink
    25 August 2008 11:20 am

    These articles work on the level of myth and folklore, which in turn operate on a level that language and reason do not.

    The Internet as the modern day Oracle, when people have no faith in authority or anything, the rapidly changing – almost hypnagogic imagery of the internet offers a seductive alternative source of recieved wisdom.

    Potentially dangerous belief systems thus created can have corrosive effects on a society and its ability to handle rapid and/or long term change.

    The cause of this is not because we are necessarily dumb. The human brain has simplyt never evolved the mechanisms needed to deal with this sort of informationl assault, because the need never previously existed.

    The Internet – your own personal Oracle. It can and does speak profoundly to some people on a level that reason does not.

    Like

  2. Yours Truly permalink
    25 August 2008 12:03 pm

    “& so ’twas Fated, that in the First Decade of the “Second Dark Age” that the Peoples were fed with a continuous stream of MISINFORMATION & PROPAGANDA. Believing thus in the Idols of Tell – a – Vision (Talking Heads, Oracles) & the InTurn – Net (b[s]Logs), losing Faith & Belief in their Gods on that once glorious Versailles – on – the – Potomac…flawed Orientations evolved from a daily diet of Informational Assaults (Psychological Operations).

    Praying & Wishing for a Saviour which only Exists in Their Collective Minds…to Rescue their Behinds from their Horrid Predicaments.” : a page from the Annals of a Radical Historian in the Kingdom of England, dated 1st.Jan.22XX

    Like

  3. Yours Truly permalink
    25 August 2008 12:16 pm

    Time perhaps to reread the Classics : Thucydides, Machiavelli, von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, et al. Best of all, those works penned by authors of the Victorian Era. Readily available in Penguin paperbacks.

    Like

  4. 25 August 2008 2:45 pm

    It’s a fig leaf anyway, if the U.S. decides to attack Iran or allow Israel to attack known nuclear facilities, Bush and Cheney will create whatever situation is called for resolution or not.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a bitter truth. If the President can obtain the necessary support from Congress, he can attack Iran at will.

    Like

  5. Pode permalink
    25 August 2008 3:29 pm

    Ackerman’s defense of his bill confirms that he is an utter fuckwit. Wexler called him out, the only possible implementation of the clause in paragraph 3 is a naval blockade. That language is in the implementation section, the whereas comments are simply preamble. Insofar as this bill has any meaning at all (which granted isn’t much), what meaning it has is in the resolved parts, not the whereas. So the resolution resolves that the sense of Congress is that a naval blockade of Iran is a good idea. Which is hardly TEOTWAWKI, but still cause for concern.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: The author, Ackerman, responded to these concerns in his statement. Also note that this appears to have little chance of passage in its current form. Hence the hysteria about this resolution seems unreasonable, esp as most of the articles are materially incorrect.

    Like

  6. 25 August 2008 3:45 pm

    The truly bitter truth is that, if neither the US nor Israel (nor Iraq) attacks Iran before they get a nuke, and forces regime change, then the current Iranian regime will get one.

    Biased criticism of an alternative most often fails to discuss the (most probable) alternative.

    The Dems are calling for, de facto acceptance of Iran getting a nuke, while making it look like they oppose the Iranian policy thru words, talking, and “to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran.”

    The same policy which has been so successful at stopping genocide in Sudan – NOT.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: The danger of nuclear weapons is totally unrelated to genocide, and there is not basis IMO for conflating them. The latter is a bad thing, but of little effect on us.

    Many experts, such as Martin van Creveld, believe that nukes have a stabilizing effect. They have proved correct so far, but the future might be different. However, ignoring history — saying that Iran getting nukes is doom — seems both unfounded and poor analysis.

    Like

  7. pluto permalink
    25 August 2008 5:36 pm

    Fabius, you are doing the world a real service in tracking down and dispelling the myths and rumors around the US-Iran situation. The situation is tense enough without all the rumors.

    Like

  8. 25 August 2008 10:25 pm

    The U.S. and the Soviet Union and later China had nukes without using them in any conflict involving themselves. The U.S. withdrew from Vietnam as China did later without using nukes. The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and later broke up without using nukes. Nor has India and Pakistan used them against each other despite constant tension. Israel has not used them in any Arab war so far.

    The concern with Iran would be that hatred of Israel and the U.S. would lead to Iran using them no matter the cost because of religion. The real target for Iran has been and always will be Saudi Arabia. Would Israel move to protect Saudi Arabia against an Iranian attack across the Gulf? That depends on the end game and what America wants. No one in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe and Russia wants Iran to get nuclear weapons, but a preemptive attack by Israel or the U.S. will cause a violent and long lasting reaction around the world.

    Like

  9. 27 August 2008 9:20 pm

    The Shah had gone so far down the road to modernizing Iran, but we had so many people here who wanted to see the Shah deposed. A sad day for Iran.

    They were critical of the Shah’s secret police, but then they were replaced by worse. From a friendly regime it has morphed into a threat to the mid-East and, with recent alliances in this hemisphere, to much of the world. Thd same people who carried signs calling for the Shah’s ouster, are those who support Illegal Immigrants, etc., today.

    Mamoud Ahmadinejad enjoys his game of rattling sabers and there should be little doubt that given any advantage, such as atomic weaponry, he will be the “reckless one” in the game of world politics. Iranians as a whole most likely want peace, to carry on their daily lives in their own way, but it seems Mahmoud and the Ayatollah would sacrifice everything simply to destroy Israel no matter what the cost to his nation. Iranians are in;dustrious, a cultured lovely people, for the most part, but with tremendous pockets of poverty. I saw a bit of it up close in 1943 and ’44.

    Would that a way could be found to bring about a resolution to these international problems without making them all suffer for the misdeeds of a few.

    Like

  10. Yours Truly permalink
    28 August 2008 8:31 pm

    To Howard E. Morseburg :

    sir, perhaps Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is losing support rapidly and thus resorting to the old ploy of distracting the masses from domestic problems by fomenting hatred for a common enemy (the foreign devil). MHO of course.

    With regards to Iran under the Shah, history as FM has commented previously, seems so much easier in hindsight, especially two or three decades after all the confusion and turmoil.

    Like

  11. 27 September 2008 3:44 am

    Update: Dems bury resolution due to war fears“, Washington Times, 26 September 2008.

    The bill that so many blogs reported as fact — American public policy — has been killed. This illustrates the folly of getting too worked up about pending legislation. Getting worked up to influence it is good; reporting on it as if already passed and signed is just misrepresentation.

    Like

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