Some 50 peace activists gathered in Watertown Square on June 1 to hold banners and signs saying “No War with Iran”. Cole Harrison made these remarks at a rally after the standout, drawing on research by Peace Action national executive director Jon Rainwater. The rally was also addressed by State Sen. Will Brownsberger; humorist and former Lt. Governor candidate Jimmy Tingle; National Iranian-American Council representative Mojgan Haji; and Watertown town councilor (and Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and Environment member) Tony Palomba, and was MC’d by MAPA’s Brian Garvey.
Friends, we gather today at a moment of extreme peril. President Trump’s march to war with Iran has kicked into high gear.
In May last year, Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in spite of Iran’s verifiable compliance. Then, he reimposed the full suite of U.S. sanctions lifted under the agreement aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.
But the latest developments leave no doubt in our minds. The Trump administration wants a war, and soon. We have a path to stop it, but Congress needs to act to assert its war powers.
In April, the administration designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran’s military, as a foreign terrorist organization, the first time a branch of a state’s military had been so designated. Iran reciprocated by designating U.S. Central Command as a terrorist organization, and the U.S. as a state sponsor of terror.
Then last month, John Bolton manufactured a so-called threat to threaten Iran with “unrelenting force” should Iran, or any of its proxies, attack U.S. interests in the region. In other words, the administration is expanding the scenarios in which it might attack Iran to include attacks on U.S. interests by regional militias aligned with Iran, increasing the risk of escalations that could lead to war.
The U.S. has done much to destabilize the Middle East. We attacked Afghanistan, on one side of Iran, and 18 years later, are still there — and Iraq, on the other side, and are still there. We bombed Libya and Somalia. We supported rebels seeking to overthrow the government of Syria, and supported Israel when it attacked Gaza, annexed the Golan Heights, and claimed jurisdiction over Jerusalem, all in violation of UN resolutions.
For four years the U.S. has been arming and supporting the Saudi-UAE coalition which has been systematically destroying Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, but one with a rich and ancient culture, because the resistance to Saudi efforts to control Yemen are led by the Houthis, a group of Zaydi Muslims who receive political support, and a modest amount of material assistance, from Iran. Both houses of Congress voted to end US involvement in the Yemen war, but our support for Saudi aggression continues because Trump vetoed that bill.
A week ago Trump approved $8 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan and bypassed the usual Congressional review process on such sales, claiming that an emergency required it. This sale includes precision-guided munitions and anti-tank missiles produced by Raytheon, whose headquarters are in Waltham, six miles from here. Raytheon stands to profit greatly from war with Iran. Its business outlook is strong due to increased geopolitical tensions. We will protest Raytheon’s whitewashing its image at the JFK Library’s Space Summit on June 19.
A war with Iran would be horrific. Iran is three times the size of Iraq. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff when we attacked Iraq in 2003, recently stated that the conflict would be “a disaster that will make the 10 years in Iraq look like child’s play by comparison.”
The Trump administration is building its case for war with Iran with the same dubious narratives of nuclear threats and ties to al Qaeda that brought us the Iraq war. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said, “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Al-Qaeda. Period, full stop.” Pompeo made that statement in spite of a 2018 study by the New America think tank that found “no evidence of cooperation” between al Qaeda and Iran. And since the US has managed to bully the Europeans and prevent Iran from realizing any economic benefits from the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran now plans to reduce its compliance with the accord. The administration will try to use the specter of an Iranian bomb to make its case for war.
Iran has no nuclear weapons nor does it have a nuclear weapons program. But the United States has almost 7,000 nuclear weapons, any one of which could destroy a metropolitan area. The U.S. is withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, developing a new and modernized nuclear weapons force at a cost of $1.7 trillion, refuses to adopt a no first use policy, and is rapidly increasing its military budget, taking money we desperately need to fund a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, forgive student loans, and expand education, housing, and transportation. What nation is really the greatest threat to peace?
Congress must support the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran act, sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, HR.2354. Senators Warren and Markey have both cosponsored the Senate version of this legislation. The House bill has 45 cosponsors, but only one of them is from Massachusetts, Jim McGovern. Where are Reps. Katherine Clark, Ayanna Pressley, Joe Kennedy, Stephen Lynch, and Lori Trahan in this crisis? When our country faces an unconstitutional war, they are missing in action. Where is Seth Moulton, who is running for president? He has so far declined to cosponsor the Eshoo bill, and while he said he would introduce his own bill, he hasn’t followed through. We call on these representatives to speak out against military threats against Iran, to call for the US to return to the Iran nuclear agreement, to drop sanctions against Iran, to cosponsor Rep. Eshoo’s legislation, and to vote against the military budget and new nuclear weapons spending. We will hold a Congress Watch meeting on Saturday, June 15 in Cambridge to organize peace activists to pressure Congress on this and other peace issues.
We thank the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment; the National Iranian-American Council; Arlington United for Justice with Peace; Cambridge United for Justice with Peace; United for Justice with Peace; and the Social Justice Ministries Council of the Harvard, MA Unitarian-Universalist Church, for their cosponsorship of today’s rally, and also the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice; and the Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars who held a sister rally today in Northampton.