Op-Ed: Avoiding a catastrophic war with Iran

The Norman Transcript – Editorial page

January 21, 2012

Avoiding a catastrophic war with Iran
By Nathaniel Batchelder

NORMAN — Pray cooler heads will guide America in the dialogue and decision-making over Iran’s position in the world.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and there is no certain evidence that such a program is under way.  Certainly, Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the interests of world peace demand that these issues be resolved without military action that could launch a catastrophic war.

Another war would destroy America’s painful recovery from the indebtedness of two wars and the 2008 economic crash.  Gasoline prices would probably go up another dollar per gallon.  The Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ final costs will exceed $2 trillion.  Some estimates say $4 trillion, or even $6 trillion, including lifelong care for veterans physically or emotionally disabled.  Iran has four times the population of Iraq, many times the military capability, and would seek support from other nations like Russia and China, possibly sparking an unpredictable regional war.

Political hawks and shock-jocks on talk radio condemn Presidential calls for negotiations and dialogue to resolve such matters without military action as weakness. The U.S. spends as much on military preparedness as the rest of the world combined, so no one can doubt America’s capacity to wage war.  It is shocking that the theme song of one national talk show host states, “We’ll put a boot up your ass, it’s the American way.”  The world does not find this amusing or appealing.

More than 6,000 American families grieve the deaths of sons and daughters in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.  More than 30,000 US troops have been physically wounded in action, and untold numbers have returned home emotionally and psychically disabled.  Suicides of war veterans each month exceed combat deaths.

Official estimates of some 100,000 deaths in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan are considered low by other calculations.  The British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) has estimated Iraqi deaths at closer to 1 million, with some 5 million becoming displaced refugees who are homeless or have left the country.  Many believe our wars in the Middle East are breeding resentments that will last lifetimes.  War brings big profits to military contractors and oil companies that simply raise their prices.  Everyone else pays dearly, in dollars, lives, and blood.

The people of Iran are not well served by having a bellicose posturing leader in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Cowboy professions of toughness are usually hot air appealing to the pride of some, but are not helpful to the interests of peace.  The vast majority of humanity desperately hopes for negotiated resolutions to political tensions to avoid war and its deaths and destruction that ruin lives and wreck economies.

The United States must lead the world in calling for cooler rhetoric and civil dialogue by all nations in the Iran discussion.  Israel particularly must relax its rhetoric, confident that its close alliance with the United States and its own arsenal of some 600 nuclear weapons renders it a muscular regional power whose sovereignty is unquestioned.

War truly is hell, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan remind us too well.  Let’s remember that the terrible attacks on America of 9/11, 2001, were not from a nation, but from an alliance of individuals from many nations, most prominently Saudi Arabia.  The U.S. attack on Iraq is now admittedly blamed on “faulty intelligence,” misinformation and miscalculation.  Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the Iraq war would last six weeks and that U.S. forces would be welcomed with flowers as liberators.

All Americans opposed to another war must stand behind leaders seeking nonviolent resolutions to world situations that could blow up into wars that would wreck our economy, raise oil prices, profit only a few, and cause incalculable suffering everywhere, while we taxpayers foot the bill.

__The author is a Vietnam veteran and is the director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City – a center for public education on justice, peace, and environmental issues.