The October Surprise May be Coming

10/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Dan Kovalik Human & Labor Rights Lawyer, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law

While the media and blogosphere have been preoccupied with the maternity issues surrounding Sarah Palin's family, a much more important news development occurred over the weekend. Sadly, almost no one bothered reporting about it.

To wit, according to a September 1, 2008 article in the Jerusalem Post (an article I found through a link at, the U.S. is planning to attack Iran "within weeks." The source for this information, as noted in the article, is the Dutch intelligence service (also known as the AIVD). According to the article, the AIVD has called off its ongoing spy operation in Iran, and pulled out its intelligence operatives, "due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is imminent . . . ."

This article also reported that Iran has warned that if such an attack went forward, "it would be the start of another World War." Iran is not alone in this assessment. According to a 2006 report from the Oxford Research Group, "A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of west Gulf states being involved as well." The same report concluded that, at a minimum, thousands would die as the result of a U.S. attack upon Iran. And, the impacts predicted by this assessment should be seen as quite conserservative now in light of the recent re-emergence of Russia on the world stage which only heightens the possiblity of a greater war.

Of course, the reported Dutch assessment that the U.S. will imminently attack Iran does not guarantee the certaintly of such an attack. And, I have read at least one commentary opining that the Dutch report may itself constitute psychological operations against Iran -- that is, that the report itself is designed to intimidate the Iranian people by posing a false specter of war. At the same time, the report certainly has some air of credibility, and adds to the growing weight of speculation that a military assault against Iran is in the offing. Given the disastrous global consequences which would follow from such an attack, it is incredible that no mainstream media source in the U.S. (at least that I know of) thought that this report was worth sharing with the American public. This is but another example of how the Fourth Estate has simply collapsed in this country.

Given what appears to be a real possibility of an impending military attack on Iran, it is important to point out that any such strike would be both immoral and illegal. Indeed, the carrying out of such an attack for the ostensible purpose of destroying a nuclear program which Iran claims is peaceful, and which the U.S.'s own National Intelligence Report has concluded is peaceful, would constitute the "waging of aggressive war" -- a war crime of the highest order. As the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg concluded, it is "essentially an evil thing . . .to initiate a war of aggression . . . ," and such a war "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." The fact that an "aggressive war" against Iran could set off a world-wide conflagration (just as the Nazi aggression against sovereign nations in Europe did) is the very type of heightened evil which the Nuremberg Tribunal was decrying.

Indeed, even if it were proven that Iran is engaged in the development of nuclear weapons (and there is no evidence that it is), any attack premised on this basis would still constitute an "aggressive war" under the Nuremberg principles. This is so because the mere development of nuclear weapons (especially when the U.S. has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world and Israel, with 150 nuclear weapons, is the only nuclear power in the Middle East) is not in and of itself a provocation which would justify war. And, Iran has not otherwise provided any provocation for war.

The truth is that Iran has been cooperative with the United States, having aided its efforts against the Taliban in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and having formally offered in 2003 to engage in comprehensive negotiations with the United States over its nuclear program as well as with assisting the U.S. in tackling the problem of the Iraq "insurgency."

Moreover, if, as I suspect, such an attack by the U.S. were motivated by the intention to try to influence the outcome of the November elections (in favor of McCain), this would make such an attack all the more legally and morally deplorable.

In light of the above, people of conscience and good will must take steps to prevent such an attack from coming to pass. First, it is critical that the U.S. public be informed of the possibility of such an attack and encouraged to raise their voices against it. In addition, the Obama/Biden team must get out in front of this story and denounce such an attack as illegal, immoral and calculated to improperly influence the presidential elections. Finally, peace activists must take all non-violent measures to try to stop such an attack - for example, by organizing marches and demonstrations, sitting down in Congressional offices and military recruitment centers and otherwise attempting to disrupt business as usual in protest of the plans for such an act of aggressive war.