Since retiring from the Army, General Wesley Clark has done much to advance the foreign policy debate in this country. Thankfully, Gen. Clark has taken the time to speak out against escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, going so far as to establish the website www.StopIranWar.com. Recently, however, Gen. Clark has expressed his support for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, a tragic non-binding resolution that does more to undo Gen. Clark's own work toward diplomacy than even the most confrontational words by the Bush administration.
In his piece "I Support Hillary's Position on Iran," Gen. Clark went out on a limb in supporting an amendment that, in his words, "designates the odious Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization in order to strengthen our diplomatic hand." Rather than strengthen diplomacy, this amendment gives the Bush administration carte blanche to continue in its non-diplomatic track toward a war with the Islamic Republic -- the last thing we need when over 160,000 of our troops are still in neighboring Iraq and with no return ticket home.
The amendment suggests that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be designated a terrorist organization. More alarmingly, it calls for the use of various means, including "military instruments," to "roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Needless to say, this amendment sends a signal to the White House and the international community that the United States Congress, not just President Bush, desires a confrontation with Iran.
As many readers already commented on the original post, the Revolutionary Guard is not a terrorist organization, but an elite, multi-faceted armed forces that is responsible for some of the most revered tactical victories of the Iran-Iraq War. Certainly, the Revolutionary Guard's "Qods," or "Jerusalem" force has been associated with terrorist support operations, and the Bush administration, as well as the Senate, had the opportunity to limit their terrorist name-calling game to the Qods alone. Instead, they chose to label "terrorist" an entire, far-reaching organization that manages the most sophisticated naval air force in the Gulf, along with many of Iran's advanced research and development ventures, including the domestically popular nuclear program.
It is the Revolutionary Guard, whose majority of members actually voted for reformist President Mohammad Khatami in the 1997 and 2001 elections, that the Iranian people will look to in the event of war with a foreign power. Like every other aspect of Iranian politics, there are sides of the Guard that are horrific, and others that make the Iranian people proud. They are certainly not all terrorists.
I applaud much of the work that both Gen. Clark and Senator Clinton have done for our country. But they have made mistakes. Their early support for the current war in Iraq is chief among them, and one would hope that as this president pushes for yet another unwarranted conflict, the rest of us would be pushing back. I hope that Gen. Clark reconsiders his support for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and continues his useful and far-reaching work for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.