by Dover Bitch

Revisiting Digby's post on the Lieberman Amendment, some Senators are explaining themselves and it looks like they've lost the thread, too. Here's Sen. Russ Feingold explaining why he voted for the amendment:

While I don't agree with Senator Lieberman when it comes to Iraq, his amendment having to do with Iran offered yesterday was not controversial because it basically just required a report on Iran's role in Iraq and any responses by the US government.

I'm stunned by this response, and not just because it's from Feingold. Apparently, the addition of this clause has convinced senators like Harry Reid that the bill is benign:

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran.

I just don't see how anybody who's been paying attention can come to that conclusion. First of all, consider the source:

"I think we have to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman said. Host Bob Schieffer followed-up: "Let's just stop right there. Because I think you probably made some news here, Senator Lieberman. You're saying that if the Iranians don't let up, that the United States should take military action?" "I am," Lieberman responded.

Lieberman added that "if there's any hope" of stopping Iran's nuclear program, "we can't just talk to them. ... We've got to use our force and to me that would include taking military action."

That was a month ago. While the extent of Lieberman's dementia on this issue is something altogether different than the text of this amendment and its legal implications, it would behoove anybody considering an amendment on this topic from this particular senator to be as skeptical as possible. A 97-0 vote doesn't indicate much skepticism.

Lieberman's motives don't exist in a vacuum, either. It's been clear for a long time that this administration is itching for a war with Iran. Josh Marshall wrote about the neocon fantasy of "spreading the chaos" way back in 2003. We know that the administration tried to get authorization to fight in Iran and Syria when the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq was approved.

We have been told by The Guardian that Bush essentially gave Tony Blair a chance to pull the United States into a war with Iran when 15 British sailors were captured last March.

We also heard from Sy Hersh that the administration has been manipulating language in order to avoid Congressional oversight into their actions involving Iran:

The new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by C.I.A. operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.

" 'Force protection' is the new buzzword," the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the Pentagon's position that clandestine activities that can be broadly classified as preparing the battlefield or protecting troops are military, not intelligence, operations, and are therefore not subject to congressional oversight. "The guys in the Joint Chiefs of Staff say there are a lot of uncertainties in Iran," he said. "We need to have more than what we had in Iraq. Now we have the green light to do everything we want."

In normal times, you might wonder if this assertion were true because it might be hard to accept, at least automatically, that the White House would stoop to such a level. In this case, you actually have to wonder if this administration would even waste time coming up with any justification whatsoever for evading any perceived-to-be-legitimate restrictions on its authority.

Back to the Lieberman Amendment... If "force protection" is the name of the game, Congress has just, despite their attempts to de-fang the bill, handed the administration a list of Congressional "findings" that support whatever Bush and Cheney decide to do in Iran (and in secret). The findings themselves attribute the allegations of Iranian involvment to military representatives, but there shouldn't be any doubt that the White House would argue that the Congress has accepted them through their acknowledgement.

Consider how the water-carriers for this administration have used the libelous "Additional Views" of three Republican senators to claim that the entire Senate concluded that Joe Wilson is a liar in the Select Intelligence Committee's Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Assessment on Iraq. Now, the White House has a 20-point list of reasons to justify anything Bush has already been doing without Congressional approval.

If that isn't enough of a reason to have voted this amendment to oblivion, consider what Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February:

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Continues to be bogged down... Check. Iraqi failure to meet benchmarks... Check. Accusations of Iranian responsibility... Check, thanks to this amendment.

Where does that leave us? Waiting for George Bush to report back to Congress about whether there are any Iranian "provocations" in Iraq. What do you expect to hear in the next report? What do you think will happen next?

Sen. Webb introduced a bill back in March that would have required Bush to come back to Congress for approval before using force in Iran. That bill never got out of committee. It was determined that it wasn't "germane" to the toothless Iraq Supplemental Bill that passed in May. Congress has done nothing to assert its authority in lieu of that bill's rejection.

Is it possible that 97 voting senators all want a war with Iran? Seems hard to believe, but in the absence of any serious opposition to expanding this war, what else could they be thinking?