Outrageous, dangerous, treasonous, contemptuous, racist, a threat to world peace; all describe public reactions to the letter signed by 47 Republican senators to the government of Iran seeking to torpedo President Obama’s effort to reach a nuclear weapons agreement. Even conservative news sites like the the Daily News and Wall Street Journal have roundly condemned – albeit for their own reasons – the Republicans’ extremist move.
Another word can be added to the list: criminal. The letter violates the Logan Act, a statute from the early days of the republic which holds that “Any citizen … who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government … to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
It’s unlikely that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute the 47 Republicans and further deepen fractures in the ship of state driven by the no-holds-barred extremism of the tea party right. Still a petition is circulating on the White House public petition website calling for such prosecution. As with all such petitions that gather 100,000 signatures, the Obama administration has pledged to reply. MoveOn is also circulating a similar petition.
It’s a dangerous moment. It wasn’t enough that GOP House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans snubbed the president by inviting, without prior consultation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Now they have taken the unprecedented step of directly intervening in delicate international negotiations by addressing Iran’s government, claiming that with the stroke of a pen a new president (presumably a Republican one, they hope) could undo any potential agreement.
In so doing, they have at once undermined the presidency and elevated the possibility of a military confrontation with Tehran.
It’s well known that constitutionally it’s the province of the President to conduct foreign policy and of the Senate to advise and consent. In this regard the Republican senators’ letter demeans U.S. standing in the international arena, casting doubt on our government’s ability to negotiate future binding agreements. Even more troubling, the real motive behind Republican efforts is evidently the desire for yet another war in the Greater Middle East. Their end goal: make the region safer for Big Oil and other U.S. corporate interests.
With the spread of reactionary ISIS and similar terror groups, benefiting from funds and weaponry provided by U.S. allies and indirectly the U.S. itself, the reintroduction of U.S. military advisors in Iraq, the bloody civil war in Syria, the ongoing and provocative suppression of Palestinian national aspirations, the danger of a general conflagration in the region is very real.
The dangers inherent in the GOP’s congressional victory last fall are growing more apparent with the passing of each day. But all is not lost – a huge public outcry can not only give them pause but also push them back. The broad U.S. public needs to be heard and heard now!
Photo: Debra Sweet/Flickr (CC)