In the stunning speech he delivered today, which I wrote about just below, Sen. Joseph Lieberman sheds some horrifying light on one of the issues that made last week’s Democratic presidential debate so contentious — the amendment he co-sponsored in the Senate declaring the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization for the purpose of imposing economic sanctions on the group. For her vote in the affirmative, Hillary Clinton came under withering assault from her rivals for supposedly giving President Bush a green light to attack Iran militarily.
The reason for [the] amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran—and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary—has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.
This charge had been corroborated by other sources….It was also consistent with nearly three decades of experience with the IRGC, which has been implicated in a range of terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies—long before the invasion of Iraq.
In light of this evidence, Senator [Jon] Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization was a no brainer. Rather than punishing Iranians indiscriminately, it would apply a set of targeted economic sanctions against the part of the Iranian regime that was responsible for the murder of our troops in Iraq….
[Indeed,] a bipartisan group of 68 senators, including several of the Democratic presidential candidates, had already signed onto a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year that asked for the IRGC’s designation along exactly the same lines as our amendment….
I was wrong….
First, several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.
These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception. On the contrary, by calling for tougher sanctions on Iran, the intention of our amendment was to offer an alternative to war.
Nonetheless, the conspiracy theories started to spread. Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it….
I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.
“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.
So what’s the problem, I asked.
“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”
I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure….But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.
There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.
Remarkable. The full text of the speech, again, is here.