Hearings on the Chicago Iran Resolution

The proceedings begin with a press conference at City Hall, followed by the actual hearings.

Press Conference

10:41 Alderman Joe Moore, sponsor of the resolution opposed to a US military attack on Iran and urging the US to engage in diplomacy.

5 years ago the council made history passing a resolution against war in Iraq.

Sadly our leaders did not take heed. Now most observers agree the war was a horrible mistake.

Now more than 4000 dead, tens of thousands wounded, more than a million Iraqis killed or wounded.

History is repeating itself. The Administration is beating the drum of war, despite the Iran NIE.

As in the runup to war in Iraq, basing the threat on unsubstantiated information.

Some would argue that this is not Chicago's business. But it is definitely Chicago's business. It's Chicago's neighborhoods which will suffer.

Chicago will once again lead the nation as a city for peace.

10:45 Scott Ritter

It makes me angry when I hear that it's not the business of local representatives. It's absolutely the business of local representatives. We must stand up against the rush to war, not based on appeasement, but based on reality. I thank Alderman Moore for leading this initiative.

10:51 Mearshimer: Attacking Iran is not going to prevent from getting nuclear weapons. If you continue to threaten Iran, certainly if you attack Iran, then they are definitely going to get nuclear weapons to prevent themselves from being attacked again.

Second: Iran will retaliate. Iran will go to great lengths to make our life even more difficult in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be relatively easy for them to do so. It is certain that more Americans will die, and those will become lost causes for certain. So if you want to save American lives, make sure that the US does not attack Iran.

10:59 Professor Norma Moruzzi
I travel regularly to Iran, most recently last year. This morning I received an email from Iran about the Chicago City Council hearings. This underlines the importance of this effort. People in Iran are watching.

Every time the US ramps up tensions, it hurts those on the ground who are working for human rights, reducing the space for them to operate. No one I know in Iran favors any kind of US military attack. Nothing helps the current government more than threats from the United States. If Iran is attacked, Iranians will rally around the flag. We need to change this policy both in the interests of Americans and the interests of Iranians.

11:04 Stephen Kinzer:
One: this has become a real possibility.

Two: This would be a disaster.

Three: There is an alternative. Direct, unconditional, bilateral, comprehensive negotiations. Which has never been tried. It would be the height of immorality not to pursue this. Iran and the US have common interests, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. Break out of the prison of illusions. Of course there are no guarantee this will work. But on the brink of crisis, it is folly not to at least a try

11:09 Michael Lynn: Why did we take this to the council? Because Washington isn't listening.

11:11 Question: Are we still on the brink of war?

Ald Moore: After the NIE came out, dispelling a lot of the bad information. I thought perhaps this resolution might not be necessary. But now again we see the same drumbeat of war, the same drumbeat of war as before Iraq.

Question: What's the evidence that an attack still on the table?

Ritter: Listen to the Bush Administration. They're saying over and over that it's still on the table. This is not a war of national security. This is a war of choice, at a time and place of the President's choosing. So the President has to build the case of war. Of course they have to move forces into the region at the same time as they build the case for war. Fortunately they've had problems with their case for war. Note they're not talking about Iran nuclear anymore. That dog won't hunt. But now it's about Iraq, blaming Iran for the problems in Iraq. Ask the Pentagon to deny the war plans they're preparing. Ask the Reps and the Senators why they're not holding these hearings.

Question: Why are you confident that the Chicago City Council will pass this resolution?

Answer: We passed a resolution against the Iraq war. And we were totally vindicated by events. I have talked to many of my colleagues, and overwhelmingly they have told me they intend to vote for the resolution.

11:47 The actual hearings commence.
Ald Moore: 5 years ago the Council passed a resolution 48-1 against the invasion of Iraq. We did so because the case had not been made. Because Chicagoans would give up their lives. Because our tax dollars would be diverted from our needs at home.

The Administration did not heed our resolution. We did not act in isolation. 300 cities and towns did so. New York, Los Angeles.

It appears that history is repeating itself, the sabers are rattling again. But now it's Iran. We see faulty information being used to make the case for an invasion or some kind of military action.

We are aware of the threats Iran may pose. But war should be the last resort, not a first resort. And our government should exhaust diplomacy.

Some say we should not involve ourselves in matters of war and peace.

On the contrary. It is our business. It is our sons and daughters. It is our tax dollars.

Chicago taxpayers alone have sent over 5.4 billion to wage war in Iraq. That's almost equal to the entire budget of the city. That's 108 million dollars for each of the city's 50 wards. Imagine what we could have done with that money.

That's why we're doing this, why we're gathered here, why Chicago must again lead as a city for Peace.

12:08: Alderman Jackson. I support this resolution. The dismantling of the office of public diplomacy indicates how this administration has not placed a premium on diplomacy. Of course we should exhaust diplomacy before contemplating any military action. We have to be very careful after what has happened, it would be irresponsible to trust information coming from the Bush Administration, from the CIA. My brother served in Desert Storm. He is still suffering the consequences of that war. As a family we take this very seriously and that's why I signed on to the resolution. We have to do everything possible to avoid another war.

12:15 Alderman Lyle: We got a lot of criticism 5 years ago, we were called unpatriotic. But we were right. If we pass this resolution, hopefully other cities will do the same. Not only does the war impact our community, it also impacts those of us who would like to travel to other countries. We have always taken up issues besides collecting the garbage. We spoke out in support of the anti-Apartheid movement. We've always been out there.

12:20 Ritter. To those who are concerned about the threat to Israel: I am a friend of Israel. I worked in Israel, trying to protect Israel against the threat of missiles raining down on Israeli cities. And that's one of the reasons I'm here, to turn the US away from a policy that will guarantee that missiles rain down on Israeli cities.

I'm concerned that people say that they know things that they don't know. We know that Iran has an enrichment program. The question is how should we should deal with that. Should we launch a pre-emptive strike, pushing them into a corner, making it more likely that they will pursue a nuclear weapon more vigorously in the future. Or shall we pursue real diplomacy.

When we're talking about whether Iran is a threat to the United States that would justify a US military attack, we're not talking about the relationship of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. That is not a threat to the United States. The question is what the evidence is that Iran is a threat to the United States.

Our role in a democracy is not to take the statements of our government or any government at face value. Our role is to challenge.

12:35 Ritter: (in response to a question). To say that Iran is trying to undermine the Iraqi government is self-contradictory. Because the leaders of the Iraqi government are very close to Iran. Iran loves the government of Iraq. I do believe there are relationships with special forces. I think we should use Iran's influence, like happened in Basra. It wasn't Maliki sending in the Iraqi army. It was Iran brokering an agreement.

12:51: Mearshimer: I served for 10 years in the US military during Vietnam. I knew many who served and were killed and many who served and lived. That experience was formative in my opposition to the war in Iraq in 2002-3.

Attacking Iran will give Iran more reason to acquire nuclear weapons. Attack Iran and it surely will acquire nuclear weapons to make sure that it is never attacked again. Iran would quickly reconstitute its nuclear program and make it difficult if not impossible for the US to find and destroy them. The Osirak attack did not achieve a thing. Iraq reconstituted its nuclear program. At best we could set back their program 2-3 years.

Second: an attack will cause Iran to have itchy trigger fingers in the future.

Third: Iran is bound to retaliate. They will see it as a declaration of war and they most surely not surrender. Iran is well-positioned to cause serious trouble for the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is hard to see how the US could win its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if Iran worked to see it lose. The Iraq Study Group said the US needed Iran's cooperation, not its opposition. Of course,

Fourth: There is an alternative. The best plausible outcome is that Iran masters the nuclear fuel cycle but does not go all the way. To get there, we need to abandon the threat of attack and the threat of regime change. This is essentially the policy the Bush Administration has finally adopted towards North Korea.

There is no guarantee. Iran might conclude that things are too unstable, too uncertain, and they need a nuclear deterrent, just as the US and Israel have. But even if it did, it could not use its weapons against Israel or the United States.

It is sometimes said that Iran could give nuclear weapons to terrorists groups. This is extremely unlikely. It would be placing itself at risk of US and Israeli attack, based on the actions of groups outside of its control.

1:15 Mearshimer explains the difference between "pre-emptive" and "preventive" war. "Pre-emptive" is: an attack on you is clearly being prepared. Japanese planes are on their way to Pearl Harbor. Under international law, you are allowed to counter-attack. "Preventive war" is what is what the Bush Administration did in Iraq, and what we are talking about here. There was no attack planned, there was no imminent threat. The Bush Administration has deliberately sought to confuse this distinction, by talking about "pre-emptive" war when they mean "preventive."

2pm Stephen Kinzer. We've heard a lot of talk about negotiations. But what that be like? We're still suffering from some overhang of the 1979 revolution.

After WWII there was a notion that Germany should be punished by being turned into a "pastoral state." Not allowed to rebuild factories. But fortunately, the US was more rational. And the strategy of reintegrating Germany into Europe has been a tremendous success.

But with respect to Iran, we are not yet so rational.

In the 60s and 70s, the view in the US of China was much like the view of Iran in the US today. Crazy people with whom we can never deal. It took President Nixon to look at the world differently.

The Shanghai Communique was a remarkable document. It contained no concrete agreement. One part was a list of all the problems that the US had with China. One part was a list of all the problems China had with the US. And the third part was an agreement to work on all the listed problems cooperatively.
If we actually started talking, we might find we have many areas of common interest.

Iran can help us get out of Iraq. Iran can help stabilize Iraq as we withdraw.

Iran is very worried about instability in Pakistan.

Iran needs investment in its oil industry.

Is there any guarantee negotiations would work? Of course not. But the cost is so low compared to the alternative.

Iran made a negotiating offer in 2003, to resolve all issues. But it was ignored.

The more concerned you are about threats associated with Iran, the more urgent it is to negotiate. Until we have exhausted the diplomatic option, the "military option" should be off the table.

2:30: The motion is moved. The ayes carry. It goes forward to the full council tomorrow.