Veterans See No Iran Peace in Our Time
“If you push this deal through, you will have the blood of U.S. service members on your hands,” stated army veteran Brian Mast on September 8 concerning United States senators deliberating over the recent Iran nuclear deal. Before about 40 listeners at an Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) press conference outside of the Capitol, Mast and fellow speakers dashed any false hopes of President Barack Obama’s agreement averting conflict.
EMET founder and president Sarah Stern introduced the event by warning that the agreement will “give international consent for an Iranian nuclear bomb.” Iron Dome Alliance chairman
Jeff Ballabon noted that “Obama very much wants to make this all about Jews in Israel.” Yet Iran, already possessing missiles that can reach Israel and Europe, is developing missiles with the additional range to strike the United States, “missiles to deliver the nuclear bombs that Barack Obama is delivering” to Iran. Former CIA director James Woolsey elaborated upon a possible Iranian Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack with nuclear weapons; “if the electric grid goes, you are not back in the 1980s pre-web, you are back in the 1880s pre-electricity and very few of us have enough plough horses and seed to live in the 19th century.”
Much of the event, however, focused not on Iranian nuclear threats, but the chaos Iran can sow with conventional support of terrorist/militia groups. Mast followed Stern onto the speaker stage after she had noted that an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had ended in Afghanistan the 12-year service career of this bomb squad expert. Standing upon two leg prostheses (and betraying a missing finger to close observers), he discussed how Iranian munitions and training for America’s enemies had maimed and killed thousands of Americans like him.
Michael Ledeen, an expert on Iran’s domestic regime opposition, noted that Obama’s supporters often say “it’s either the deal or it’s war… but the war is on, the war has been on for 36 years” since Iran’s Islamic Republic’s founding in 1979. Mast, for example, had noted the Iranian seizure of American embassy hostages that year as well as the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, by the Iranian proxy and terrorist group Hizb'allah. “The only real question is,” asked Ledeen, “are we going to do anything about that war,” something he thought required American support for a domestic Iranian regime change. Yet Alliance of Iranian Women founder Manda Zand Ervin, an Iranian refugee, lamented that Iranians had watched as “America sold them out to the tyrants” during the 2009 Green Revolution.
Ledeen called the “essence of this deal” an estimated $150 billion in sanctions relief for Iran, equivalent to a fifth of current Iranian GDP. “Is there anyone in his right mind in this capital city who wants to give $150 billion to Iranians to kill Americans?” he asked. Penny Nance of Concerned Women of America described a “deal with the devil,” the “largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” stated battled-scarred army Iraq veteran Robert Bartlett, “$150 billion goes directly to the people who killed me and my friends.” He discussed spending four and half years “at Walter Reed being rebuilt” after being resuscitated three times on death’s verge following a 2005 IED attack that killed and wounded his comrades. Aid for Iranians will “supercharge their military,” hence he expressed in a post-event interview that his friends in the military are “100% against” the agreement.
Veterans against the Deal executive director Michael P. Pregent rejected Obama’s insinuations in his August 5 American University address of warmongering by the Iran agreement’s opponents. The “last people who want to go to war are the people who put on the uniform to defend this country,” stated the former army intelligence officer and paratrooper. Agreement opponents draw upon “what we know about Iran, a fact-based knowledge set” and say “Iran has, Iran is, and Iran will” while “supporters of this deal say ‘Iran may, Iran should, Iran could, we hope.’”
Such speculative reasoning was unpersuasive to retired United States Navy SEAL Ken Stethem, a man who provided yet another reminder of past Iranian terror against America. Hizb’allah terrorists brutally tortured and murdered Stetham’s brother Robert, a Navy diver in American uniform, during their 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847. Citing common arguments of “this deal or war,” Ken Stethem stated that “that sounds like a red line” making “military options nailed to the table” contrary to incessant invocations from Obama and others that “all options are on the table.” Will the United States be willing to undertake military action against an agreement-violating Iran or rather “have a coalition moment with other partners that are conflicted” with Iranian trade and arms deals?
If such arguments did not dissuade some senators from supporting the Iran agreement, Christian conservative activist Gary Bauer had a warning for them. Such senators “are now hostages held by the Ayatollah Khamenei,” Iran’s Supreme Leader, if in the future “they see Iran doing what Iran always does” such as support global terrorism and Israel’s destruction. Bauer’s current organization, the Christians United for Israel Action Fund, will then do everything so that “their constituents will give them the early retirement that they richly deserve.”
Lawyer Lauri Regan, New York EMET chapter president, analogized the Iran nuclear agreement with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s epic act of appeasement, the 1938 Munich agreement with Nazi Germany. Winston Churchill at the time had stated that the United Kingdom “has chosen shame, she will get war,” Regan quoted in what is far more than another hackneyed Munich analogy. In both 1938 and 2015, desperate peace desires among war-weary populations of great powers following controversial, disappointing conflicts have served as arguments against confronting present dangers. Yet EMET’s gathered veterans as well as Gold Star mother Saundra Flanagan, whose sailor son Kevin Rux died in the 2000 Al Qaeda USS Cole bombing, gave grim testimony against any imagined “holiday from history.”