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Obama’s ugly ‘march to war’ rhetoric

The charge that critics of the Iran deal are advocating a military response smacks of bigotry

As Hitler’s forces marched across Europe in the late 1930s, Americans raising alarms about the Nazis were subjected to ugly claims that they desired war, and wanted to march the United States into one. Charles Lindbergh famously asserted that there were three parties who were “pressing this county to war”: Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and “the Jews.”

“Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way,” Lindbergh declared, “for they will be the first to feel its consequences.” He allowed that “[a] few far-sighted Jewish people realize [this]. But the majority do not. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress on President Obama’s Iran deal in March activated a campaign by the administration of insinuations that those who had grave concerns about the impending deal wanted war. Some have been particularly gross in channeling Lindbergh, suggesting that Israel and “its supporters” wanted to drag America into battle. The White House itself has blamed critics of the deal in ugly terms that evoke the “agitation for war” language employed by Lindbergh and his adherents, and has done so not once, but repeatedly, not by chance, but purposefully.

If supporters of sanctions on Iran “want the United Stated to take military action, they should be up front with the American people and say so,” said Bernadette Meehan, a White House spokeswoman.

“The rush to war, or at least the rush to the military option, that many Republicans are advocating,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in March, “is not at all in the best interests of the United States.”

Lecturing Democratic lawmakers on the Iran deal, the president told them he “understood” that they might be under pressure from “donors.” He doubled down on his “If you have serious questions about this deal you must want to march your fellow Americans to war” theme in his formal statement announcing the Iran deal on Tuesday. We shouldn’t “seek” a “spiral into conflict” he declared, as though anyone who had the nerve to want answers to glaring, serious questions about the deal “sought conflict.”

The Obama White House, including the president himself, pays a great deal of attention to messaging, and is brilliant at it. The heavy reliance on “march to war” language is particularly disappointing from an administration properly attuned to coded appeals to bigotry. It is language crafted to intimidate those who have questions about the Iran deal into swallowing those questions, or burying them.

“It is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal,” the president allowed generously on Tuesday. “So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.”

This, of course, is pure poppycock: The president has done everything in his power to block the American people and their representatives from having any opportunity to review the deal, let alone a full one.

This is not a matter of whether Costa Rica gets to acquire a crate of rifles. It is about the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terror obtaining $150 billion with which to expand its reign of international terror in a few short months, and receiving a pass to obtain nuclear weapons in about 10 short years. The elected representatives who vote for this agreement will own its consequences, both short-term and long-term. Those who believe that the questions about the actual implications of this deal require answers, not tap-dancing, ought to be spared the poisonous rhetoric and given actual answers instead.

Originally published at Boston Herald.

About the Author
Jeff Robbins, a former United States Delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in the Clinton Administration, is an attorney in Boston, Massachusetts
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