|Senator Tom Cotton is agitating for an illegal war of aggression.|
Tom Cotton is the Senator from Arkansas behind the letter—signed by 47 of his colleagues—designed to derail U.S. negotiations with Iran by way of provoking hostilities with that country, long a fantasy of the neoconservatives whose deadened mental and moral carapaces remain unscathed by the disasters they launched in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are a variety of reasons why the political right remains intent on waging wars that have no discernible benefit for the public interest. In the first place, they are beholden to radical religious fundamentalists who have a variety of beliefs about the relationship between a catastrophic war in the Middle East and the end of the world. Such beliefs also help to explain the unconditional backing for Israel, which does so little good for U.S. and Israeli citizens, never mind the people who suffer under Israeli colonialism.
Others on the political right are unapologetic proponents of a revitalized American Empire. American exceptionalism and hubris have long been characteristics of our international conduct, and explain many of our current difficulties today. Our own nation’s emergence in its present geographical reform was the result of a colonial and often genocidal westward march. We were briefly a formal imperial power, and waged vicious colonial campaigns in the Philippines to maintain a manifestly unjust rule.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, our country engaged in the violent and illegal overthrow of governments—many democratic, others not—around the world, particularly when those governments had the temerity to question our often-blinkered national security diktats, or sought to redress the inequality our embrace of a destructive capitalism generated in their own countries.
Since 9/11, these proponents of American imperialism have pushed for the use of violence and terrorism to re-make the world in our own image. The rights and wrongs of such a project aside, the model that they wish to transplant is looking increasingly corrupt at home.
We live in a massively unequal society, in which corporate interests are essentially tearing up the features of democratic governance by asking their hired guns to confer citizenship rights on corporations. At the same time, right-wingers in Congress are attempting to strip voting rights from actual citizens across the country. And they are waging a guerrilla campaign against government, sabotaging its social democratic functions at every turn to bring to life their despicable lie that “government doesn’t work”.
But they are more than willing to make government work for their paymasters. And this toxic relationship was very much on display when, the day after Senator Cotton and his colleagues launched their campaign to sabotage negotiations and increase the likelihood of conflict with Iran, the Senator attended an “‘Off the record and strictly non-attribution’ event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors”.
The Intercept reported that “the NDIA is composed of executives from major military business such as Northrup Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton”.
In other words, after firing the first salvo of a renewed effort to draw his country into war with Iran, Senator Cotton—who has argued that journalists reporting on the abuses of the national security state should be prosecuted—went to an event with the key industry players set to benefit the most from such a war. This illustrates another, even more pernicious reason for the constant warmongering of the political right in the United States: that there are interests in our country that make a great deal of money from war, particularly when that war is privatized.
Not only do taxpayer dollars flow to arms companies—merchants and proponents of death and destruction whose trade should be sharply controlled if not curtailed—but to the security contractors who increasingly take a prominent role in our conduct of imperial wars, and whose actions proved so reprehensible and destructive in Iraq.
What Cotton and his colleagues are doing here is reminiscent of language used to describe earlier war crimes. They are engaged in what looks like a “conspiracy to wage aggressive war”, by sabotaging treaties, slinging around unsubstantiated accusations about Iran’s nuclear program, working with state terrorists like Benjamin Netanyahu, and working with arms companies. No voter of any political persuasion will benefit from a war of the likes that Cotton and his colleagues seem to be contemplating.
Legal scholar Steven Ratner describes “aggression international law” as “the use of force by one State against another, not justified by self-defense or other legally recognized exceptions. The illegality of aggression is perhaps the most fundamental norm of modern international law and its prevention is the chief purpose of the United Nations”.
And yet under George W. Bush, such wars became the centerpiece of the Republican Party’s international efforts. Theirs is a criminal enterprise, designed to kill large numbers of people in defiance of international law, in a manner calculated to imperil U.S. citizens and destabilize the entire world. It is a criminal enterprise which will also enrich people and corporations that make money from war.
Senator Tom Cotton and his colleagues are war-criminals in the making, and must be recognized as such by their constituents and U.S. citizens more broadly, so that we can put a halt to their warmongering before their actions are able to claim the lives of U.S and Iranian citizens, and those of other countries that would be affected by the fallout from the violent world order that these people would usher in.