The Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Rep. Barbara Lee is co-chairwoman, and the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran held a news conference on Capitol Hill today urging dialogue between ordinary Americans and ordinary Iranians as a means of heading off what they say is the Bush Administration’s drumbeat for war with Iran. Lee, D-Oakland, and others used a row of 60’s-era red “hotline” telephones to talk directly to average Iranians in Tehran.
“We have been down this road before and Americans have learned a simple truth from five hard and bitter years in Iraq: No unjust war ever produced a just and lasting peace! It has not worked in Iraq. It will not work in Iran,” she said. “What we need is not another rush to unwarranted, unnecessary, and misguided military action but rather a diplomatic surge for peace and reconciliation. One of the important first steps we should take is to have direct, comprehensive, and unconditional bilateral talks with Iran.”
Lee’s H.R. 5056, introduced in January and now backed by 14 cosponsors, would do exactly that.
Read Lee’s entire statement as prepared for delivery, after the jump…
“Thank you for joining us this morning and thanks to my co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Lynn Woolsey for her tireless fight for peace and smart global security.
“Thanks to all the members here for their commitment to preventing war with Iran. Thank you also to the Campaign for a new American Policy on Iran for coordinating this event and for your incredible leadership on this critical issue.
“And thanks to all of our partners here today who are joining with us today in calling for diplomacy in Iran. The diversity of this coalition is truly incredible– from people like former member Bob Barr, to the former intelligence officials, to our veterans and others. Thank you!
“Our message today is simple: IT IS TIME TO TALK TO IRAN.
“In fact it is PAST time we talk to Iran.
“Because we hear the same people who supported a disastrous war of choice in Iraq now steadily beating the drum for war with Iran.
“We have been down this road before and Americans have learned a simple truth from five hard and bitter years in Iraq:
“No unjust war ever produced a just and lasting peace! It has not worked in Iraq. It will not work In Iran.
“What we need is not another rush to unwarranted, unnecessary, and misguided military action but rather a diplomatic surge for peace and reconciliation.
“One of the important first steps we should take is to have direct, comprehensive, and unconditional bilateral talks with Iran.
“That is why I have introduced H.R. 5056, the “Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008,” which directs the President to appoint a high-level envoy empowered to seek to conduct direct, unconditional, bilateral negotiations with Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran.
“My bill takes a common sense approach and it is one the American people understand.
“Six out of 10 Americans do want their president to talk to Iran’s president, according to the most-recent Gallup poll.
“Foreign policy experts also support talking with Iran.
“In fact, a group of 5 bipartisan former U.S. secretaries of state have called for the U.S. to open talks with Iran to find common ground and resolve differences on Iraq, Iran’s nuclear program, and other issues.
“They understand what is evident: the current policy of avoiding serious negotiations with Iran until Iran suspends uranium enrichment has not worked.
“Not surprisingly, after all, because an offer of bilateral negotiations with a precondition is essentially no offer at all, when the precondition is the object of the negotiations.
“Not only is talking to Iran the most sensible approach – it is also important to think about just how disastrous the consequences of military action against Iran would be.
“On all levels: the humanitarian, economic political and military costs a of military conflict between and US and Iran would be staggering and simply put: this nation cannot afford these costs – especially on top of the of the debacle in Iraq.
“As Frank Rich aptly put it in Sunday’s New York Times, “Americans are sick of a national identity defined by arrogant saber-rattling abroad and manipulative fear-mongering at home.”
“It is time to put an end to those policies. Talking to Iran is an important step in those efforts. I hope my colleagues here in Congress will support my legislation to promote talks with Iran and prevent military action against Iran.
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “we must learn to live together as brothers or we will surely perish together as fools.” It is time to talk to Iran. All it takes to begin is one “Hello.”