WASHINGTON — The sense of urgency here was palpable.
And for good reason. The central theme was Iran.
I just returned from Washington, D.C., where I attended the American-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. Speakers included President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. McConnell. The central theme was Iran.
The more than 13,000 delegates are focused on supporting Israel and united in the notion that Iran is the existential threat to America.
I detected a clear sense of urgency that Iran must be dealt with now rather than later and that war is inevitable. War is inevitable because Iran wants it, not because you, I or Israel wants it.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can wait much longer.” These are sobering words, indeed.
Florida and particularly Sarasota and Manatee have experienced Iran’s long arm of terror on Sept. 11, 2001.As reported in the New York Times, “A federal district court in Manhattan yesterday [Dec. 22, 2011] entered a historic ruling that reveals new facts about Iran’s support of al-Qaida in the 9/11 attacks. U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled that Iran and Hezbollah materially and directly supported al-Qaida in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and are legally responsible for damages to hundreds of family members of 9/11 victims who are plaintiffs in the case.”
Fast forward to today. Given the fact that Iran “materially and directly” supported al-Qaida in 2001 to attack you and me, do you have any doubt they won’t do it again when armed with a nuclear weapon?
It was clear to me that a sense of urgency to stop Iran is now the top priority for Congress. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s comments were in effect a declaration of war with Iran.
The only questions are: When and who controls the final decision?
President Obama has decided not take to responsibility for a decision to go to war. By doing so, he has made war with Iran even more likely. At AIPAC, President Obama said to Israel, “We have your back.”
But President Obama walked back his “we have your back” statement during a press conference just two days later by saying, “[It is] not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action … It was a restatement of our consistent position that the security of Israel is something I deeply care about … [and] confirms how deeply we care about it.”
With those words the president sealed the deal that it was up to Israel to decide when to strike.
Right or wrong, Israel is now in the lead. The urgency to stop Iran is greater with Prime Minister Netanyahu than with President Obama. At AIPAC, the prime minister issued a declaration of war and reserved his nation’s sovereign right to take action.
Given all of this, it is crucial that you and I fully support our Jewish brothers and sisters in Sarasota and Manatee counties. We have a special obligation to help them support Israel because it carries this heavy burden of responsibility to stop Iran, a nation which Israeli President Shimon Peres called “evil.”
I close with the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian who was hanged for his involvement in trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” he said. “God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Rich Swier Sr. is retired Army lieutenant colonel who was awarded two bronze stars for heroism in combat in the Vietnam War. He holds a doctorate of education from the University of Southern California and a master’s in management information systems from George Washington University. He is president of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission and editor of Red County-Sarasota. He also hosts a radio talk show on WWPR AM 1490.