Jim Henley, at Unqualified Offerings blog (new to me and very useful), has posted a formula for Congress in taking control of what looks to be a headlong rush on the part of the administration into a major conflict with Iran. Henley writes, in part:
The Administration is making specific testable claims about Iranian arming of Iraqi militias. Congress needs to announce that, as part of its constitutional authority to declare, or not declare, war, it will audit those claims independently. The executive branch needs to turn over a complete database of all IED attacks and the associated forensic evidence records. It needs to designate IED attacks as EFP*-based or non-EFP based. Congressional staff can then validate.
He then goes on to ennumerate the proofs the administration would need to provide, one by one. For example:
whether the forensic markers can in fact be “traced to Iran.”
whether equipment transfers can be shown to have been conducted with the authorization of Iranian government agencies
whether Iraqi government officials authorized the transfer of any equipment by Iran into the country they nominally rule
Congressional staffers should take testimony from US and foreign government officials and independent outside experts and do actual analysis and investigation. The intelligence and armed-services committees would be the appropriate Congressional bodies to take up the work...
Even if it were to turn out that there were sufficient proof that Iran is culpable, the decision whether to attack or not is political. However:
A unilateral executive decision to attack Iran on the basis of unaudited claims merits nothing but opposition. So does a Congressional decision to shirk its responisibilities under the constitution by taking the word of another branch of government, especially in light of the sad history of the last five years.
The criteria Henley sets up might well be added to (or subtracted from). But he lays out clearly precisely what Congress should demand, and what the Bush administration should have done in the matter of Iraq and WMD's and should do in this case.
*EFP: explosively-f0rmed projectiles, used against armored vehicles.