Reps. Ellison and Jones Stand Up for Diplomatic Engagement With Iran

The media war fever for military confrontation with Iran has grown so great that even the media noticed. Writing in The New York Times, Scott Shane asked the reasonable question: how is it that we're having a war fever with Iran, when polls show that, after ten years, the American public is weary of war?

A key part of the story is that we've had a one-sided political debate about Iran. Major media are often ambivalent about the degree to which it's really their responsibility to educate the public about basic facts – like the fact that the US government is quite confident that Iran is not now trying to build a nuclear weapon. Instead, the media's default position often is to reflect what they perceive to be going on in the political debate.

And what the media largely perceive is that one side – the non-Ron Paul Republican presidential candidates, the Lieberman-Graham-McCain axis and the pro-Likud lobby groups and think tanks – is pushing aggressively toward military confrontation, and the other side – the Obama administration – is saying, well, not so fast, without strongly and consistently challenging some of the core assumptions of the pro-war voices. Largely missing from the recent political debate, until now, has been a full-throated defense of diplomatic engagement with Iran toward negotiated agreements that would resolve or mitigate international concerns about its disputed nuclear program, thereby pushing back the prospect of military confrontation.

But that could change. Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) are currently circulating a Congressional letter to President Obama urging the president to redouble US efforts toward a diplomatic agreement.

That Jones is willing to speak up is a particularly welcome development. Jones, you will recall, led the Congressional move to rename “French fries” in the House cafeteria to “freedom fries” in protest over French opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

After attending too many military funerals, Jones took three steps which are all too infrequent in American public life.

He changed his mind. He admitted that he had been duped. And he resolved to make amends.

Since walking that path, Jones has been a leader in Congressional efforts to make the “tide of war” recede in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you're happy that the Bush administration finally agreed to a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, if you're happy that President Obama finally decided to comply with that agreement, if you're happy that President Obama is drawing down US forces from Afghanistan, remember Jones, because he helped bring those three things about.

And now Jones is adding his voice to those calling for real diplomatic engagement with Iran, which at least raises the possibility that some other Republican members of the House might also speak up.

If we could get 40 members of the House to sign this letter, including five to ten Republicans, that would be a good start. Insider DC press, at least, would report it; Ellison and Jones would have their profiles raised as voices for diplomatic engagement; and to some degree and at long last, the debate in the media would have two sides.

You can ask your representative to sign the Ellison-Jones letter here.