47, pay attention to U.S.

Published 10:01 am Friday, March 13, 2015

This week, 47 Republican senators sent an open letter to Iran suggesting that any agreement made by the Obama administration, even in conjunction with the other six nations participating in the talks about Iranian development of nuclear capacity, would be subject to cancellation at the end of Obama’s presidency.

The point of the letter was to discourage the Iranian leaders from concluding their talks with the coalition of nations with an agreement that would forestall the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

While the 47 signators did not offer an alternative to a peaceful resolution of difference as sought under the present discussions, some behind the rationale for the letter have indicated that they view any potential agreement as weak and therefore unacceptable. Some, like Senator Cotton, have argued that nothing less than a complete surrender of Iran’s nuclear capacity for power must be accomplished to define a successful agreement.

Email newsletter signup

Critics of the 47 have offered a variety of attacks on the letter, the most extreme suggesting that the act of writing and sending a letter, a clear interference in the conduct of American foreign policy, is treason under the obscure Logan Act.

But what constitutes treason?

One dictionary definition states that treason is simply acting to betray the interests of the nation. Given that perception did the 47 commit treason, and should they face charges for their actions?

Certainly it could not be treasonous if the letter was a thoughtful, informed reflection of policy deemed dangerous to America. But by that measure the 47 would come up short of justified, given that the Iranian discussions have not yet concluded. There is no agreement there may never be an agreement, and there are no specific terms of the agreement to factually dispute.

It cannot rationally be argued that the letter from the 47 was then justified by reason of disputing the content of an agreement, an agreement that today does not exist.

Was the letter from the 47 aimed at protecting American lives? For if that is the case, then while such interference is illegal technically, the overarching intent created a degree of justification.

But should the Iranian nuclear talks fail then the U.S. and Israel move one step closer to war with Iran, for when diplomacy fails the alternatives to war disappear. Therefore, it cannot be argued that the intent of the letter was to protect American lives; by any measure the outcome could be exactly opposite of protecting American lives.

But patriotic Americans can make simple misjudgments, choices that are not treasonous but ill-considered. It is difficult, if not impossible, to ascribe intentions to others, but here it would be impossible not to note that the Republicans’ hostile relationship with President Obama could have been a contributing force to the creation of the letter.

Giving a slim benefit of a doubt to 47 senators who have each sworn their allegiance to the United States, let us not claim treason in their attempt to undermine discussions with Iran, discussions for the goal of maintaining peace.

Instead there are at least two lessons the 47 might profit from accepting; first, should any among your number seek to be Commander-in-Chief your actions here make an excellent case that, by undermining diplomacy, you may not be qualified for that office now or in the future; second, you all actually do have important jobs as senators, jobs many Americans think have been neglected for some time.

The 47 need to focus upon the needs of Americans in health care, infrastructure, immigration, budgeting and planning.

Betraying the nation is not in the job description.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.