I will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran. I realize this is a desperate and perhaps futile gesture. But an attack on Iran — which appears increasingly likely before the coming presidential election — will unleash a regional conflict of catastrophic proportions. This war, and especially Iranian retaliatory strikes on American targets, will be used to silence domestic dissent and abolish what is left of our civil liberties. It will solidify the slow-motion coup d’état that has been under way since the 9/11 attacks. It could mean the death of the Republic. Let us hope sanity prevails. But sanity is a rare commodity in a White House that has twisted Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution into a policy of permanent war with nefarious aims — to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to strip citizens of their constitutional rights. A war with Iran is doomed. It will be no more successful than the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon in 2006, which failed to break Hizbullah and united most Lebanese behind that militant group. The Israeli bombing did not pacify four million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 65 million people whose land mass is three times the size of France? Once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters and cruise missiles on Iran, this is the choice that must be faced: Either send U.S. forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war, or walk away in humiliation. But more ominous, an attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with possible Silkworm missile attacks by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send the price of oil soaring to somewhere around $200 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a global depression. The Middle East has two-thirds of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and nearly half its natural gas. A disruption in the supply will be felt immediately. This attack will be interpreted by many Shi’a in the Middle East as a religious war. The 2 million Shi’a in Saudi Arabia (heavily concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province), the Shi’a majority in Iraq and the Shi’a communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey could turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We could see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and widespread sabotage of oil production in the Persian Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for U.S. troops. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which has so far not joined the insurgency, has strong ties to Iran. It could begin full-scale guerrilla resistance, possibly uniting for the first time with Sunnis against the occupation. Iran, in retaliation, will fire its missiles, some with a range of 1,100 miles, at U.S. installations, including Baghdad’s Green Zone. Expect substantial casualties, especially with Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies calling in precise coordinates. Iranian missiles could be launched at Israel. The Strait of Hormuz, which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, will become treacherous, perhaps unnavigable. Chinese-supplied antiship missiles, mines and coastal artillery, along with speedboats packed with explosives and suicide bombers, will target U.S. shipping, as well as Saudi oil production and oil export centers. Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon, closely allied with Iran, may in solidarity fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, could then carry out retaliatory raids against both Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan, with its huge Shi’a minority, will become even more unstable. Unrest could result in the overthrow of the already weakened Pervez Musharraf and usher Islamic radicals into power. Pakistan, rather than Iran, would then become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The neat little war with Iran, which many Democrats do not oppose, has the potential to ignite an inferno. George W. Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Conventions and human rights law in the treatment of detainees. Most egregious, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. He seeks to do the same in Iran. This president is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the “crime of aggression.” And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for this crime, if we do not actively defy this government, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation — largely put in place by the United States —and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. We must as citizens make sacrifices to defend a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation and the law are respected. If we allow these international legal systems to unravel, we will destroy the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies. The strongest institutional barrier standing between us and a war with Iran is being mounted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Adm. William Fallon, head of the Central Command; and Gen. George Casey, the Army’s new chief of staff. These three men have informed Bush and Congress that the military is too depleted to take on another conflict and may not be able to contain or cope effectively with a regional conflagration resulting from strikes on Iran. This line of defense, however, is tenuous. Not only can Gates, Fallon and Casey easily be replaced but a provocation by Iran could be used by war propagandists here to stoke a public clamor for revenge. A country that exists in a state of permanent war cannot exist as a democracy. Our long row of candles is being snuffed out. We may soon be in darkness. Any resistance, however symbolic, is essential. There are ways to resist without being jailed. If you owe money on your federal tax return, refuse to pay some or all of it, should Bush attack Iran. If you have a telephone, do not pay the 3 percent excise tax. If you do not owe federal taxes, reduce what is withheld by claiming at least one additional allowance on your W-4 form — and write to the IRS to explain the reasons for your protest. Many of the details and their legal ramifications are available on the War Resisters League’s website (www.warresisters.org. I will put the taxes I owe in an escrow account. I will go to court to challenge the legality of the war. Maybe a courageous judge will rule that the Constitution has been usurped and the government is guilty of what the postwar Nuremberg tribunal defined as a criminal war of aggression. Maybe not. I do not know. But I do know this: I have friends in Tehran, Gaza, Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Cairo. They will endure far greater suffering and deprivation. I want to be able, once the slaughter is over, to at least earn the right to ask for their forgiveness.
Chris Hedges, former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author, most recently, of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (Free Press).