by Brent Anderson
March 15, 2003
To: U.S. Congress,
We, the people of the United States, call on President Bush and Congress to rescind the call to war, and to pursue a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Iraq in accordance with international law. The following portion of the petition illustrates why war in Iraq is NOT an acceptable course of action.
The United States has emerged from hundreds of years of history marked by senseless violence, war, and struggle. After World War II, this great nation joined with other nations of the world to assert our unified resolve “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples” (Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations).
The United Nations, barely over fifty years old, is still in its infancy as an instrument of international cooperation and peace. We, the people of the United States, have reached a critical point in history. Our actions in the international community over the next few months will determine whether history will remember us as a people who champion international law and justice in accordance with the directives that we have set up as an international community, or as a short-sighted reactionary people who disregard these regulations in world affairs.
We are opposed to the war in Iraq for the following reasons:
1) The proposed PREEMPTIVE STRIKE (“get them before they get you”) VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW. The U.S. would be in direct violation of Article 51 of the UN charter (http://www.lcnp.org/global/iraqstatement3.htm). The U.S. would be disregarding centuries of work put into the development of international law. Do we wish to risk nullifying the advances in this field and find ourselves plunged back into a dog-eat-dog world where might makes right? A preemptive strike is a deplorable and unethical measure and is not appropriate for dealing with world affairs.
If we assume that Iraq violated the agreement with the UN concerning its weapons programs, is the U.S. justified in orchestrating an invasion without the support of the UN? Not so long ago, the Bush administration consciously breached the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) against the insistence of the Russians that the U.S. honor it. Does Russia have the right to invade the U.S. and inflict heavy casualties in an effort to dismantle its weapons? According to the logic that the Bush administration is implementing in Iraq, yes. Can China invade Taiwan because it considers this country a terrorist threat, as Bush considers Iraq? Can India invade Pakistan? Who defines what constitutes a terrorist threat? A U.S. PREEMPTIVE STRIKE WOULD CREATE A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT IN WORLD POLITICS AND DO SERIOUS DAMAGE TO THE UNITED NATIONS.
2) A U.S. invasion of Iraq will make it very difficult for conservative Muslim governments to remain moderate. The outrage stemming from what they have already identified as an unjust invasion of a fellow Islamic state will fuel the polarization of conservative Islam to a more fundamentalist philosophy, one that freely utilizes terrorism to express its outrage. The destabilization of moderate governments such as those of Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which assist the U.S. with rooting out terrorist groups is NOT in the best interest of the United States in its efforts to reduce terrorism. Rather, this action is likely to actually bring about an INCREASE IN TERRORIST ACTIVITY.
3) The UN estimates that TENS OF THOUSANDS OF IRAQI CIVILIANS WILL BE KILLED in a U.S. assault (over six times as many who perished in the World Trade Center). The already tenuous food and medical delivery systems upon which 60% of the Iraqi population is dependent will be destroyed, which will likely give rise to a humanitarian crisis that will kill thousands more. The UN also estimates that a war would create 900,000 refugees. (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0107-09.htm)
4) An invasion would exact very HIGH FATALITY AND CASUALTY RATES AMONG U.S. TROOPS. This war will not be fought in a vast desert where U.S. forces can launch attacks from a distance as it did in Desert Storm. The Iraqi military will assume strategic positions in the streets and buildings of Baghdad, and will be immune to U.S. long-range attacks. The close combat in an urban setting will lead to a devastating loss of life for those in the American military, Iraqi forces, and Iraqi civilians.
5) SADDAM DOES NOT PROVIDE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION TO TERRORIST GROUPS. CIA director George Tenet asserts that the probability is low that Iraq would initiate an attack with weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists, if it even has them. “Should Saddam conclude that a U.S. led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorists actions.”
Brent Scrowcroft, a former national security advisor, echoes this sentiment, “There is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept 11th attacks. Indeed, Saddam’s goals have little in common with the terrorists who threaten us, and there is little incentive for him to make common cause with them.”--Wall Street Journal, August 15th, 2002.
6) If Iraq were to have weapons of mass destruction, SADDAM WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE FROM UNLEASHING THESE WEAPONS. Using these weapons may, in fact, be his only hope of retaining power. Possible targets may include U.S. troops, Israel, Turkey, and others in the region.
7) A far lesser concern, but one that should be noted is the TREMENDOUS ECONOMIC COST of such a war. “Estimates by congressional staff and Washington think tanks of the costs of an invasion of Iraq and a postwar occupation of the country have been in the range of $100 billion to $200 billion.” Compare this figure to the $1.2 billion allotment for the development of hydrogen power, and $54 billion for education.
The U.S. spent $7 billion on Desert Storm because the bulk of the cost for that conflict was shouldered by other nations. Due to the small base of support for the war, the U.S. will assume almost the entire financial burden for the present conflict. Since Bush’s budget, which already includes provisions for huge deficit spending, does not incorporate the cost of a war in Iraq, the war will have to be financed by ASTRONOMICAL BUDGET DEFICITS at a time when the government is slashing support for education, health, employment programs, and infrastructure maintenance.
8) The Bush administration has promised to rebuild Iraq after it ousts Saddam. It made a very similar promise to the Afghan people just before it invaded that country. The U.S., however, did not fulfill its obligation. Afghanistan is still in shambles, and large portions of the country outside of Kabul are still under the control of warlords. With few exceptions, the only funds that have been sent to Afghanistan have been for military operations. The funds that were promised for rebuilding efforts never materialized. Given this history, there is no reason to believe that Bush will uphold his promise to the Iraqi people. IRAQ WILL MOST LIKELY BE LEFT IN SHAMBLES AFTER A U.S. STRIKE, WHICH WILL CAUSE FURTHER INSTABILITY IN THE REGION.
But Saddam is a tyrannical ruler who has gassed his own people!
There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a tyrannical ruler. The Bush administration has argued that we must oust the existing government because Saddam Hussein has no respect for the human rights of his citizens. The most compelling example that Bush cites is the gassing of the Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988, which killed over 7000 civilians.
Saddam has committed a number of human rights violations during his reign. When has that ever been the cause of a U.S. invasion of another country (we did not invade China for their atrocities)? Moreover, Saddam’s regime was supported by the U.S. prior to, during, and following this horrific attack against the Kurds. Many of the chemical weapons that Saddam unleashed were supplied by the United States. EVEN AFTER THE INCIDENT, THE U.S. CONTINUED TO SHIP ANTHRAX CULTURES AND OTHER WEAPONS TO IRAQ. It is rather inconsistent to actively support a government engaged in such atrocities when it serves U.S. interests, and express a sentiment of outrage at the same atrocities fifteen years later for which that the U.S. government is partially to blame.
In lieu of Saddam’s atrocities, wouldn’t the Iraqi people welcome a U.S. liberation?
Contrary to what is often espoused in the media, MANY IRAQI PEOPLE DO NOT WISH TO BE “LIBERATED” BY A U.S. INVASION. Talk to anyone with family in Iraq, and ask them if it is in their family’s best interest to oust Saddam through a military effort (Many representatives from Pax Christi and other organizations have visited Iraq to gain a perspective of the people. They report that the people were overwhelmingly against having their country attacked, even if it meant that they would get a better leader). While there are a few Iraqi dissidents and exiles who do want the U.S. to invade, this does not seem to be the prevailing consensus.
Does Saddam still have weapons of mass destruction?
Nobody can say for certain. Colin Powell’s presentation of satellite photos of “weapons movements” was criticized by Hans Blix as inconclusive, and reporters who visited one of those sites found that it wasn’t a weapons site at all. Blix reports that movement of materials in a bustling city such as Baghdad is quite common for non-military related operations, and that the photos did not demonstrate that the items in question were weapons.
If Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, isn’t military intervention the only option?
No. While it is true that the bombing campaign in 1990 destroyed a large number of Iraq’s weapons, it has been reported by CNN that the weapons inspectors actually destroyed more weapons during the inspection period after Desert Storm than were destroyed by the bombing campaign. The inspection process, while some may argue that it is too slow, may be more effective to bring about the disarmament of Iraq than a military strike. The process would be even more efficient if we pursue other nations’ proposals to double or triple the number of inspectors, a proposal that the Bush administration has outwardly rejected.
CONCLUSION: We have agreed to hold ourselves to a standard of international law because we have directly experienced the horrific consequences of war. The call to war demands a high degree of justification because of these atrocious consequences. Any nation considering war should employ the utmost scrutiny to ensure that its reasons are sound, its motivation is just, and the probability of achieving its goals is high (in this case, to reduce terrorism). NONE of these conditions have been satisfied, and therefore, WAR IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE OR JUST MEASURE.
The Concerned Citizens' Rational Appeal For Peace Petition to U.S. Congress was created by Veterans For Peace, Pax Christi USA, and National Catholic Social Justice Lobby (NETWORK) and written by Brent Anderson. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org