We are firmly opposed to waging war against Iraq.
The rush to war against Iraq violates the spirit and letter of the US Constitution, as well as disregards the prohibitions on the use of force that are set forth in the UN Charter and accepted as binding rules of international law. The proposed war would also have dangerous and unpredictable consequences for the region and the world, and would likely bring turmoil to the world oil and financial markets, and might well lead to the replacement of currently pro-Western leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia with militantly anti-American governments.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation opposes on principle and for reasons of prudence, the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, by any country, including, of course, Iraq. Our position is one of support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a temporary expedient, while a good faith effort is being made to achieve the overall abolition of nuclear weapons through a disarmament treaty with reliable safeguards against cheating. Unfortunately, at present, no effort to achieve nuclear disarmament is being made.
At the same time, the acquisition of nuclear weaponry, prohibited to Iraq by Security Council resolution, is not itself an occasion for justifiable war. After all, the United States, along with at least seven other countries, possesses, and continues to develop such weaponry. There is no good reason for supposing that Iraq cannot be deterred from ever using such weapons, or from transferring them to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The government of Iraq, notwithstanding its record of brutality and regional aggression, has shown a consistent willingness to back down in the face of overwhelming force, as it did in the Gulf War and during the subsequent decade.
It is necessary to take seriously the possibility that al Qaeda operatives could gain access to weaponry of mass destruction, and would have little hesitation about using it against American targets. Unlike Iraq, al Qaeda cannot be deterred by threats of retaliatory force. Its absence of a territorial base, visionary worldview, and suicidal foot soldiers disclose a political disposition that would seek by any means to inflict maximum harm. The US government should guard against such risks, especially with respect to the rather loose control of nuclear materials in Russia. Going to war against Iraq is likely to accentuate, rather than reduce, these dire risks. It would produce the one set of conditions in which Saddam Hussein, faced with the certain death and the destruction of his country, would have the greatest incentive to strike back with any means at his disposal, including the arming of al Qaeda.
The recent hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not provide an occasion for public debate, as the witnesses called accepted the premise of a regime change in Baghdad, disagreeing only with respect to the costs and feasibility of a war strategy. No principled criticism of the strategy itself was voiced, and thus the hearings are better understood as building a consensus in favor of war than of exploring doubts about the war option. As well, it is regrettable that the hearings paid no attention to the widely criticized punitive sanctions that have had such harsh consequences on Iraqi civilians for more than a decade.
Granting the concerns of the US government that Saddam Hussein possesses or may obtain weapons of mass destruction, there are available alternatives to war that are consistent with international law and are strongly preferred by America’s most trusted allies. These include the resumption of weapons inspections under United Nations auspices combined with multilateral diplomacy and a continued reliance on non-nuclear deterrence. This kind of approach has proved effective over the years in addressing comparable concerns about North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
We are encouraged by the reported opposition to the proposed war by important US military leaders and most US allies. We urge the American people to exercise their responsibilities as citizens to join in raising their voices in opposition to waging war against Iraq.