Originally Published in The Progressive
Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted, and illegal. The Administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. Nor is there any credible evidence that Iraq possesses deliverable weapons of mass destruction, or that it intends to deliver them against the United States.
When Iraq possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, quite sad to say, it did so with the knowledge of, and sometimes with materials from, the United States. During the Administration of Ronald Reagan, sixty helicopters were sold to Iraq. Later reports said Iraq used U.S.-made helicopters to spray Kurds with chemical weapons. According to The Washington Post, Iraq used mustard gas against Iran with the help of intelligence from the CIA.
Iraq’s punishment? The United States reestablished full diplomatic ties around Thanksgiving of 1984.
Throughout 1989 and 1990, U.S. companies, with the permission of the first Bush Administration, sent to the government of Saddam Hussein mustard gas precursors and live cultures for bacteriological research. U.S. companies also helped to build a chemical weapons factory and supplied the West Nile virus, fuel air explosive technology, computers for weapons technology, hydrogen cyanide precursors, computers for weapons research and development, and vacuum pumps and bellows for nuclear weapons plants. “We have met the enemy,” said Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “And he is us.”
Unilateral action on the part of the United States, or in partnership with Great Britain, would for the first time set our nation on the bloodstained path of aggressive war, a sacrilege upon the memory of those who fought to defend this country. America’s moral authority would be undermined throughout the world. It would destabilize the entire Persian Gulf and Middle East region. And it would signal for Russia to invade Georgia; China, Taiwan; North Korea, the South; India, Pakistan.
The United States must recommit itself to the U.N. Charter, which is the framework for international order. We have a right and a duty to defend ourselves. We also have an obligation to defend international law. We can accomplish both without going to war with Iraq.
There is a way out.
It must involve the United Nations. Inspections for weapons of mass destruction should begin immediately. Inspectors must have free and unfettered access to all sites. The time has come for us to end the sanctions against Iraq, because those sanctions punish the people of Iraq for having Saddam Hussein as their leader. These sanctions have been instrumental in causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. Emergency relief should be expedited. Free trade, except in arms, must be permitted. Foreign investments must be allowed. The assets of Iraq abroad must be restored.
And a regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction should be established.
The only weapon that can save the world is nonviolence, said Gandhi. We can begin this practice today by calling upon the Administration in Washington to stop the talk of war, and stop the planning for war.
In their heart of hearts, the American people do not want war on Iraq. The American people want peace.
There is no reason for war against Iraq. Stop the drumbeat. Stop sending troops and supplies to Kuwait and Qatar. Pull back from the abyss of unilateral action and preemptive strikes.
We know that each day the Administration receives a daily threat assessment. But Iraq is not an imminent threat to this nation. Forty million Americans suffering from inadequate health care is an imminent threat. The high cost of prescription drugs is an imminent threat. The ravages of unemployment is an imminent threat. The slowdown of the economy is an imminent threat, and so, too, the devastating effects of corporate fraud.
We must drop the self-defeating policy of regime change. Policies of aggression and assassination are not worthy of any nation with a democratic tradition, let alone a nation of people who love liberty and whose sons and daughters sacrifice to maintain that democracy.
The question is not whether or not America has the military power to destroy Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The question is whether we destroy something essential in this nation by asserting that America has the right to do so anytime it pleases.
America cannot and should not be the world’s policeman. America cannot and should not try to pick the leaders of other nations. Nor should America and the American people be pressed into the service of international oil interests and arms dealers.
We must work to bring Iraq back into the community of nations, not through destruction, but through constructive action worldwide. We can help negotiate a resolution with Iraq that encompasses unfettered inspections, the end of sanctions, and the cessation of the regime-change policy.
We have the power to do this. We must have the will to do this. It must be the will of the American people expressed through the direct action of peaceful insistence.
If the United States proceeds with a first strike policy, then we will have taken upon our nation a historic burden of committing a violation of international law, and we would then forfeit any moral high ground we could hope to hold.