Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blast from the not-so-distant past

A letter written to elected officials on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Not a perfect prophecy, but who was more accurate - humble American citizen X, or Bush Cheney & co with their billions of dollars of spy equipment and thousands of men and women working for them?

*****

March 17, 2003

Dear *****,

My name is ***** and I am one of your constituents in *****. I am writing to voice my opinion about the coming war in Iraq. While at this point there is no stopping the President’s decision to initiate an unprovoked war, I feel constrained by my conscience to at least state my position as a citizen. I do this in many ways with a heavy heart, having a ***** who is likely to serve on the front lines in this war. I feel his idealism and beliefs in American values are being abused by our President to further immoral geo-strategic and political goals.

I believe that the coming war on and military occupation of Iraq is a disaster in the making which is being planned by a group of Bush administration officials who know virtually nothing about the Middle East. I say that with some knowledge because (1) *****, (2) *****, and (3) ***** I ***** know ***** Paul Wolfowitz who, despite being a pleasant individual, clearly knew very little about the Middle East (as exemplified by his recent non-sensical statement that there is no history of ethnic strife in Iraq). Added to the administration’s lack of knowledge has come a right-wing agenda that is exemplified in the recently release National Security Strategy’s statement that the US will engage in pre-emptive wars not when the US is threatened, but merely to prevent anyone from even having the possibility of challenging our superiority. There is a simple term for this – “hegemony” – and it is an un-American principle. Beyond this big-picture issue, I am opposed to the war for several reasons:

· The attack on Iraq will increase terrorism against the United States. President Bush claims the attack on Iraq is part of the war on terrorism when the reality is that the war will radicalize thousands of people into terrorist groups that otherwise never would have. Considering that Osama Bin Laden managed to recruit large numbers of people to his twisted cause with a false claim that America is occupying Saudi Arabia, how many more will he and others gain when there is a very real occupation of Iraq?
· Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are no threat to the United States. It is now clear that Iraq’s nuclear program has been entirely dismantled. While Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly lying about not possessing any chemical or biological weapons, the fact remains that he would never attack the United States with them or allow them into the hands of terrorist groups to use against the United States. With the eyes of the world now permanently fixed on Saddam, the instant such an attack occurred he would be immediately blamed and would then justifiably be taken down by US military action as the Taliban were for supporting Al-Qaeda. Saddam knows this, and as a survivor would never do it. The proof is in the last decade: he has had these weapons and had every motivation according to the right-wing hawks to use them, but has not. However, if attacked, then as CIA director George Tenet has said, only then does it seem realistic he might feel forced into using them. We should not be provoking such action.
· Occupation of Iraq undermines American principles of freedom and democracy. The people of Iraq remember well the last foreign occupation they were under by the British in the first half of the 20th century. Like the United States today, the British came in claiming to liberate the people and proclaiming a desire to involve Iraqis in their own affairs. The Iraqis didn’t buy it then, and they will not buy it now. While we may see scenes of people dancing in the streets and thanking America for killing Saddam, a few months later when the US troops haven’t left and an American military governor is running things, the welcome mat will wear out very quickly and our troops lives will be in danger. Democracy cannot be spread by gunpoint, and forcing a pro-American administration on Iraq will be no more successful than the attempts to force a pro-Israel administration on Lebanon were in the 1980s. To even attempt to do so is un-American and un-democratic.
· The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a much more serious problem. This administration more than any other in history has tilted to the extreme right of Israeli politics in supporting Ariel Sharon. The Arab world sees this and is incredibly (and justifiably) angry at the US position. We make a mockery of our claims to standing on principle when we refuse to enforce 50+ year-old resolutions requiring Israel to allow back or compensate refugees and unconditionally end the occupation of Palestinian lands, while simultaneously saying that Iraq must meet UN demands immediately. The fact remains that most in the Arab world feel Saddam is a contained threat, while the belligerency of Ariel Sharon’s government and its rampant human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are a living and constant threat being fed by the Bush administration. Attacking Iraq under these circumstances will inflame Arab public opinion further against the United States and fuel desires to harm Israel rather than make peace. Furthermore, Ariel Sharon’s government will be further emboldened to engage in settlement building and violence against Palestinian civilians knowing that there are no external checks on his power.
· There is a very real possibility of provoking a bloody Iraqi civil or even regional war that will kill far more people than even Saddam has done. An invasion of Iraq has a strong possibility of setting off a series of blood reprisals against former supporters of the Ba’ath regime. This in turn could lead to a never-ending series of Hatfield and McCoy-style blood feuds that could quickly take on a dangerous sectarian slant with Shi’a, Sunni, Kurd, Turkmen, Assyrian, and an endless array of tribal actors killing each other wantonly. The only way to try to stop this would be for US troops to take sides, an action that would place us in the dangerous position of being on one side or the other in a civil war. That got is into terrible trouble in Lebanon in the early 1980s and in Somalia in the early 1990s, and it remains a no-win situation in Iraq. Also as in Lebanon, we risk inviting regional actors with a stake in Iraq to worsen the situation. Already we see the Turks and Kurds threatening to engage in armed conflict, and we could soon see Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or even others playing off and supporting different parties in a civil war. Having foolishly failed to warn Israel to stay completely out of this conflict as we wisely did in 1991, we also risk provoking a regional war involving Israel if Saddam is provoked into lashing out at Israel in a last-ditch attempt to bring the house crashing down on everyone.

I could actually list many more reasons, but I have said enough to make the point. This war will undermine our values and our position in the world. Saddam Hussein can be easily contained and muscular pinpoint pressure can be applied in ways that never were in the 1990s to force him to give up his chemical and biological weapons and even to loosen his tyrannical grip on the country. The Atlantic alliances of the past half century and more are being destroyed by this war and the Bush administration’s reckless dedication to a non-sensical ideology driven primarily by fear and ignorance.

I urge you to stand up against this war so that even if it cannot be avoided, its negative consequences can be mitigated and ultimately reversed through our nation’s democratic process in 2004 and beyond. As my elected representative and as a leader, I hold you responsible to live up to this charge and pray you will act with wisdom for the future of our nation and the world.

Sincerely,

*****

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