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Guest Opinion: Stopping The War Before It Begins

WE CAN STOP THIS WAR BEFORE IT BEGINS


Statement at the European Parliament, October 22, 2002
By David Krieger *

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. I have come here to urge you all, individually and collectively, to do everything in your power to oppose a US war against Iraq a war that can have no good end. I believe that we have within our reach the ability to stop this war before it begins.

If we succeed, we will save the lives of innocent Iraqis who have suffered enough, and also the lives of young American soldiers, who enlisted in the military with the primary purpose of obtaining the resources to go to college. We will also prevent the creation of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of new terrorists, whose activities will undoubtedly affect Europe as well as the United States.

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America Does Not Speak with One Voice

The Bush administration would have the world believe that America speaks with one voice on the issue of war against Iraq. John Negroponte, the US Ambassador to the UN, recently said, referring to the Joint Congressional Resolution authorizing the president to use force, "This resolution tells the world that the United States speaks with one determined voice."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Large and growing numbers of Americans are saying "Not in our name." They are saying it in full-page ads in major newspapers and they are saying it in the streets.

They are making their voices heard and their presence felt. It is reminiscent of the period of the Vietnam War. The difference is that this war has not yet begun in earnest, which is not to say that the sanctions and the bombing in the no-fly zones have not already taken a large toll of victims.

Only a few months ago, most Americans were not paying serious attention to the possibility of war. Now they are, and they are showing up in protest marches by the thousands. The number will swell to hundreds of thousands, even millions, if the bombs begin to fall on Baghdad.

One recent ad in USA Today concludes: "Let us not allow the watching world today to despair of our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and rally others to do everything possible to stop it."

Let me give you the example of the member of Congress from my district, Lois Capps. Just one month ago she was undecided on this issue, perhaps because the Democratic leadership in the Congress has been so timid with a few notable exceptions such as Senator Robert Byrd. Many of Capps’ constituents spoke to her in opposition to the war. When it came time for the vote on the war resolution, she was one of 133 members of the House of Representatives who voted No, along with 23 Senators.

She stated: "I have not yet seen or heard any convincing evidence that Saddam Hussein is an immediate threat to our national security. Military action should always be a last resort, and we should work in concert with our allies and the U.N. to exhaust every possible diplomatic and economic solution to this problem. At this time I do not believe that the case has been made that force is the only option left to us."

I am here to ask your support in rallying the European Parliament to stand together with the growing number of Americans who are saying an increasingly clear and powerful No to this war -- Not In Our Names.

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Children of Iraq

The Bush administration is attempting to paint the face of Saddam on the people of Iraq. The children of Iraq deserve more from us. We must not accept the simplistic and militaristic solutions of the Bush administration -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and others -- who have their own agendas for war, including oil, dominance and revenge.

If you visit the web site of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, you will find photographs of the children of Iraq, children who will become the collateral damage of this war just as they have been the collateral damage of US-led sanctions that have taken some one million lives. You will also find at this web site letters from Iraqi students to American students. These children do not deserve to be painted with the face of Saddam.

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Preemptive War

Mr. Bush has put forward a doctrine of preemptive war. It is actually not a new doctrine, but it is dangerous and aggressive unilateralism at its most extreme.

Preemptive war was once called "aggressive war," and was described as a "Crime against peace" in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals. Such war violates Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. It includes "planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression."

At stake is the entire post World War II international order, including the United Nations system itself.

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A Defining Moment for the International System

The Bush administration has already cajoled the US Congress to authorize preemptive war. This authorization is false because it is illegal. Congress cannot give the president the power to commit illegal acts, and war against Iraq cannot be legal unless it is properly authorized by the United Nations after all peaceful means have failed. We are far from that point.

There are only two circumstances in which force is authorized under the United Nations Charter. First, there is self-defense, but this only comes into effect when a country is under attack or an attack is imminent, and then only until the United Nations Security Council becomes seized of the matter. In the case of Iraq, there is not a current or imminent attack and the United Nations Security Council is already seized of the matter.

The second circumstance in which force is authorized under the UN Charter is when the Security Council determines that all peaceful means of resolving a conflict have failed. The Security Council has not made this determination in the case of Iraq, despite the Bush administration’s efforts to push it in this direction.

Mr. Bush also places the UN in jeopardy by his threats to act unilaterally if he decides it is necessary. One former US diplomat recently referred to the Bush administration as "hectoring radical unilateralists." He means by this that the approach of the administration is that of a bully. We must stand up to this bully in the name of peace, justice and international law.

Senator Robert Byrd, a wise octogenarian and a hero on this issue in the US Senate, said: "S.J. Resolution 46 would give the president blanket authority to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States.... This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the president's authority under the Constitution of the United States, not to mention the fact that it stands the Charter of the United Nations on its head."

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Hypocrisy

The Bush administration is more inclined to practice hypocrisy than democracy. The administration's hypocrisy takes many forms. The most pronounced forms are Nuclear hypocrisy, Compliance hypocrisy and Criminal Justice hypocrisy. In each of these areas the Bush administration practices a clear double standard.

Nuclear Hypocrisy

Joseph S. McGinnis, Acting Head of the US delegation to the First Committee of the UN, recently stated when introducing a resolution (L.54) on Compliance with Arms Limitation and Disarmament Agreements:

"The US believes that every country in the world should be a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention. We also believe that every country that has signed and ratified these agreements should comply fully with their provisions, and that States Parties must hold each other accountable and take appropriate steps to deter violations."

The US has been in standing violation of its Article VI obligations for nuclear disarmament since the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force in 1970.

The Bush administration has shown no inclination to comply with obligations of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences. It has failed to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification, pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and entered into a fraudulent Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) that will reduce some of the currently actively deployed strategic nuclear weapons but will not make these cuts irreversible. Rather, this treaty will allow for the deactivated weapons to be placed in storage, where they will actually be more likely to be available to terrorists.

The Bush Nuclear Posture Review calls for retaining nuclear weapons in perpetuity, calls for contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, indicates a willingness to use nuclear weapons against chemical or biological weapons attacks, and outlines plans for more useable nuclear weapons such as bunker busters.

Further, the Bush administration has formed alliances with Pakistan and India, although both have developed nuclear arsenals. The administration has never even raised the issue of Israel having developed a nuclear arsenal, despite long-standing calls for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, including in Security Council Resolution 687, the resolution that laid down the terms of Iraqi disarmament.

Regarding biological weapons, the Bush administration sabotaged six years of negotiations to add an inspection and verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. The Bush administration also forced the resignation and replacement of Jose Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). They disliked Bustani because he had encouraged Iraq to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and become part of its inspection regime, a step that would have made military action against Iraq even less justifiable.


Compliance Hypocrisy

The Bush administration is ready to go to war with Iraq to achieve compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. Yet, there are many other violations of Security Council resolutions by other nations, including US allies Israel and Turkey, for which the US shows little or no concern.

Additionally, the Bush administration has indicated a willingness to engage in diplomatic efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the recent revelation by North Korea that it is developing nuclear weapons.

Criminal Justice Hypocrisy

Bush has withdrawn the US signature from the International Criminal Court and has sworn that US leaders will never be subject to the Court’s jurisdiction, yet he has threatened to bring Iraqi leaders to an International Tribunal should they use weapons of mass destruction if attacked by the US.

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Conclusions

-- The international community must stand firm in rejecting a US initiated preemptive war against Iraq.

-- The states of the European Union can help lead the way in preventing the Bush administration from standing the international system on its head with its plans for preemptive war. They can also engage in the hard work of negotiations and diplomacy to find a peaceful solution to the current compliance issues with Iraq and with other countries currently out of compliance with Security Council Resolutions and other multinational treaties such as the NPT.

-- Double standards in the international system must be ended, and a single standard must be applied to all, even the sole remaining superpower.

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* - David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( http://www.wagingpeace.org/). His latest book is Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age.


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