Monday, December 30, 2002

You may have heard that the U.S. government deleted thousands of pages from the weapons-program dossier that the Iraq released. According to the Independent of London the missing pages contained a list of European and American companies that supplied Iraq with materials for weapons. The list of companies is available online.

One of the most disturbing things about the Independent piece is the statement that these companies’ support for Iraq’s conventional weapons program “had continued until last year.” So while children were dying because of economic sanctions and the inability to import sufficient humanitarian aid, weapons companies were continuing to do business with Saddam!

What we need instead of war is an end to economic sanctions and stepped up enforcement of military sanctions against Iraq. And while we are at it why not increased military sanctions for other nations in the Middle East as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

I am reading the book “A Language Older Than Words” by Derrick Jensen. He has one section where he describes some of the atrocities of the first Gulf War. It might be helpful to review these as we prepare for the second.

- 250,000 – 500,000 Iraqis died during the war.
- American troops used plows mounted on tanks to bury Iraqis alive in their trenches, after one wave of bulldozers incapacitated the defenders, another filled the trenches with sand.
- in at least one verified incident American soldiers slaughtered thousands of unarmed Iraqi soldiers walking toward Americans positions, hands raised in an attempt to surrender
- two days after the ceasefire, Schwarzkopf approved the combined arms slaughter of Iraq’s Republican Guard Hammurabi Division as it retreated.
- in clear violation of international law, the American forces used napalm fuel-air explosives, and cluster bombs
- less than 10% of destroyed vehicles on the “Highway of Death” were associated with the military. One GI described most as “like a little Toyota pickup truck that was loaded down with the furniture and the suitcases and rugs and the pet cat and that type of thing.”
- the Air Force intentionally bombed a baby milk powder factory, a vegetable oils factory, a sugar factory, the country’s biggest frozen meat storage, 52 community mental health centers, a major hypodermic syringe factory and 676 schools.
- Americans intentionally bombed the Amariayh civilian bomb shelter, twice. The second bomb killed all but 17 of the 1500 mostly women and children hiding there.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

When I posted my comments below to an alumni board a friend responded with a tirade against about my response to terrorism. Here is how I responded:

Thank you for responding to my post.

What would I do? Back in a previous message I posted a long list of resources that offer analysis of why war with Iraq is unnecessary. Some of these articles also list alternatives to a war. Please take the time to read these. Here are a few that offer specific alternatives to the war:
http://www.fourthfreedom.org/php/t-si-index.php?hinc=www_report.hinc
http://www.thestranger.com/2002-10-17/feature.html
http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/papers/iraq3.html
http://members.tripod.com/~lutheran_peace/LJEIraqarticle10a.html (you skip over the religious stuff in the first paragraph)
"Disarming Iraq: Nonmilitary Strategies" David Cortright and George Lopez, 9-02, www.armscontrol.org
"With weapons of the will: How to topple Saddam Hussein, nonviolently," Peter Ackerman & Jack DuVall www.sojo.net

Much of your response deals with the problem of Osama and terrorism in general. This different issue than the question of war with Iraq which is what I was responding too.

There is no evidence that the Iraq government has supported Al-Qaeda, Osama or any other terrorist organization that has attacked the US. In fact, the Iraq government and Al-Qaeda are bitter enemies. Osama has issued a “fatah” against Saddam and considers the B’ath party he governs to be too secular. Saddam considers Al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamists to be a threat to his power and has had them executed.

Large-scale military acts and invasions have not stopped terrorism – especially terrorist networks like Al-Qaeda that are very decentralized. Before Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the 80s there were an average of 5 Israelis killed every year from terrorism. Now that many die almost every week.

If you ask anti-terrorism experts they will tell you that the best way to defeat terrorism is not through mostly military options but through addressing the underlying root causes of terrorism. Please read this article: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11601 Note that it is not crazy “liberals” pointing this out but CIA terrorism experts.

You also brought up the massacre of Kurds in Iraq. This is a significant war crime. Saddam should be brought before an international criminal court and tried just like Slobodan Milosevic. The US government should not have been supporting Saddam when he did this. Donald Rumsfeld, our current secretary of war, should NOT have been in Iraq offering support to Saddam while the massacre was occurring. The US government should not be supplying Turkey with the military equipment that it is using against Kurds in that country. Try telling THAT to all the Kurds who are suffering.

Even the conservative estimates suggest that we will kill more Iraq civilians during a full-scale invasion than were killed by Saddam during the Kurdish massacre. So I am not sure how such a war would bring any justice to this world.

You also tried to paint my perspective as simply a “liberal” view. As I pointed out previously some of the best anti-war analysis is coming from a conservative viewpoint. See:
http://www.cato.org/dailys/08-19-02.html
http://www.antiwar.com
http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/6420
http://www.nowarblog.org
Someone offered the "hunch" that Bush is just bluffing and that their won't be a war with Iraq anytime soon.

Here are my hunches:

1) The Bush administration will find some excuse to attack Iraq. Perhaps they will say that all the "i"s are not dotted in the report due this weekend. Or, maybe that the weapons inspectors are incompetent. Or, maybe they will invent a lie like the incubator baby story from the first Gulf war. (See recent articles in British newspapers here, and here)

2) The attack will take place between Dec. 16 and the end of January – this is the ideal weather window for battle in the dessert (see: this source).

3) This war has nothing to do with “weapons of mass destruction” which is why we are not attacking N. Korea. It has to do with the fact that Iraq has the world’s second largest oil reserves and the Bush administration considers it strategic for their world domination objectives. (See London Review of Books article by Anatol Lieven, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment )

4) The war will cost $100 billion of our tax dollars and kill tens of thousands of innocent lives. In my view this is too high a cost for cheap oil and the administration’s ideas of grandeur.

5) The only thing that can stop the war is significant public opposition in the US and Great Britain.

6) The war will likely increase terrorist attacks against the US and Israel

Much of this anaylsis comes from moveon.org

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

On Sunday I went up to Vancouver, BC for a large march and peace rally. Despite the overcast skies and rain the crowd was in a festive mood. Organizers estimated the crowd at over 10,000. I carried a sign reading “Another American against the War” and received many smiles and positive comments from those reading it.

I few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who tried to argue that protestors at the recent rallies were making a “political” but not a “moral” statement because they were condemning US actions but not Saddam Hussien. Of course this friend had not attended any rallies. At Sunday almost every speaker made a point of condemning Saddam’s actions. The last speaker was an Iraqi-Canadian. He said, “We are against Bush, but we are also against ‘the enemy’ (Saddam Hussien). We are against war.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I spent about an hour yesterday supporting a group of people that did a small protest at our local armed forces recruiting station. You can read my article about the action on Seattle Indymedia. There was also an article in the Bellingham Herald (link expires after two weeks).

While the police were talking to the three women blocking the entrance I talked with a couple of bystanders. The conversation revealed to me just how misinformed some segments of the American public are. One woman insisted that Saddam has rockets that could reach the U.S. Not even the most hawkish people in the Bush administration are making that claim! Also disturbing was her obvious ignorance of the Arabic world. She seemed to consider all of “them” to be terrorists.

The bystanders I talked to also questioned the basic tenants of what we were doing – nonviolent civil disobedience. I asked if they had read Thoreau’s essay on Civil Disobedience. Only one of them had and she said it was “boring.” It is a same that one of the most influential documents in American political thought is either unknown or considered too boring to be of any worth.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

I was at the big antiwar rally in San Francisco last weekend (Oct. 26).

Some commentators are painting the rally participants as being only “left-wing wacko extremists” or “communists.” But I was there, and the participants did reflect a broad cross-section of the population. There were many middle class people with their children, doctors, professionals, veterans, students, Libertarians, Christian groups, business owners and I even saw one sign that said “Republicans for Peace.”

On the way to the rally we stopped our van at a rest stop in Oregon. A young woman approached us carrying a baby. She asked where she could get one of the “Attack Iraq? NO!” bumper stickers that we had on our van. We gave her one of the extra stickers we had. She was on her way to San Diego to meet her husband who is in the Navy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The Washington Post has an article about how the current White House administration has a habit of distorting the truth, especially when it come to the war with Iraq. Specifically the article mentions that Bush has lied about:

- unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States."
- a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were "six months away from developing a weapon."

The article doesn't mention some of the other lies about Iraq that the President has uttered including:
- the weapons inspectors were kicked out in 1998 (they actually chose to leave before an escalation of US bombing)
- the close link between Saddam and Al Qieda

The LA Times has an interesting article on the failure of US attempts at “preemptive strikes.” It also offers a model of how we could contain and reduce the threat of Saddam Hussien. The article points out that Kadafi was once America's number one enemy and unlike Saddam was directly connected to terrorist attacks against the West. However, the threat of Kadafi has been greatly reduced by a combination of containment and limited sanctions – not a massive bombing campaign.

Anther model that has been suggested is supporting the reformers in Iran. Although Islamic extremists still have some power in Iran, it seems that the reformers are firmly in control. The large young population has little attachment to the Islamic revolutionaries that seized power 20 years ago. We should be supporting the reformers and using Iran as an example of to export Islamic moderation to the rest of the Middle East.

Yet another model for reducing the threat of Saddam has been proposed by Sojourners Magazine. Massive nonviolent civil disobedience by the Iraqi population may seem a bit naive to some but it's worked before (the Phillipines, most of Eastern Europe, Serbia).

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

How come we aren't hearing more about the fact that the story about enriched uranium on it way to Iraq via Turkey was a hoax (also here)?

And it appears that the report Bush was using to claim that Iraq was six months away from nuclear weapons does not exist.

In fact, anytime we hear some story about Iraq being a threat to the US maybe we should just think of three words: Gulf of Tonkin.
This is a letter to the editor that I wrote and that appeared in the local paper yesterday. My post for 9/26 contains links to some of the sources I used for this letter.

Do you get the feeling that President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair are grasping at straws in an attempt to win support for their war?

They have made the claim that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons that threaten the United States. However, experts including Scott Ritter, former head weapons inspector in Iraq, have systematically discounted this claim. Bush tried to claim that Iraq was a nuclear threat. But the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, one of the most respected groups that monitors nuclear weapons, pointed out in a recent editorial that Iraq is actually farther away from developing such weapons than it was 10 years ago.

Blair presented a "dossier" against Saddam trying to win support from his government. But experts quickly pointed out that there was really nothing new in this document. In fact just one hour and 10 minutes after it was released, British journalists in Iraq were taken to one of the facilities mentioned in the dossier. They found nothing. The Daily Mirror newspaper said the report was full of "marshmallow facts."

Now some in the Bush administration are again trying to link Iraq with al-Qaida. Peter Struck, Germany's defense minister, has said there is nothing new in the CIA report, and added he had no information of links between al-Qaida and Iraq.

Let's hope that members of Congress understand the difference between propaganda and evidence. We need weapons inspectors in Iraq. We don't need a bloody bombing campaign that will kill thousands of innocent civilians.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Do you get the feeling that the Bush and Blair administrations are getting desperate in their propaganda campaign? Experts have disputed their claim about the dangers of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons. They also tried to make claims about nuclear weapons but scientists disputed those claims.

Next Blair released his dossier. One paper says the dossier is full of “marshmallow facts” (also check out the Guardian detailed analysis of the dossier claims).

Yesterday the Bush administration again tried to link Iraq to to al-Qaeda. But some European politicians are skeptical about the “evidence.” Germany's defense minister said there was nothing new in the CIA report, adding he had no information of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq. And another journalist points out in the Guardian that there still isn’t any hard evidence of such a link.

Meanwhile nonviolent occupations of congressional offices have occurred in Seattle, Minnesota, Illinois, New Mexico and Michigan.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The local paper has a front page article about peace activists going to Iraq to act as witnesses to the possible war. The article describes the activists as "naive."

But isn't also naive to believe that U.S. bombing will somehow miraculously bring democracy to Iraq? Isn’t it also naïve to believe that the U.S. bombing will mostly target military objectives and not kill thousands of innocent civilians? Isn’t it also naïve to believe that everything the White House is saying about the war is accurate?

The article also quotes a retired U.S. Air Force Col. as saying that “…Americans going to protect one of the evilest guys …” Of course, the activists are not going to protect Saddam but rather the civilians.
Yesterday the headlines proclaimed that Tony Blair had a dossier that demonstrated why we need to go to war with Iraq. It turns out this was not so much compeling evidence as it was propaganda.

Some are calling the report dishonest and that Blair has falied to make a case for war. In a Washington Post article Gary Milhollin, executive editor of Iraq Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit institution that tracks developments in Iraq's weapons program, is quoted as saying, "Given the high priority for knowing what is going on in Iraq, I'm stunned by the lack of evidence of fresh intelligence." Within two hours and 10 minutes after the release of the report Baghdad authorities were taking a group of British journalists to see the sites of alleged manufacture and storage named in the document.

The report describes some of Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses. But an investigation by British journalist's reveals that the "leaders" that the Bush government is considering to replace Saddam may be just as bad if not worse.

TomPaine.com has an excellent collection of articles from various political viewpoints discussing why the war is wrong - including one from the CATO Institute.

It appears that the drive to war with Iraq may be a "Runaway Train."

Monday, September 23, 2002

We keep hearing over and over again that one reason for a military attack against Iraq it that it will help establish democracy in Iraq. But is military intervention the best way to achieve democracy?

The U.S. has intervened militarily (either directly or indirectly) in foreign nations 42 times since WWII. Have any of these interventions resulted in greater democracy in those nations? In some cases it actually resulted in a democracy being replaced by a military dictatorship (take Chile for example).

On the other hand, many nations have made the transition to democracy during the same time period without military intervention (South Africa, Serbia, all of Eastern Europe). Most of these transitions occurred through mainly non-violent, citizen movements. Why not work to create such a movement in Iraq? An article in Sojourners magazine makes this argument in more detail.

Because I am a peace activist I am sometimes accused of being “unrealistic” or an “idealist.” But I think that it is those who make the claim that military intervention improves the chance of democracy that are being “idealistic” and “unrealistic.” We only have to look to history to learn that.
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