grassrootspeace.org

November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.

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War on Truth  From Warriors to Resisters
Books of the Month

The War on Truth

From Warriors to Resisters

Army of None

Iraq: the Logic of Withdrawal

A Sampling of Letters to Congress
(please scroll down to view letters)

September 20, 2002

Mr. Kenneth Myers
Legislative Assistant for Foreign Policy
Senator Richard G. Lugar
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Myers:

Thank you very much for speaking with me over the phone yesterday afternoon. The two thousand Indiana citizens associated with this MoveOn initiative on Iraq appreciate the opportunity to communicate with Senator Lugar. I hope that we can stay in touch.
May I follow up on a few points that arose during our conversation?

“The situation – at least Constitutionally – is similar to 1990-1.” I believe that it is radically different. In 1990, Iraq had invaded Kuwait. The Security Council issued an ultimatum in August and, following Iraq’s failure to comply with it, authorized force in November. Congress passed a resolution in support of the ultimatum. The key point is that there was a clear criterion: would Iraq withdraw? Historians might debate lost possibilities to negotiate withdrawal, but at least the result was unambiguous: Iraq was still in Kuwait.

Today, however, we are considering a preemptive attack on Iraq. Nominally the Bush Administration claims its purpose is to enforce Security Council resolutions. But Iraq’s possible violations do not involve a large incontrovertible fact such as occupation of Kuwait. Contrary to the President’s claims, the war-making authority in Resolution 678 expired when Iraq was expelled from Kuwait. Though Iraq may well be in violation of resolutions on issues such as the repression of its civilian population and the return of Kuwaiti property, these are not valid grounds for war. The President accuses Iraq of harboring terrorist organizations, but so do sixty-five nations, and, in the opinion of most experts, Iraq’s links to Al Qaida are notably weak. The point is that the President has sent Congress a resolution that guarantees he will be able to find a reason to go to war. Rather than enforcing an ultimatum, Congress would simply be surrendering its war-making authority. That is why the appropriate Constitutional instrument is a vote on a declaration of war.

Even the question of weapons of mass destruction, in Resolution 687, requires time and judgment. United Nations weapons inspectors are returning. It is possible, as you say, that they will miss something. But is this possibility a valid ground for attack – either legally or prudently? Secretary Rumsfeld claims the right to act in the absence of evidence; every tradition in western law suggests otherwise. You point out that our confidence in inspections will grow the longer the inspectors have to work. Yet the Bush Administration has no intention of waiting.

If Congress – like the overwhelming majority of the international community – wanted to see whether the inspectors meet Iraqi cooperation, it should pass a resolution without war-making authority. Iraq still would have every incentive to cooperate: if it hindered legitimate inspections, the Security Council and Congress could take appropriate action.

If our purpose is truly to curb weapons of mass destruction, we should ensure that inspections are limited to hunting weapons. (This is why Rolf Ekeus's statement, which I cited, is relevant – whatever Mr. Ekeus may also have said about Iraq. It is why we should welcome the initiative of an “honest broker,” such as Canada, to monitor the inspection process.)

We should not imagine we are going to war in order to enforce Security Council resolutions. They are at most the pretext. If we were serious about Resolution 687, for example, we would seek to make good on its commitment to make the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and to achieve a balanced and comprehensive control of armaments in the region.

“You don’t favor establishing a balance of terror, as we had with the Soviets?” Of course not. Nor is it likely: Iraq is infinitely weaker than the USSR. The point, however, is that the Bush Administration claims that even though weapons of mass destruction are proliferating to a growing number of countries, Iraq is a unique threat. Vice President Cheney and others cite Iraq’s use of chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1988. Yet at the time, the United States was giving Iraq covert help in battlefield planning. In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, US Ambassador Gillispie had made ambiguous comments to the Iraqi government that implied the United States would not be overly concerned. These were not failures of Iraq to heed deterrence; they were failures of the US to tell the Iraqis what was unacceptable. The difference is important, because it belies the Administration’s claim that preemptive war is necessary. If we could contain the USSR, we can certainly contain Iraq.

Senator Lugar understands that curbing weapons of mass destruction is a complex task requiring a comprehensive approach. Yet the Bush Administration has renounced, scuttled, or threatened virtually every significant arms control agreement, including the Verification Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Outer Space Treaty. In its Nuclear Posture Review, the Administration undermines our commitment not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. These administration policies virtually guarantee continued proliferation. Attacking Iraq may only accelerate that, as others seek to rush past the post and acquire weapons of mass destruction in the hope actual possession would protect them from US attack (after all, we are not attacking China, or even North Korea).Senator Lugar has repeatedly called for a realistic discussion of the risks and costs of war. That discussion has vanished thanks to the simplistic terms of the debate and the misuse of patriotism shortly before an election. Yesterday, for example, you dismissed the risk that nuclear weapons might be used during the coming war. Yet Brent Scowcroft among others takes it seriously, should Iraq use chemical or biological weapons against Israel. What will be the effect on the Middle East of US occupation of Iraq? The optimism of writers at The Weekly Standard should itself be a warning. If we attack Iraq before making progress on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, won’t we strengthen extremists on both sides and possibly lead to expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan? Are not the chaos of war and the humiliation of US occupation of an Arab state likely to foment terrorism throughout the Muslim world? Will we not legitimate preemptive attack, only to see others use it in dangerous ways (India on Pakistan, for example)? The Senate would make a tragic mistake if it neglected these questions so that it could pass a resolution before it recesses for elections.

We urge Senator Lugar to reject any resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and we urge him to work for a truly just and comprehensive policy to promote peace and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

With thanks and best wishes,

Sincerely,

David Keppel


September 19, 2002

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Lugar:

I understand that the Foreign Relations Committee will shortly be considering White House drafted language authorizing the President to use force against Iraq. I strongly urge you to oppose a carte blanche – on both Constitutional and substantive grounds.

Constitutionally such a resolution surrenders Congress’s right and responsibility to consider a declaration of war under Article I. It is much easier to assent to a contingency than to a reality. Members of Congress are more likely to agree that the President may use force than to vote aye to a declaration of war. The former appears still as a mere possibility; it can be explained as “sending a message that America is united.” Yet this alibi belies the reality. If the events of the past week show anything, it is that the Bush Administration is fixed upon war and nothing Iraq can do will alter that.

You must therefore face your actual choice. Either vote on a resolution shorn of war-making authority – or vote on war itself. A resolution without war-making authority would still leave Iraq ample incentive to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. It is clear to everyone including Iraq that non-compliance would have serious consequences. On the other hand, if you vote (now or later) on an actual war declaration, Congress will have a chance to face squarely the full meaning of war.

It is that full meaning – and not any pale replica – which you as a leading intellectual and moral voice of the Senate must deeply ponder. The questions have been raised many times – but now they are for real. Is Iraq an imminent threat – or a largely fabricated crisis? Can we afford to focus on Iraq – when other countries are more advanced in weapons of mass destruction, and have closer ties to terrorists? How many civilians may be killed? If Iraq truly has weapons of mass destruction and uses them now, can we be sure that Israel or the US will not use nuclear weapons? Might Iran enter the conflict? Are we prepared for a long occupation? If the attack destabilizes Saudi Arabia, are we prepared to seize its oil fields, as some advocate? Will not the Arab populace – once more humiliated and enraged – turn increasingly to terrorism directed at the United States? Will permanent war upset the global economy – and undermine American democracy? Will not our gratuitous attack make us a global pariah and eventually undermine even our formidable power?

You are, I believe, a cautious person in the best sense of the word. Today you face a wrenching dilemma. Will your caution lead you (however reluctantly) to support the President in an adventure of unparalleled recklessness? Or will you take a difficult but principled stand for national caution and responsibility? Your place in Indiana and in the Senate is already secure. Your place in history depends on your choice.

With best wishes,
Respectfully yours,David Keppel


September 18, 2002

The Honorable Thomas Daschle
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Attention: Denis McDonough

Dear Senator Daschle:

I was shocked to read your statement on Iraq, quoted in today’s New York Times, that “Democrats have been for regime change from the beginning.” As one who closely follows your statements, I must admit I understood you otherwise.

Of course, if “regime change” simply means that Saddam Hussein dies in his bed or the Iraqi people replace him, everyone can be for it. But as you know, the Bush Administration uses "regime change” as a code word for attacking a country that poses no imminent threat to the United States.
With more time I believe I could use your own words to show the danger of the Administration’s policy. Permit me to paraphrase. Attacking another state violates international law. It sets a precedent that opportunistic states will use to attack others: India, for example, may attack Pakistan. It confirms deep-seated suspicion in the Middle East that we aim to seize Iraq’s oil and give a free hand to Israel. It invites extremists to attempt their own version of “regime change” in the United States through assassination or terrorism.

One wonders whether the Bush Administration and you are embracing the broad goal of regime change precisely because the case on weapons of mass destruction is weak. Now that weapons inspections are resuming, there is every opportunity to strengthen containment without resorting to violence. Iraq is neither unique nor the leading nation in nuclear or biological weapons. In the long term, we must address the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons on a comprehensive basis. This Administration has renounced, scuttled, or threatened virtually every important arms control agreement, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Verification Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Outer Space Treaty.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that you are giving the President a carte blanche to wage war because you fear he will use patriotism against you at the polls. Such calculations are an unworthy basis for decisions that may cost thousands of lives and darken the future of this nation and the world. Your capitulation will gravely weaken our democracy – and with it, any Democratic Party that is worth its name.
Respectfully yours,David Keppel


September 17, 2002

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Lugar:

I am dismayed that the Bush Administration seems to consider Iraq’s unconditional acceptance of United Nations weapons inspectors more a threat than an opportunity. Equally disturbing are the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres implying that the United States is irreversibly committed to attack Iraq (to Israel Radio, quoted in Ha’aretz, 09/17/02).

There are, obviously, many repugnant aspects of Saddam Hussein’s government, and possibly many ways that it stands in violation of the terms of Resolution 687. But they are not valid grounds for renewed war – either in the eyes of the international community, or in the light of US national interests. We face complex and demanding challenges in curbing weapons of mass destruction in many countries, in preventing international terrorism, in managing the unstable global economy, in alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. We cannot afford obsession with one country.

The political and moral costs of war – in which at least ten thousand Iraqi civilians may die – will be all the higher if the world sees that the United States sought war almost for its own sake. Arabs will note Israel’s apparent role in our decision; and our visible devaluation of Arab life will incite terrorism. You and your colleagues must make it clear to the President that he would make a terrible mistake if he tried to sabotage the current opportunity for a non-violent resolution of the Iraqi conflict.

With best wishes,
Respectfully yours,

David Keppel

PS: I enclose a copy of a letter to the editor of The Observer (London) suggesting a way of ensuring that weapons inspections serve their purpose.

 

(413) 773-7427; charlesjenks@gmail.com

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