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War Resistance in the U.S.

"This war is not necessary at this time." (US Senator Robert Byrd)

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Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.

And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.

This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11.

Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.

In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.

In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.

Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.

The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land.

Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?

And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein?

Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?

Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?

In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.

One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.

But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.

Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.

We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.

To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

Maine's House of Representatives approves Iraq resolution

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - After an emotional and lengthy debate, Maine's state House approved a resolution urging President George W. Bush to disarm Iraq through the United Nations and without military intervention.

The resolution, amended twice to address the concerns of opponents who derided it as partisan, divisive and ineffectual, was approved 77-66 Tuesday night and sent to the Senate. The measure says Bush should seek no resolution of the Iraqi threat that compromises the safety of Americans.

Supporters said the resolution could become the first addressing the Iraq situation to win final approval by a state lawmaking body. A week ago, Hawaii's House adopted a resolution condemning unilateral action by the U.S. in its efforts to disarm Iraq and North Korea (news - web sites).

Opponents said a state legislature had no business taking up national issues. "No matter how you try to dress up this fish that's stinking in the sun, this representative's not going to vote for it," Republican Rep. Thomas Murphy Jr. said.

But Rep. Tom Watson, a Democrat, said he backed the resolution because he's seen the horrors of war in Vietnam.

" No matter how surgically a war is fought ... war is still a bloody, brutal business that must be avoided at all costs," he said.

Maine's legislature has in the past voted on resolutions dealing with such things as the apartheid government in South Africa and the conflicts in Northern Ireland.

Nobel Prize Winners Call on Bush for Peace

Open letter to President Bush:
WAR ON IRAQ?
THE WORST REMEDY FOR THE WORLD'S GRAVE PROBLEMS

Going to war, any war, is always a step back. A failure for democracy, development and understanding: a defeat for the whole of humanity!

We have always been for life and against violence, but particularly since 11 September 2001. However, the belligerent attitude of the US towards Iraq threatens the foundations of world co-existence and international law. These are foundations that began to be laid after two world wars and under US leadership precisely to prevent war in the future.

Despite the efforts of the UN and several states to moderate the US tendency towards unilateral action - Security Council Resolution 1441 reopened the path towards a diplomatic solution of the conflict - it appears beyond doubt that, ignoring the results of the UN inspections and the serious objections of many people, institutions and governments all over the world, you are determined to unleash a war against Iraq, one certain to cause even more death, misery and desperation to a people already oppressed, their endurance tested to the very limit.

Despite the disinformation campaigns, the great majority of world public opinion sees no reason for preventive war. Does the US government really believe that it is helping to build a more peaceful and democratic world, a fairer, freer and safer world with disinformation campaigns and preventive wars? Are you deaf to the indignant clamour that rises from all over the planet and from within your own country?

We call on you to remember your great responsibility before history and to use the enormous resources available to you to help humanity recover its faith in itself as your country has done in the past. Do not help spread the harsh message that only economic interests, linked in this case to oil and the war industry, can move the world's powerful to take action and sow more violence poverty and hate around the world. Respond to these problems in a spirit of solidarity, justice and aid. This is what humanity needs and what it expects.

We continue to share and understand the American people's grief and fear over the tragic events of September 11. But the best way to prevent this pain from being repeated and from spreading, to erase the seed of terrorism from the face of the world, is to do the opposite of what your are now doing. We call on you to take a radical change of direction to build peace, justice and development in the world.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza
Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mario Soares, Fundaçao Mario Soares
Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Danielle Mitterrand, France Libertés
Cora Weiss, The Hague Appeal for Peace
José Saramago, Nobel Prize in Literature
Susan George, Transnational Institute
Ignasi Carreras, Intermón Oxfam - Oxfam International
Alexander Likhotal, Green Cross International
Colin Archer, International Peace Bureau
Eduardo Estévez, Confederación Mundial del Trabajo
Kailash Satyarthi, Global March Against Child Labour
Andrew Simms, Jubilee
Mohammed Fayek, The Arab Organisation for Human Rights
Á ngel Strappazzon, MOCASE / Vía Campesina
Cornelio Sommaruga, Foundation Caux-Initiatives of Change
Kin Chi Lau, ARENA Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives
Alain Touraine, EHESS
Kumi Naidoo, CIVICUS
Sara Longwe, FEMNET The African Women's Development and Communication Network
Jorge Brovetto, Asociación de Universidades Grupo Montevideo
Lois Barber, EarthAction
Paul Ortega, World Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations
Abdullahi An-Na'im, Emory University
Jorge Nieto, Centro Internacional para la Cultura Democrática
Mary-Wynne Ashford, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Hazel Henderson, Writer
Fèlix Martí, Linguapax Institute
Fatma Alloo, DAWN Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era - Africa
Anaisabel Prera, Fundación para una Cultura de Paz
Arcadi Oliveres, Justice and Peace - Europe
Gabriela Cauduro, Servicio Justicia y Paz - Latinoamérica
À ngels Mataró, Asociación para las Naciones Unidas - España y Latinoamérica
Martí Olivella, Alianza para un mundo responsable, plural y solidario
Martha Honey, Foreign Policy in Focus
Warren Bell, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Raimon Ribera, Centre UNESCO de Catalunya
Paiboon Wattanasiritham, Community Organizations Development Institute
Gurutz Jáuregui, Writer
Josep Maria Fàbregues, Coordinadora Catalana de Fundacions
Josep Xercavins, UBUNTU Forum Ad Hoc Secretariat