Meeting Debate on Iraq, November 13, 2002
Weitzman, TMM precinct 12
the Road to Unilateralism
Before September 11, when
the world was different, this administration was hard at work developing
a radically unilateral posture in the world. Dismissing the need for allies, we pulled out of one international
treaty after another: the Kyoto climate protection treaty, the International
Criminal Tribunal, the United Nations Convention Against Torture,
and The 1972 antiballistic Missile Treaty to name some.
In the September 10, 2001
edition of Time, the cover story about Secretary of State Colin
Powell, entitled, “Odd Man Out,” posited that Powell’s “internationalist” camp was out of
favor, and that the unilateralists were in charge: Cheney, Rumsfeld,
Perls, and Wolfewitz among others. Step by step, this administration has made it
clear that the United States is beyond and above international law.
This new view represents a
radical reversal in American foreign policy, from long-held bipartisan support for multi-latereral cooperation
and respect for international institutions. The rationale that allows for attacking Iraq establishes
dangerous precedents that trade off immediate gains for long-term
isolation and weakening of America.
After the horrors of September
11, enormous worldwide sympathy for America’s plight gave us and
the administration the benefit of the doubt as we pursued terrorists
by military means in Afghanistan. President Bush proclaimed that he had found his mission
as president: the War on Terrorism.
But in his State of the Union
speech given on January 29, 2002, George Bush took a bizarre turn. Mystifying both friends and opponents, he declared
an Axis of Evil, composed of North Korea, Iran and Iraq. Since then there has been an escalating and
unremitting drumbeat for war. The
president has managed to shift the national focus from Afghanistan
to Iraq. Some would say he
has cynically exploited, and even nurtured, the climate of fear
which has been with us since the September 11 attacks.
In the meantime, the sympathy
and good will which most of the world extended us in the wake of
September 11 has evaporated. Despite
the lone supportive voice of Tony Blair, public opinion in virtually
all of Europe--where the prevailing thought is that the Bush administration
is in it for the oil--has turned decisively against the Bush war
plan. Here at home, while President Bush continues
to enjoy high polling numbers personally, the numbers in support
of war with Iraq have been dropping steadily.
I think we all agree that
Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, who has used poison gas on
enemy troops and likewise on his own people. Iraq, the Middle East, and the world will undoubtedly be
better off when he is gone. That
is not the question. The real issue at hand is what America will
become. Shall we use our preeminence to lead the world
to a new era of peace and justice, or shall we become a rogue
An American invasion of Iraq
would be wrong on many levels.
set a precedent for preventive war, one nation invading another
without any immediate threat or provocation. In the past we have never gone to war without the existence
of some casus belli, even when we have had to manufacture one, such
as the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
would further America’s unilateralist posture.
affirm a might-makes-right justification for international behavior.
promote anti-American backlash, and resentment from friend and foe
destabilize the Middle East.
encourage retaliation against the U.S. and Israel.
deflect resources from real antiterrorism efforts.
have a serious negative impact on the economy.
War must always be seen as
a last resort by any civilized people. War is failure. War
is not some video game, despite the images we receive from CNN. Real people die, homes are destroyed, the land
despoiled, and land mines left behind for future innocent victims. Smart bombs are not so smart. In virtually every war civilians receive the
most harm, and every soldier who dies or is maimed will have been
someone’s son or daughter, American or Iraqi.
I ask myself, has the president
made such a compelling case for war that I would be willing to send
my daughter to Iraq, to kill or be killed? For me the answer is an unequivocal No. And if I would not send my own, I would not send anyone else’s
child. I feel it is my patriotic
duty to voice my opposition to this military adventurism as forcefully
as possible, to tell this administration, “Not in my name!”
Let us not underestimate the
power of dissent. Over the
course of the last several months, President Bush’s bellicosity
has been tempered only by cautionary and dissenting voices here
at home. These voices have
included members of the president’s own party, former high ranking
members of the military, former weapons inspectors, and members
of President Bush senior’s administration, and even the president’s
own church. I quote Jim Winkler,
head of social policy for United Methodists, Oct. 20, 2002 :
scriptural doctrine specifies war as a last resort, primarily a
defensive thing. And so far as I know, Saddam Hussein has not mobilized
military forces along the borders of the United States, nor along
his own border to invade a neighboring country, nor have any of
these countries pleaded for our assistance, nor does he have weapons
of mass destruction targeted at the United States.”
If the Bush administration
is able to convince the larger world community that Saddam poses
a significant threat, and is willing to work within international
institutions, then more power to them. If they can make the world safer and further the development
of international law at the same time, they will have my support.
Let us applaud President Bush
for his decision to proceed via the United Nations. But let us also realize how reluctant he has
been to do so, and how thin is the cord by which this strategy hangs. The military buildup continues at a furious
Let us send a message to the
president and commander-in-chief: You have not made a case that
there is a serious and imminent threat of aggression by Iraq; nor
has the United Nations determined the collective military action
against Iraq is necessary. Until you do, we will not support U.S. military
action. Not in our name.