Letter to Congress on Mission Accomplished
1039 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Monday, April 28th, 2003
“Every claim I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence…Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent.”
Colin Powell, address to the U.N. Security Council, February 5th, 2003
“Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term, namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when U.S. companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the British government approved chemical and munitions factories”
Robin Cook, resignation speech to Britain’s House of Commons, March 2003
As President Bush prepares to declare victory in Iraq, it is worth remembering why the vast majority of people and governments around the world urged him not to go to war. Were they afraid that the United States would lose the war? No, that was never the point. The reasons that our friends in France and every other country urged restraint were as follows: -
1) Iraq’s possible possession of “weapons of mass destruction” did not justify a war, and no other justification for one was presented to the U.N. Security Council.
2) The death, pain and destruction of war should not be inflicted preemptively to address political problems. This principle is embodied and spelled out in the U.N. Charter.
3) The long-term consequences of this war would be a worldwide escalation of hatred, war and terrorism – “Bellum Americanum” not “Pax Americana”.
4) The collateral damage would undermine the United Nations, which was finally beginning to play the role envisioned for it by Roosevelt and Churchill sixty years ago, to provide collective and peaceful solutions to international problems.
So, has winning the war proved the critics wrong? Evidently not. On the “weapons of mass destruction”, it seems that even opponents of the war like Robin Cook overestimated the threat, and that the Bush administration was just plain wrong. Which is the whole problem with preemptive war. What if you are wrong, and your “threat” is unfounded? How do you then justify your war to the widows, the orphans, the amputees and the rest of the world?
In the United States, neither our government nor our media have given us an honest accounting of the human, political or strategic costs of this war. Around the world, people have seen the horrors that CNN will not show us, and the reasons that this was such a very bad idea only resonate louder than ever. It is now obvious to the world that Iraq was no threat to the United States, and that we have devastated it and killed thousands of people to effect a political change in pursuit of our own interests.
Our continued presence in Iraq is not welcome, and has no legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqis or the world. Many Iraqis, from policemen to oil executives, are refusing offers to work for our “transitional government”, and even U.S. oil companies are reluctant to sign contracts that a future legitimate Iraqi government may not honor.
While we always owe an incalculable debt to the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, our self-congratulation over their victory is in extremely poor taste. Through civilian control of the military, they put their lives in our hands, and we failed them as well as the people of Iraq when we failed to stop this war. We failed them again by cutting veterans’ benefits while claiming to “support” them. We are failing them again every day that we continue this bloody occupation.
Please do not let this continue. We must ask the United Nations to take control of restoring Iraq to the Iraqi people, and we must give them our wholehearted cooperation and assistance as well as paying for the damage we have done. This will help us to regain some of the respect we have lost, while restoring the United Nations to its proper place as the preeminent institution through which the international community can address international problems. And hold off on that tax-cut! We owe a lot of money to a lot of people, and the wealthy should pay their share.