Peace Porridge #32, 10/13/02: Authorization to Attack Iraq Resolution  

Thanks so much to all of you who contacted your lawmakers asking them to vote NO on the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution."

The public response was unprecedented. Congress received hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of calls, emails, letters, and faxes in opposition to this terrible piece of legislation, crafted by the leaders of both political parties.

I can do no better than to quote senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia who led the fight in the senate against the Use of Military Force Resolution:

"I have heard from tens of thousands of Americans people from all across this country of ours who have urged me to keep up the fight. I am only one Senator from a small state, yet in the past week I have received nearly 20,000 telephone calls and nearly 50,000 e-mails supporting my position.

"I want all of those people across America who took the time to contact me to know how their words have heartened me and sustained me in my efforts to turn the tide of opinion in the Senate. They are my heroes, and I will never forget the remarkable courage and patriotism that reverberated in the fervor of their messages."

Your hard work has paid off! While lobbying for peace on Capitol Hill on September 30, I was told that only Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, William Lacy Clay and a small handful of others would vote against the Use of Military Force Resolution. Ten days later, thanks to your hard work, that "small handful" had swelled to 133 representatives and 23 senators who voted NO, almost 30% of congress.

Special thanks go out to the six republican representatives and republican senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who showed exceptional courage in standing up against Mr. Bush and the entire Republican Party leadership and voting NO.

There is no question that this vote was a victory for the peace movement. It is no secret that Mr. Bush expected nearly unanimous support for his Use of Military Force Resolution, and didn't hesitate to use every dirty trick his advisors could think of to get that support. Thanks to you, he failed.

No longer will any knowledgeable person believe him when he says that the people of the United States or the US Congress are united behind him.

Instead of uniting the people, Bush has divided them. A message of wholehearted support for the UN weapons inspection team would have received virtually unanimous support from both congress, and the people of the United States. Mr. Bush's message of unilateral preemptive war when and if he chooses has proved divisive.

The Use of Military Force Resolution states:

"The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

"(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

"(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

There is no time limit, nor requirement to ask the UN Security Council to authorize the military enforcement of its resolutions. Nor is there a limit to the level of force, which could include the US nuclear arsenal. As a result, Mr. Bush or any future president of the US may attack Iraq at any time, with any weapon, merely on a whim. (View text of resolution at:

Bill Number: HJR 114

(Search for Bill Number: HJR114.)

Many legal experts feel this resolution is unconstitutional.

From Senator Byrd: "The American people have a better understanding of the Constitution than the people they elected to represent them."

Byrd Pleads to American People

And from former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, just prior to the congressional vote:

"[The Constitution's framers] gave the war-making power to Congress, ... But Congress is on the verge of giving up that authority and of VIOLATING THE CONSTITUTION [emphasis mine] by signing an open-ended resolution saying the president can do whatever he wants."

Nader Lashes Bush Policy

Support for Mr. Bush is dwindling. At home and abroad, dignitaries speak derisively of him. Some recent highlights:

A CBS/NYT poll found that the people of the United States by a 2-to-1 margin, would prefer to see U.N. weapons inspectors have more time to do their work before military action is taken. 56% said that one country should not be able to attack another country unless it is attacked first.

Poll: Bush Should Wait on Iraq

Contradicting Bush's fear-mongering that Iraq is a threat to the United States, a recent CIA report notes that Iraq probably does not have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any; and that Iraq's chemical weapons capability were reduced during the UNSCOM inspections.

The report also notes that there has been no documented use of chemical weapons by Iraq since March 1988, almost 15 years ago. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Scheer states,

"So what we have here is our top intelligence agency endorsing the past success of a peaceful, enforceable disarmament technique that our allies and the United Nations support, while our president and his Cabinet repeatedly belittle it as a sham."

Truth on Iraq Seeps Through, by Robert Scheer

Former US president, Jimmy Carter, who stated that to attack Iraq without U.N. backing would be a tragic and costly error for the United States, was recently announced the winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. Asked by a reporter if the choice of Jimmy Carter was a "kick in the leg" [Norwegian equivalent of slap in the face] at Washington, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Gunnar Berge responded: "Yes, the answer is an unconditional yes."

Carter Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Bush Rebuked By Reuters - New York Times

Former John F. Kennedy advisors, now in Cuba for a conference on the 1962 missile crisis, view with disdain Mr. Bush's invocation of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a precedent for his doctrine of preemptive war.

JFK Aides Say Bush Is Wrong On Crisis by Kevin Sullivan

Former top Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. states: "I would flunk [Mr. Bush] in history." And, "[The doctrine of] preventive war is most alarming ... That's the doctrine invoked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. FDR called that a day that will live in infamy, and the Bush doctrine is perpetuating that infamy."

Kennedy Defense Secretary, Robert McNamama, states: "[Kennedy's strategy in 1962] was not preemption. It was the reverse of preemption." And, "... however astutely the crisis may have been managed, luck also played a significant role in the avoidance of nuclear war by a hair's breadth."

One can't help but wonder whether this time, with the lack of any semblance of astute management, luck will again play a role in averting global disaster. We in the peace movement have our work cut out for us. Failing to convince a majority of either congressional chamber to uphold the US Constitution and deny Mr. Bush the power to make war which he demands, we must now take our case to the UN and the court of domestic and worldwide opinion.

Remember your lawmakers' vote on election day. Creative non-violent opportunities to work for peace and oppose preemptive war abound. To mention just a couple:

Thousands have rallied and demonstrated against war in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC. Lesser numbers have taken to the streets in other locations to let their revulsion at preemptive war be known.

Said Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, "This is starting to feel like Vietnam in terms of the level of protests. The one difference is that we're trying to stop a war [before it happens]."

44 Arrested at S.F. War Protest, Demonstration at Federal Building Over Congressional Votes - by Patrick Hog and Harriet Chiang

During the Vietnam War, it was only after years of fighting, that thousands began protesting all over the country. Today, we have alreadyreached that level. Again, concerned citizens are leading the way, and eventually, the government will have no choice but to follow. We can stop this war before it starts.

Voices in the Wilderness has organized a permanent international peace presence in Baghdad. The meaning of the Iraq Peace Team is clear. An attack on Iraq is also an attack on the United States and every country in the world.

Voices in the Wilderness

Even if you can't go to Iraq, you can contribute to the effort through

Iraq Peace Team website

I'll close with a famous quotation from Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."


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