In tonight's State of the Union address President George W. Bush declared that Iraqis had only a short time to demonstrate that they had disclosed all weapons of mass destruction or the U.S. would initiate war. The fact is that there is nothing that Iraq can say or do that will satisfy Mr. Bush on this. Almost every other country in the world with the exception of Britain and Israel openly oppose war on Iraq. Yet Mr. Bush is heedless of their appeals. Right now there is only one hope that a war can be prevented -- the American people.
We live in a democracy (as limited as it may be) and we as a people are responsible for the actions of our government. It is our responsibility and our duty as Americans to prevent our government from waging war on the Iraqi people.
Let's be clear that the central issue about this promised war is not weapons of mass destruction; it is not about regime change; and it is not about compliance with UN resolutions. Nor is the central issue about any of the suspected motivations for this war, such as oil or empire. The central issue is that war on Iraq means the destruction of Iraqi society -- it means the murder of over a million people. As a member of the Canadian parliament [Colleen Beaumier, a member of the ruling Liberal Party from Toronto] has recently said, "War on Iraq is a war on children."
In 1991 the Gulf War directly killed tens of thousands of Iraqi combatants and civilians and destroyed large parts of civilian infrastructure like water systems, sewage treatment, and electrical generation. [Article 56 of the 1977 Geneva Convention prohibits targeting civilian infrastructure (water, sanitation, etc.).] The aftermath of that war has been even more catastrophic. Under economic sanctions the infrastructure could not be rebuilt and until a few years ago food and medicines could not be imported. The result was malnutrition for a large fraction of the families and high rates of preventable diseases and cancers. It is now estimated that since 1991 over 1.7 million Iraqis have died unnecessarily. [Dr. Luay L. Kasha, Director of Al-Mansour Pediatric Teaching Hospital, Baghdad.] Well over 500,000 of these deaths were of children.
Today if there is a U.S. attack on Iraq the consequences for the Iraqi people will be different. They will be much worse. Even conservative estimates of the death toll directly caused by military action are above one hundred thousand. Today over 70% of Iraqi families depend on government rations for their survival. A war will prevent that distribution system from functioning and relief agencies do not have the capacity to meet this level of demand. A recent study [International Study Team, "Our Common Responsibility: The Impact of a New War on Iraqi Children," January 2003] of the consequences of war on Iraqi children concludes that "Iraqi children are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of a new war than they were before the Gulf War of 1991."
A U.S. war on Iraq may well mean the destruction of millions of Iraqi men, women, and children. Destruction of civilian populations on this scale is contrary to all international law, is unethical in every religious tradition, and is abhorrent to every reasonable person.
As Americans, the legitimacy of our government derives from our consent. Now we have only two weeks to make it inescapably clear that WE DO NOT CONSENT TO THIS WAR.
We must not remain on the sidelines. Silence now is a tacit approval of war. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "A time comes when silence is betrayal." A U.S. war on Iraq is a betrayal of our American values for a rule of law, cooperation among nations, and reverence for the life and liberty of every human being.
If we allow our government to wage war on Iraq, ten years from now the horrific consequences of that war will be known. Your children and grandchildren are going to ask you, "How could this possibly have happened? And what did you do to prevent it?" Please consider today what answer you will give them.
Now is the time. A few weeks from now may be too late. Speak to your neighbors. Speak to your co-workers. Join others. Work together to end this threat of war. Be respectful, kind, and nonviolent, but be adamant and committed. If you have vacation time, consider taking it to devote yourself to this patriotic cause. If you are a teacher, there is no subject more important right now than the alternatives to war and violence. Fill the streets and, if necessary, fill the jails. Call the president and your senators and representatives. Make your message clear. The lives of 25,000,000 Iraqis and the souls of 280,000,000 Americans may hang in the balance. Pray for peace, for the safety of both Iraqi families and American service men and women serving in the Gulf, and for our leaders to act from wisdom. Please step forward now to prevent this war.
Iraq Peace Team
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Last updated: January 31, 2003