by Alton Miller, who served as Press Secretary to Mayor Harold Washington, teaches “Politics and the Media” at Columbia College Chicago. He is also a member of PCG’s Board of Directors. His other commentaries are also available online.
- It’s not moral. War can never be a moral act, not even as a “last resort.” In the best case, war is a necessary evil. What is the moral difference between a crusade and a jihad?
- A war on Iraq would not qualify as a just war, conforming to a set of principles that have evolved among civilized societies. A just cause should not be confused with a
- A war on Iraq for the purpose of “regime change” would not be a legal war under international law. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with
the Purposes of the United Nations.”
- Bombing of civilian populations is a form of terrorism even more abhorrent than low-tech terrorist street bombings of innocents. This has been so ever since the first instance of “strategic” bombing
(coincidentally, in Iraq, in 1917 by the British), up to the devastating bombing of Afghanis in our efforts to destroy Al Qaeda, and our continuing bombing
raidsinto Iraq over the past ten years.
- “Preemptive war” is anti-American. The concept was made infamous by Adolf Hitler, who claimed his aggression was necessary, to prevent attacks on Germany.
- Killing fleeing conscripts in a “turkey shoot” like the one that ended the 1991 Gulf War, another likely feature of a new war in Iraq, is un-American, and will certainly take a postwar psychological toll on the combatants who participate in such repugnant acts,
and on their families.
- War without a new, specific U.N. resolution based upon evidence of Saddam’s continued non-compliance with U.N. demands would undermine the U.N. and the ideal of a world system based on lawful principles.
- War now would reaffirm ugly precedents in U.S. Constitutional law. The U.S. Congress has earned disrespect for its abdication of responsibility for declaring war. The shame is mitigated only by the fact that Bush has not yet rendered their abdication effective, by waging war without a
- War always has corrosive effects on Constitutional rights. It brings out the worst in presidents, vice-presidents, and attorneys general who are tempted to take Nixonian shortcuts.
- The war mentality is providing the rationale for U.S. assassinations,
like the one in Yemen in early November, making us all complicit in extra-judicial “terminations with extreme prejudice,” of not only unindicted suspects but also their friends and acquaintances.
- Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, is the homeland of Osama and most of his 9-11 suicide squad: “The U.S. warmly supports the royal kleptocracy next door in Saudi Arabia, fully as totalitarian, if not
quite as violent, as Saddam’s government. Any non-Muslim and most women would
probably prefer living in Iraq,” points out the conservative National
Review, in an antiwar editorial.
- War propaganda threatens to corrupt U.S. media. The Pentagon announced last
February that it had created the “Office of Strategic Influence” to promote the war on terrorism. Though they quickly backpedaled, we were reminded that truth is the first casualty of war. We recall the reports of atrocities in Kuwaiti hospitals, from a “witness” who turned out to be the daughter of the Saudi ambassador to Washington; she had no connection with the hospital. It was later revealed that she had been professionally coached by the Hill and Knowlton PR firm.
- The PR component is integral, not peripheral, and blurs public awareness of the facts. In the first Gulf war, “Hill & Knowlton produced dozens of video news releases (VNRs) at a cost of well
over half a million dollars, but it was money well spent, resulting in tens of millions of dollars worth of ‘free’ air time. The VNRs were shown by eager TV news directors around the world who rarely (if ever) identified Kuwait’s public relations (PR) firm as the source of the footage and stories.” So write John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton.
- Internationally, too, PR techniques, propaganda, and intelligence operations are replacing diplomacy and genuine culture-to-culture outreach in our dealings with other nations, a process war
- War will also accelerate our drift toward empire, increasingly the subject of
popular discourse, cover articles in magazines, learned journal articles.
- In a war on Iraq we’ll lose friends all around the world. That’s true generally.
- War on Iraq would have serious consequences in Turkey, where sympathy for 9-11 has faded and antiwar
protests reinforce polls that show not only opposition to war on Iraq, but also that only 30% support America’s war on terrorism.
- War plans are alienating the French public, where 75% believe that
“the main reason the United States would go to war with Iraq would be ‘because the U.S. wants to control Iraqi oil.'” A L’Humanité poll published Jan. 17 tracks antiwar sentiment: “Asked by the CSA
polling agency whether they would support US intervention in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, 66 percent of those who responded said they were opposed, up from 58 percent in a poll conducted in August.” We read reports this morning(Jan. 21) that France will not only oppose immediate military action, but will seek “to mobilize the European Union to avert a war against Iraq.”
- The British are not with us. In the wake of massive demonstrations in the U.K.
(200,000 in London last September, and antiwar sentiment has been growing), Prime Minister Tony Blair has softened in his unqualified support for U.S. war aims: “A survey conducted [in September] found that 69 percent of Britons felt that Mr. Blair was too supportive of US policy toward Iraq.” A Jan. 15 BBC poll asked, “Has the government proved the case for a war with Iraq? 81% said no. Just 19% said yes.” A poll reported today(Jan. 21) “shows that opposition to a war has risen steadily from 37% in October to 47% now.”
- Pakistanis are against war on Iraq. In a recent poll, 70% of the Pakistani public said they hold an unfavorable view of our
country. A Yankee war would fuel the fires of Islamist extremists there who, should an unstable government fall, could inherit Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
- War on Iraq is bad for the people of Bali, Tunisia, Mombasa – and for tourists to those and other world sites where “soft targets” await vindictive terrorists.
- War will selectively, profoundly disrupt the lives of more than a million family members across the United States. The Pentagon says “up to 250,000 troops may be
mobilized for the invasion of Iraq. An additional 265,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, roughly as many as were called up during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, may also be activated.”
- War will create new terrorists. “9-11” has been described as an unintended consequence of the 1991 Gulf War. Certainly, experts agree, Osama has little genuine interest in the plight of Palestinians or other Mideast issues. Osama’s stated casus belli and recruitment tool was the U.S. violation
of sacred Saudi soil.
- Arms inspectors are saying that Iraqi officials have granted completely open access to every site, are permitting the questioning of Iraqi scientists, and are otherwise in compliance with U.N. Resolution 1441.
- A war with Iraq would be very costly. “Informal estimates by congressional staff and Washington think tanks of
the costs of an invasion of Iraq and a postwar occupation of the country have been in the range of $100 billion to $200 billion. If the fighting is protracted, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein blows up his country’s oil fields, most economists believe the indirect costs of the war could be much
greater,” according to various reports.
- A subsequent occupation would be even more costly.”This war could cost over a trillion dollars, and no one should think that we’re going to be able to use Iraqi oil to pay for it,” writes Thomas L. Friedman in the New
- Occupation of Iraq would be a disaster. “You ought to see a therapist if you want to occupy Iraq,” says political scientist Charles A. Kupchan“It’s just the last place I would want to set up shop. The whole region is deeply anti-American. They’ll probably be dancing in the streets for 24 to 48 hours and then they’ll take up sniper positions. That’s where I think things could go wrong with barracks exploding, etc. If that were to happen, at the end of the day it would cause us to pull in our horns and cause Americans to say, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?'”
- Postwar trials will prove embarrassing for American officials and corporate executives, as we hear testimony from Iraqi officials whose war crimes were committed under U.S. tutelage – in the 1980’s when Saddam was our ally/client fighting Iran.
rationale for preemptive strikes and the war against terror gives the Chinese a free hand to “preempt” “terrorists” in their own sphere of interest.
- It gives the Russians a rationale to deal preemptively with Chechens and other
- It gives the Turks a precedent in dealing with their Kurds.
- In fact, it so violates established precedents and principles of international law that it sets back the progress of the past 60 years of U.N. development.
- The war policy is tainted by politics. War hype was postponed until the weeks immediately prior to the November 2002 elections. The explanation from White
House chief of staff Andrew Card: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new
products in August.”
- U.S. policy vis-à-vis Saddam has been dominated by a clique of hawks (the
Wolfowitz-Perle-Cheney “cabal” in the Pentagon), whose agenda has not been publicly aired and subjected to evaluation or Congressional debate.
- “Many Pentagon generals reportedly disagreed with their civilian bosses on the immediacy of the Iraqi threat.” Since August the brass have gotten in line, but it’s hard to erase images like the one painted by retiring Marine Corps General Anthony C. Zinni who scoffed at the idea of plans for democracy that depend upon exiled Iraqis: “There are congressmen today who want to fund the Iraqi Liberation Act, and let some silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London gin up an expedition. We’ll equip a
thousand fighters and arm them with $97 million worth of AK-47s and insert them into Iraq. And what will we have? A Bay of Goats, most likely.”
- Brent Scowcrofthas argued against precipitous military action in Iraq.
- “Already, the preparations for war are distracting Washington from the task of rebuilding
Afghanistan,” as Michael Massing writes in The Nation.
- And from the ongoing violence in the Middle East.
- War is also providing cover for political abuse here at home. When licenses to
administration cronies for drilling in Alaska can be wrapped up in a “patriotic” agenda, we know we’re near the bottom of the barrel.
- The plight of the cities, and the economic problems afflicting all 50 states, also
take a back seat when the country goes to war.
- An unjustifiable preemptive war will be opposed by a majority of Americans. “Only about three-in-ten Americans say they would favor war in Iraq if no weapons program is discovered, even if there is no proof that Iraq is not hiding weapons,” according to a poll
by the Pew Charitable Trust reported last week.
- War will evoke massive antiwar rallies, further straining citizens’ relationships with local authorities, and further draining city budgets.
- The talk of a “perpetual war,” so reminiscent of Orwell’s novel, 1984, suggests a willingness to accept a long-term suspension of civil rights, looser reins on Federal prosecutors, and more secret tribunals.
- A “perpetual war” would also tend to institutionalize paramilitary practices on the part of police departments who will have to develop new routines for handling civil disobedience.
- A war on Iraq, obsessively occupying U.S. attention, will encourage other world states
with scores to settle, to settle them now while world attention is focused
- Despite claims that they are stalling or lying, in fact Saddam’s officials appear to be
complying with every request from U.N. inspectors.
- There is no evidence justifying a war. The Bush administration has claimed to have it but they have not produced it – either to make their case to the American public or (as far
as we know) to guide U.N. arms inspectors who have asked for it. Only this week (Jan. 14) did chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix announce that some materials “from several sources” have become available.
- So far, the evidence formally presented has been a 50-page dossier British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, presumably fortified if not supplied by U.S. intelligence,
which was treated disdainfully by liberal and conservative critics alike:
“While there was limited support for the prime minister’s position that
‘the threat [presented by Saddam Hussein] is serious and current,’ most
commentators felt that the dossier failed to put forward a compelling case for
military action in Iraq. Unusually in Britain’s adversarial journalistic
culture, feelings about the dossier were even strong enough to unite editorial
writers from different ends of the political spectrum.”
- There is no identifiable connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In fact, the Islamist fundamentalists are mortal enemies of the secular Iraqi Bathists.
- Absent real evidence, the administration has shown its willingness to fudge facts:
evidence” showing an Al Qaeda-Iraq link turned out to be riddled with
- Instead of accepting the burden of proof, U.S. policy has put Iraqi officials in the
position of proving a negative. It has the same logic as that of an inquisitor
who threatens to tighten the thumbscrews with every denial. “The inspections have yet to uncover compelling evidence of banned weapons programmes, but the United States has said they are designed as a test of cooperation with a U.N. disarmament resolution rather than an effort to find hidden arms.”
- War plans are based on a dishonest history of arms inspections. Scott Ritter, the former chief
UN weapons inspector in Iraq says, “The politics of fear have clouded the collective judgment of
the people of the United States to the point where we, unfortunately, are willing
to accept at face value almost any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of Iraq
without first demanding to know the factual basis of such an allegation.”
- The 1990s arms inspectionswere”in the end corrupted by those who chose to use the unique access … to deliberately provoke a crisis that, in turn, was used to justify the
continuation of economic sanctions,” Ritter says.
- Ritter also charges that inspectors left in 1998, “not because the Iraqis kicked them out, but
rather that they were ordered out by former executive chairman of the weapons
inspection regime Richard Butler under pressure from the United States and
without the permission of the Security Council, in order to clear the way for a
military aggression in December 1998.”
- Desert Fox: Its mission was “To strike military and security targets in Iraq that
contribute to Iraq’s ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of
mass destruction.” But Ritter claims that “the vast majority of the
more than 100 targets bombed by the United States and Great Britain during
Desert Fox had nothing to do with weapons production capability, but rather the
leadership and security establishments of the government of Iraq and that the
precision in which these targets were bombed was due in a large part due to the
information gathered by weapons inspectors.”
- Those “chemical warheads” that recent headlines are screaming about are bogus.
- Purported weapons factorieshave turned out to be nonfunctional and often in ruins.
- A nuclear weapons program is “very expensive and readily detectable.”The gas centrifuge facilities “emit gamma radiation, as well as many other
frequencies. It’s detectable. Iraq could not get around this.”
- Two of the three types of “nerve agents” formerly made in Iraq – Sarin
and Tabus – “have a shelf life of five years. Even if Iraq had somehow
managed to hide this vast number of weapons from inspectors, what they’re now
storing is nothing more than useless, harmless goo.”
- Iraq’s capability for developing the third type, VX (about which Iraqis lied to inspectors
repeatedly) was destroyed by inspectors in 1996. The above three points are
detailed in War on Iraq, by
William Rivers Pitt with Scott Ritter, which explains that the weapons inspections during the 1990s were effective.
- “Contrary to popular mythology, there’s absolutely no evidence Iraq worked on smallpox,
Ebola, or any other horrific nightmare weapons the media likes to talk about
today,” according to the same
- Iraqis made anthrax, “weaponized” it, then “lied about this capability for some time…. Finally they admitted it, and we blew up the plant [in 1995]…. Liquid bulk anthrax, even under ideal storage conditions, germinates in three years, becoming useless… Iraq has no biological weapons today, because both the anthrax and the botulinum toxin are useless. For Iraq to have biological
weapons today, they’d have to reconstitute a biological manufacturing
base.” (same source.)
- Saddam has not been able to replace what inspectors destroyed during the ’90s. “They’d have to
start from scratch, having been deprived of all equipment, facilities and research. They’d have to procure the complicated tools and technology required through front companies. This would be detected. The manufacture of chemical weapons emits vented gases that would have been detected by now if they
existed. We’ve been watching, via satellite and other means, and have seen none of this. If Iraq was producing weapons today, we’d have definitive proof, plain and simple.” (same source.)
- “The idea that Iraq can suddenly pop up with a long range missile is ludicrous… they
can’t conduct tests indoors. You have to bring rockets out, fire them on test stands. This is detectable. No one has detected any evidence of Iraq doing this.” (same source.)
- Under pressures of an actual shooting war, Gestapo-type spying would become even more
customary and acceptable here in the “homeland.” Already, our government is “chipping
away at the wall that has existed for nearly three decades between domestic
law enforcement and international intelligence gathering.”
- There is no clear
and imminent danger, and so no compelling reason to move precipitously.
- The Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (among many other religious and faith-based coalitions) has petitioned Bush to avoid war on Iraq. Their
letter, “an unprecedented, unanimous call,” was signed by Chicago’s
Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, and reflects the “opinion
across a broad spectrum of society, ” according to the Council’s executive
- Pope John Paul II has
added his plea for peace and the solidarity of all peoples within a framework of international law. The Vaticanhas repeatedly asserted its opposition to war in Iraq.
- Chicago’s City Council has
passed a resolution against the war, joining dozens of other cities, and making
Chicago the largest U.S. municipality to do so.
- Our plans for a war on Iraq are in conflict with the American values we teach our
children. I will never forget how disillusioned I was as a kid when it was my
beloved President Eisenhower, and not that nasty Premier Khruschev, who turned
out to be the liar in the U2 incident. How are young Americans supposed to
reconcile preemptive war with what they’ve been taught about our country’s
will suffer if we go to war. Wars tend to demonize. The “war on
terror” has already done some damage; a wide-scale war will make things
- There is no Mideast support for unilateral U.S. action. Only the cover of U.N.
authorization will permit the leaders of Arab states to defy the strong antiwar
- The “branding” of the “Axis of Evil,” – dumbing down U.S.
foreign policy –has put Iran (a potential ally against Saddam) on notice that
they might be next, in a widening Persian Gulf war.
- Jordan has said it will not cooperate with U.S. forces moving on Iraq.
- The Islamist extremist movement in Saudi Arabia, enraged by another U.S. war with Iraq, would become increasingly problematical for the monarchy, especially if
they yield to U.S. pressure to cooperate.
which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters, is a wary ally: last spring thousands marched to protest
U.S. policy, and in the ensuing violence a man was killed outside the American Embassy.
- There is serious concern that a war will result in a protracted civil war among Iraqi
Shiites in the south, Sunnis in the center, and Kurds in the north.
- A war justifies security measures that would otherwise appear warped and weird, putting
foxes in the hen house, like asking Henry
Kissinger to head the investigation of
9-11, or John Poindexter to head the Pentagon’s
new Information Awareness Office.
- The example of North Korea reminds us that even when bad people acquire nuclear capability, we have
response options other than war.
- If Saddam were to possess weapons of mass destruction, a war on Iraq might make
him more, not less, likely to use them in desperation in the twilight of a
dying regime – a conclusion of Can Saddam Be
Contained? History Says Yes, by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen
- Containment worked against the original “evil empire,” which had
“verifiable” nuclear capability and a history of aggression. Why
shouldn’t it work against Saddam?
- A war justifies political actions that would otherwise be condemned as downright
corrupt, like sneaking liability protection for Eli
Lilly, and other special interest legislation, into the Homeland Security
- While Bush chases Saddam, who is chasing Osama?
- A war to free Iraqis from their dictator would not only be unburdened by any serious
democratic principles – it would be a parody of principles. Our troops are
being based in anti-democratic absolute monarchies. The state religion in Saudi
Arabia is Wahhabi Islam –
the Islamist extremists who gave us Osama bin Laden.
- History is not on our side: Kissinger’s refusal to provide his client list is a
reminder of the “B.C.C.I. affair — a scandal that itself figures in the
tangled history of Saudi/Al Qaeda money laundering,” as Frank Rich has
written in the New York Times.
- We are told that we are at war, but we are not asked to make the sacrifices
that war entails. We should beware this “war on the cheap,” which
smacks of war-as-entertainment. We still haven’t recovered from the last time
we fought a decade-long war on a pretext, without public accountability.
- Regime change? We have no right. Saddam is a vicious tyrant, but nobody elected us
sheriff of the world. It is not our right to depose or assassinate leaders of
other countries, and it’s not a good precedent to propose.
- The White House’s anti-Saddam animus reeks of a private agenda that has nothing to do with the
stated reasons for war. “As early as Sept. 12 [that is, the day after 9-11] Rumsfeld argued that the
United States should take advantage of the terrorist attacks to go after Iraq’s
Saddam Hussein immediately,” according to journalist Bob Woodward in Bush at
- It’s hard to think of a long-lasting consequence of 9-11 that would please Osama bin
Laden more than a Western crusade, led by the “Great Satan,” against
an Arab nation.
- Bush’s disinformation campaign is contaminating public discourse: According to a Pew
poll last October, 80% of us believe that Saddam “already possesses
nuclear weapons or could soon obtain them,” and “two-thirds think
Saddam had a hand in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”
- Bush’s disinformation campaign insults our intelligence: The Chicago Tribune‘s
conservative columnist Steve Chapman writes that “someone
in the administration managed to sell The Washington Post a story that Iraq
recently shipped nerve gas to al Qaeda. This is hard to believe on its face –
since it assumes that Hussein would shun cooperation with al Qaeda until the
moment when the world’s attention is fixed on him and he is most likely to be
caught … Once the Post story broke, an unidentified U.S. intelligence official
interviewed by The Financial Times dismissed it: ‘I can’t give you any morsel
of information that supports this.'”
- Another insultto our intelligence: “You’re with us or you’re against us.”
- Those who oppose Bush’s war plans have also had their patriotismquestioned.
- Like the drunk looking for his keys under the light, instead of where he dropped
them, a “war on terrorism” is apparently easier to fight against a
government and a population, than it is to hunt down Osama and his gang. Under
cover of the “war on terrorism,” a number of other agenda items might
also be within reach, if we’re distracted enough, or patriotic enough, to
follow illogical rationales unquestioningly. They range from the merely hilarious
– to fight terrorists, we must drill for oil in the Alaskan wilderness – to the dirt serious incarceration of aliens and citizens without grand juries or trials.
- History is not on our side: The distinguished Indian writer Arundhati Roy writes in The Guardian
that the year Saddam gassed thousands of Kurds, “the US government
provided him with $500 million in … The next year, after he had successfully
completed his genocidal campaign, the US government doubled its subsidy to $1
billion. It also provided him with high-quality germ seed for anthrax, as well
as helicopters and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical
and biological weapons.”
- The arrogance of unelected take-charge minions: The Pentagon’s Richard Perle, on a propaganda tour, outraged many in Britain by saying, “Neither George W. Bush nor Mr. Blair
will be deflected by Saddam’s diplomatic charm offensive, the feckless
moralising of ‘peace’ lobbies or the unsolicited advice of retired
generals.” (quoted in the London
- A war on Iraq would wreak havoc on oil markets and financial markets worldwide.
- War would likely trigger a new recession. Columnist Robert Samuelson writes of
various scenarios, “In the worst case, Iraq badly damages other oilfields.
Production drops by at least 5 million barrels a day, out of a total global
consumption of 77 million barrels a day. Oil prices hit $80 a barrel… In the
worst case [unemployment] goes to 7.5 percent.” …
- We don’t need a war to be rid of Saddam Hussein – and I’m not talking about
assassination. “The U.S. should back the formation of an international
tribunal,” writes the editor of Middle East Report, “under UN or
independent auspices, to indict Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants for war
crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Iran-Iraq War, during
the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88, and both during and
since the Gulf War.”
- A number of other creative plans are circulating, including that of the Iraqi
exile Faleh A. Jabar who writes in the current issue of The Progressive that we should “threaten Saddam with indictment…give him an alternative for safe passage
at the same time [to] create a crack in the ruling class-clan… demand that [his
top aides] leave the country with him [but name them and limit the number to
encourage a coup by the rest]… and sweeten the deal by offering a mini-Marshall
plan… provided power was transferred to a civilian, interim government.”
- Intellectuals and artists are against war on Iraq. Okay, this is my personal indulgence, and it’s why there are 101 reasons – you can take it or leave it. My personal favorite opposition comes
from the novelist John Le Carré.