Opposition grows to war with Iraq

Growing opposition to the Bush administration’s planned attack on Iraq, even from prominent right-wing Republicans, provides a “window of opportunity” to prevent such a war, Kathy Kelly, coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, a humanitarian group working to end economic sanctions against Iraq, told the World. “I hope every grassroots group will develop a committed nonviolent resistance campaign, including sit-ins at Congressional offices if need be,” to stop a U.S. war on Iraq, she said.

Kelly, and six other people, are in the midst of a 40-day fast outside the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York. The fast will end Sept. 11 as part of nationwide peace actions on the anniversary of last year’s terrorist attacks. Protests, lobbying and fasts are taking place around the country in a growing national movement to prevent a U.S. attack on Iraq. A national lobbying day at U.S. Senators’ offices Aug. 28 was organized by Moveon.org and other groups.

Several hundred protesters chanting “Drop Bush, Not Bombs” turned out when Bush arrived in Portland, Ore., Aug. 22. “I don’t think any American boys’ lives are worth a barrel of oil,” said Rob Moitoza, a Vietnam vet who carried a sign reading “Vets Against Bush.” Moitoza said he served two years in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War and fears a much worse conflict if U.S. troops are sent to Iraq.

Defying the mounting opposition within the U.S. and abroad, Bush administration warhawks have ratcheted up a public relations effort to justify a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq.

Vice-President Dick Cheney told a friendly Veterans of Foreign Wars audience Aug. 26 that an attack on Iraq is justified because “many of us are convinced” Iraq will “fairly soon” have nuclear weapons, “just how soon, we cannot really gauge.” But Cheney cited only “testimony from defectors” to support his claim.

The same day, the White House asserted that Bush does not need Congressional approval to attack Iraq.

But 75 members of Congress, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), have insisted on the Constitutional role of Congress in deciding whether or not to wage war on Iraq. Prior to any such action the President should seek congressional authorization, they told Bush in an Aug. 6 letter.

At an Aug. 20 press conference convened by Kucinich, former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, Institute for Policy Studies Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis, and former SANE/Freeze director David Cortright, now president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, and a visiting fellow at the University of Notre Dame, warned that a U.S. attack on Iraq would be a “disaster,” turning the U.S. itself into a rogue state.

Ritter, a former Marine who served for seven years with the Concealment Investigation Unit of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), said there is “no credible factual evidence,” that Iraq has or is close to having weapons of mass destruction.

It was the U.S., not Iraq, that killed the weapons inspection program, by using the program as a spying operation, thereby discrediting the program, he charged. Nevertheless, he said, by 1996-98 Iraq was “fundamentally, qualitatively disarmed.” It is unlikely that Iraq has now reconstituted its military capacity, he said, and the U.S. has the technology to ascertain if it has or not. “Iraq has no capability today to project meaningful military power outside of its borders,” Ritter declared.

Ritter, a Republican, said, “We cannot go to war based upon rumor and speculation. Before we send tens of thousands of American troops off to fight, kill and be killed in our name, we have to be absolutely certain there is a threat there worthy of war, worthy of sacrifice.”

Ritter, Bennis and Cortright all emphasized that the Bush administration’s “regime removal” policy makes weapons inspection impossible. Similarly, Iraq’s Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, said Aug. 27 he believes the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq would not prevent U.S. military strikes. He said Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, but the Bush administration wants to oust Saddam Hussein regardless of the inspections issue.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org