Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Little Reminder...

The fourth year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has just passed, and in honor of the occasion I thought I'd post this letter, which was written by the editors of The Nation magazine, on the eve of the Congressional vote to authorize the President of the United States the use of force. History is being twisted around quite a bit as I write this, as different sides argue what exactly this resolution authorized. Republicans and the administration are arguing that this resolution is open-ended, a resolution which formalized a state of exception, so that the President could fight the War of Terror wherever he needed to. Since 2003 its been in Iraq, but if the President did feel the need to invade another country, such as Iran, it would be covered under the resolution as well. Democrats and more sane parties are arguing that this resolution was directed towards Iraq and Saddam only, nothing more.

I think that it would be productive for those who support or are against this war to actually go into the discourse that has been produced around it and produced to justify or contest it. By now we are all used to the soundbyte style journalism, where the reason that Vice President Dick Cheney is so lousy and losing his clout is because his statements about the United States being "greeted as liberators" and the insurgency being in its "last throes." This of course allows the game of politics to simply go on, with no real bumps in the road. Cheney's "evil" and his attacks are deflected with simple rebuttals by people like Jimmy Carter or John Murtha, of "has anyone in the history of the world been more wrong more times?" (Well maybe Bill Kristol.)

As more and more revelations come out about the corruption and incompetence of the corporations which were tasked with the plundering and reconstruction of Iraq, and the role of Dick Cheney in helping create the 100,00+ mercenaries which are operating in the country right now, that ridiculous gotcha-style of journalism is particularly disheartening.

If we conceive of the media as working in this way, then the apparent implosion or inherent inconsistency in John Kerry during his 2004 Presidential campaign makes sense. If we think of his campain through those soundbyte sign posts, then he was a valiant Vietnam war hero, a radical anti-war protestor, who voted for the Iraq War and then protested it. Even just from this skeletal outline, if we assume that as Bush used to claim, before opinion polls turned against him, that consistency equal victory (meaning "Stay the Course") then the transformation from soldier to protestor, from war voter to war protestor, means icky inconsistency, which means a lack of power, authority and credibility. The learning of lessons, the coming into consciousness naturally falls between these points, into the cracks, impossible to represent when things must be reduced to those precious soundbytes. This is of course why Bush, for all his taihinasso is perfect for this sort of framework. He seems to operate without thought or thinking, and within this form of reporting, there is no space for someone to be thinking.

Thinking, here will depend upon going at least a little beyond the soundbytes and the talking points. In this spirit then, in addition to the letter from The Nation editors, I'm also attaching a number of other documents or videos.


Boston attorney John Bonifaz of calls for the impeachment of George Bush at the Downing Street Memo hearings at the Capitol in June of 2005.

Bush's statement after he signed the resolution.

For another look at the force resolution and the role of Congress in times of war check out this Keith Olbermann video from Countdown.

A tragic and depressing editorial rewriting of the present and propagandistic fear-mongering by Condoleezza Rice from January 2003.

A New York Times article on 3 Generals who were warning of "the peril" in attacking Iraq without the United Nations.

A 2002 article by former Secretary of State James Baker.

A timeline from the website Downing Street Memo, which provides a very clear image of the Bush Administrations different manipulations in order to push the United States into the Iraq War.

For those interested in the actual text of the resolution, click here.

An article on the Downing Street Memo from The New York Review of Books.

Here is Senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold's speech before the vote. And here is New York Senator Hillary Clinton's.

Lastly, from Youtube, former CIA specialist Ray McGovern giving a powerful speech on pre-war intelligence and what people in the U.S. should do to defend the Constitution.


An Open Letter to the Members of Congress
From The Nation
September 25, 2002

Soon, you will be asked to vote on a resolution authorizing the United States to overthrow the government of Iraq by military force. Its passage, we read on all sides, is a foregone conclusion, as if what the country now faces is not a decision but the disclosure of a fate. The nation marches as if in a trance to war. In the House, twenty of your number, led by Dennis Kucinich, have announced their opposition to the war. In the Senate, Robert Byrd has mounted a campaign against the version of the resolution already proposed by the Bush Administration. He has said that the resolution's unconstitutionality will prevent him from voting for it. "But I am finding," he adds, "that the Constitution is irrelevant to people of this Administration." The Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Washington Post, oppose the war. Telephone calls and the mail to your offices run strongly against it. Polls and news stories reveal a divided and uncertain public. Yet debate in your chambers is restricted to peripheral questions, such as the timing of the vote, or the resolution's precise scope. You are a deliberative body, but you do not deliberate. You are representatives, but you do not represent.

The silence of those of you in the Democratic Party is especially troubling. You are the opposition party, but you do not oppose. Raising the subject of the war, your political advisers tell you, will distract from the domestic issues that favor the party's chances in the forthcoming Congressional election. In the face of the Administration's pre-emptive war, your leaders have resorted to pre-emptive surrender. For the sake of staying in power, you are told, you must not exercise the power you have in the matter of the war. What, then, is the purpose of your re-election? If you succeed, you will already have thrown away the power you supposedly have won. You will be members of Congress, but Congress will not be Congress. Even the fortunes of the domestic causes you favor will depend far more on the decision on the war than on the outcome of the election.

On April 4, 1967, as the war in Vietnam was reaching its full fury, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And he said, "Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."

Now the time to speak has come again. We urge you to speak--and, when the time comes, to vote--against the war on Iraq.

The case against the war is simple, clear and strong. The Administration calls it a chapter in the war on terror, but Iraq has no demonstrated ties either to the September 11 attack on the United States or to the Al Qaeda network that launched it. The aim of the war is to deprive President Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, but the extent of his program for building these weapons, if it still exists, is murky. Still less clear is any intention on his part to use such weapons. To do so would be suicide, as he well knows. Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo of California has reported that in closed session Administration officials have been asked several times whether they have evidence of an imminent threat from Saddam against the United States and have answered no. She elaborated, "Not 'no, but' or 'maybe,' but 'no.'" On the other hand, if he does have them, and faces his overthrow and possible death at the hands of US forces, he might well use them--or, more likely, give them to terrorist groups to use after his fall. He may be doing so even now.

Some observers have likened the resolution under discussion to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964 authorizing President Johnson to use force in Vietnam. But that was passed only after a report was received of two attacks on US naval forces. (We now know that the first attack was provoked by a prior secret American attack and the second was nonexistent.) The new resolution, which alleges no attack, not even a fictional one, goes a step further. It is a Tonkin Gulf resolution without a Tonkin Gulf incident.

Even if Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction and wishes to use them, a policy of deterrence would appear perfectly adequate to stop him, just as it was adequate a half-century ago to stop a much more fearsome dictator, Joseph Stalin. It is not true that military force is the only means of preventing the proliferation of these weapons, whether to Iraq or other countries. An alternative path is clearly available. In the short run it passes through the United Nations and its system of inspections, now more promising than before because Iraq, responding to US pressure, has opened itself unconditionally to inspectors. At the very least, this path should be fully explored before military action--the traditional last resort--is even considered. Such a choice in favor of multilateralism, diplomacy and treaty agreements should be part of a much broader policy of nonproliferation and disarmament of the kind that has already enjoyed great success over the past several decades. Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, for example, 182 nations have agreed to do without nuclear weapons. The larger issue is whether proliferation--not just to Iraq but to many other countries as well--is best addressed by military or political means.

But the decision to go to war has a significance that goes far beyond the war. The war is the product of a broader policy that has been spelled out in the clearest possible terms by the Bush Administration. Two other countries with nuclear programs--Iran and North Korea--have already been identified by the President as potential targets for military attack. The Administration's recently published "National Security Strategy of the United States" sets forth even larger ambitions. It declares a policy of military supremacy over the entire earth--an objective never before attained by any power. Military programs are meanwhile forbidden to other countries, all of whom are to be prevented from "surpassing or equaling" the United States. China is singled out for a warning that by "pursuing advanced military capabilities," it is following an "outdated path" that "threaten[s] its neighbors." The new policy reverses a long American tradition of contempt for unprovoked attacks. It gives the United States the unrestricted right to attack nations even when it has not been attacked by them and is not about to be attacked by them. It trades deterrence for pre-emption--in plain English, aggression. It accords the United States the right to overthrow any regime--like the one in Iraq--it decides should be overthrown. (The President would like international support and he would like Congressional support but asserts his right to wage war without either.) It declares that the defense of the United States and the world against nuclear proliferation is military force. It is an imperial policy--more ambitious than ancient Rome's, which, after all, extended only to the Mediterranean and European world. Nelson Mandela recently said of the Administration, "They think they're the only power in the world.... One country wants to bully the world."

A vote for the war in Iraq is a vote for this policy. The most important of the questions raised by the war, however, is larger still. It is what sort of country the United States wants to be in the twenty-first century. The genius of the American form of government was the creation of a system of institutions to check and balance government power and so render it accountable to the people. Today that system is threatened by a monster of unbalanced and unaccountable power--a new Leviathan--that is taking shape among us in the executive branch of the government. This Leviathan--concealed in an ever-deepening, self-created secrecy and fed by streams of money from corporations that, as scandal after scandal has shown, have themselves broken free of elementary accountability--menaces civil liberties even as it threatens endless, unprovoked war. As disrespectful of the Constitution as it is of the UN Charter, the Administration has turned away from law in all its manifestations and placed its reliance on overwhelming force to achieve its ends.

In pursuit of empire abroad, it endangers the Republic at home. The bully of the world threatens to become the bully of Americans, too. Already, the Justice Department claims the right to jail American citizens indefinitely on the sole ground that a bureaucrat in the Pentagon has labeled them something called an "enemy combatant." Even the domestic electoral system has been compromised by the debacle in Florida. Nor has the shadow cast on democracy by that election yet been lifted. Election reform has not occurred. Modest campaign reform designed to slow the flood of corporate cash into politics, even after passage in Congress, is being eviscerated by executive decisions. More important, this year's Congressional campaign, by shunning debate on the fundamental issue of war and peace, has signaled to the public that even in the most important matters facing the country neither it nor its representatives decide; only the executive does.

Members of Congress! Be faithful to your oaths of office and to the traditions of your branch of government. Think of the country, not of your re-election. Assert your power. Stand up for the prerogatives of Congress. Defend the Constitution. Reject the arrogance--and the ignorance--of power. Show respect for your constituents--they require your honest judgment, not capitulation to the executive. Say no to empire. Affirm the Republic. Preserve the peace. Vote against war in Iraq.

1 comment:

Crankshaft said...

I happened to stumble across this blog and thought I'd drop by.

I'm Malaysian and everyday I witness the fervent anti-American sentiment increasing.

Is It Really A War Against Terror?

No one seems to be winning.


Related Posts with Thumbnails