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UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."

ON THE IRAQI CATASTROPHE

January 6, 2005

The security situation continues to worsen in Iraq. In Baghdad, the nation's capital, violence is reported to have reached a level that has brought ordinary day-to-day life to a halt. Even the interim prime minister is now describing the situation as "our catastrophe." The situation is, in fact, so disastrous that it is too dangerous to describe: On the same day that an article by Florence Aubenas was published in Libération (Paris) about the situation in Baghdad, the reporter left her hotel with an interpreter and has not been seen since.

Florence Aubenas's January 5 article began: "Things are calm ― too calm. In the center of Baghdad, not a single car ― almost ― honks on the streets, their asphalt broken by tanks. Most of the districts stay silent, schools are half full, stores are closed. A curfew seems already to have been imposed on official buildings, the protected ministers’ residence, the headquarters of political parties, and the commissariats. Yet it’s the middle of the day. In the immobile city, there’s only one question worth asking: where will violence break out next?" She showed extreme courage by going to sites where violence had occurred to discuss the situation with ordinary Iraqis. Only hours after the assassination of the governor of Baghdad on Jan. 4, she was on the spot, and later described what she saw: "Next to cars consumed in smoke, the few passers-by ask, almost as a courtesy: 'Who was it?' A cigarette seller, two guards, and the city’s governor have just died. A neighbor maintains that the cigarette seller’s name was Hamid, but no one remembers the name of the governor." Now, after only three weeks in Iraq, this veteran of reporting on conflicts in Rwanda, Kosovo, and Afghanistan is missing, and ― who knows? ― perhaps dead.

What can be done? To begin with, Americans must acknowledge that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is now exacerbating the very evils that they are supposed to alleviate. U.S. troops are in Iraq to provide security, but their presence causes insecurity. The Bush administration is caught in a catch-22 of its own making. There are no good solutions to the catastrophe that American mistakes and crimes have wrought.

Whatever course the United States pursues in coming months, many thousands of innocent lives will be lost. Many thousands more will be blighted. This includes perhaps 100,000 U.S. soldiers who will return "uninjured," but with grave psychological disorders including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as thousands more who will develop major, often life-threatening health problems in the coming years.

Extrication of U.S. forces is part of the solution to the problem of Iraq. This extrication will itself bring many terrible consequences. But this cannot be avoided. Iraq is a tragedy: there are no good solutions.

Elections should be part of the solution in Iraq, but we have no confidence in the electoral process that has been designed. Massive boycotts and widespread intimidation are problems that are widely discussed in the media. Less discussed is the spending of tens of millions of dollars of U.S. government funds through the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), which purport to be "not even slightly outcome-oriented," but which in fact work to produce an Iraqi government that is compatible with the political, economic, and strategic interests of the U.S. national security state. The NDI and the IRI are part of a system created during the Reagan administration to enable the U.S. to manipulate foreign elections, after President Jimmy Carter put strict limitations on the creation of CIA front groups ― which, in the generation following World War II, were the instrument of choice to achieve this end. (We do not doubt, however, that the CIA station in Baghdad is also involved in the Iraqi elections in many ways.)

What, then, should be done? United States policy is so deeply flawed, so wrong, that we believe progress requires recognition by the United States that it made an error of historic proportions in intervening militarily in Iraq. We are not so naive as to think there is any prospect of the George W. Bush administration doing so, but before the United States can begin to play a constructive role in the contemporary world, U.S. public opinion will have to undergo a veritable revolution. Otherwise U.S. policies will be unable to be true to the fundamental values of the American people.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967, described the needed revolution, when he said: "A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: 'This is not just.' It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: 'This is not just.' The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

On April 8, 2004, UFPPC adopted a statement "On the Worsening Situation in Iraq." Its conclusion is just as applicable now as it was nine months ago:

"Progress in Iraq requires that the U.S. acknowledge its errors and its responsibilities. There must be an overt revolution in U.S. policy toward Iraq, one that acknowledges that the war was . . . an 'unwarranted intervention,' and embraces a fundamentally different policy. Such a forthright declaration, together with the will to cooperate with, rather than flout, the will of the international community of nations, is the only recipe for hope in Iraq at the present time. We call on U.S. authorities to reverse course by admitting past mistakes, drawing appropriate lessons, and cooperating with other nations in a spirit of contrition to enable the founding of a legitimate government that represents the will of the peoples of Iraq, using this occasion as an opportunity to strengthen the authority of the United Nations in dealing with international catastrophes."

Since those words were written, the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq has more than doubled, from about 600 then to 1,350 today, according to the web site Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. And there is no end in sight.

United for Peace of Pierce County calls upon all U.S. citizens to bring pressure to bear upon public officials to acknowledge the errors that have brought about this catastrophe, and to shoulder the responsibilities that follow from them: (1) withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq according to a strict timetable; (2) compensation for wrongs inflicted on the Iraqi people; (3) alleviation of Iraq's international debt; and (4) cooperation with the international community in a spirit of contrition while working toward the healing of Iraq.

UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."