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



On Iraq and the "War on Terrorism"


March 25, 2004


Yesterday a dramatic moment stunned the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as "The 9/11 Commission." Richard Clarke, who worked for many years as "terrorism czar" for George W. Bush and a number of other presidents, was testifying about what the Bush administration has done with respect to the problem of international terrorism.


In what was an obvious effort to discredit Clarke, former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman challenged Clarke's credibility on the grounds that his criticism of George W. Bush had not emerged in earlier testimony. Clarke responded: "Now, as to your accusation that there is a difference between what I said to this commission in fifteen hours of testimony and what I am saying in my book and what media outlets are asking me to comment on, I think there's a very good reason for that. In the fifteen hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president's invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president is because by invading Iraq the president has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."


Clarke stopped abruptly, and a very long silence ensued. His interrogator, a right-wing Republican, clearly didn't want to go there, and ended his questioning. The matter did not come up again at Wednesday's hearing; perhaps the 9/11 Commission felt that this question was outside its purview.


The question of the relationship of Iraq to terrorism is, however, at the heart of our current national debate. The American people will give an answer to this question in 2004, and that answer will profoundly affect our future as a nation. It is a question that United for Peace of Pierce County has been addressing since its inception.


UFPPC organized in November 2002 to oppose the war in the Iraq because we understood then what is becoming increasingly apparent to all Americans: the American adventure in Iraq is decreasing, not increasing, our security.


On February 6, 2003, rebutting Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council on the previous day, UFPPC adopted a statement that included this sentence: "Given the danger posed by international terrorists, maintaining international unity in the world's response to this challenge is a high priority that would be undermined by a war waged by a US-led coalition in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution supporting it."


On March 6, 2003, two weeks before the war, UFPPC quoted the words of John Brady Kiesling, a career U.S. diplomat who resigned in protest before the Iraq war: "[T]his Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq." We lamented: "The president used his press conference this evening to do exactly this. He spoke of 'two fronts on our war against terror.' He repeated the word 'terror' and 'terrorist' no fewer than twenty-five times."


On May 22, 2003, UFPPC said in a statement: "[Before the war, w]e disputed claims of evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or links to transnational terrorism," and on January 8, 2004, we reiterated: "[I]t is now clear that the dire warnings of impending doom that issued from the president and his chief advisers, as well as from the neoconservative clique that exercises so much influence in the Department of Defense and the Office of the Vice President, were part of an elaborate campaign to persuade the American public of two untruths: that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent danger to the national security of the United States, and that the government of Saddam Hussein had links to agents of transnational terrorism."


The Bush administration continues to advance the absurd and deliberate deceit that its Iraq policy combats international terrorism. We believe that the leading members of the administration fully understand that the support they enjoy from an American public that is distracted and misled both by its government and its corporate media depends on the confusion of the public mind on this issue. They understand that terrorist attacks actually increase the willingness of the public to endorse their leadership and turn over increased powers to them. They are, in a very real sense, dependent upon the terrorism that they claim to be dedicated to eliminating, for it is the fear of terrorist acts that is the source of much of their support. Sadly, one suspects that they are hoping that the problem of international terrorism persists for a very long time.


The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign strategy so far bears out this claim. But, as Bob Kemper wrote today in the Chicago Tribune : "Richard Clarke's charges struck at the heart of Bush's re-election strategy by calling into question the president's leadership and credibility in the war on terrorism." It is for this reason that the White House has mounted an extraordinary attack, as disingenuous as the one on Iraq, to discredit and even to dishonor a man whose selfless devotion to national service is beyond question.


UFPPC questions the very notion of a "war on terror." We agree with Jeffrey Record, professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, who said in an essay published in December by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College that the conflation of al Qaeda and Iraq into a "monolithic threat" is a "strategic error of the first order," violating "the fundamental strategic principles of discrimination and concentration." The Iraq war was "an unnecessary war of choice" that was "not integral to the global war on terror, but rather a detour from it." Furthermore, "most of the global war on terror's declared objectives" are "unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security." More fundamentally, "it may be misleading to cast the global war on terror as a war" at all, because the very notion of a "war on terror" is "mired in a semantic swamp." Terrorism is "not a proper noun," it is a "method of violence"; thus terrorism cannot be a wartime "enemy." In any case, the war on terror's goals are "politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable." George W. Bush's policies are marked by a misguided "insistence on moral clarity" – one upon which his political fortunes depend. The Bush administration, with full understanding, has used public anxieties and fears caused by the 9/11 attacks as a "political opportunity." (See the UFPPC website for a link to Jeffrey Record's essay, entitled "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism.")


We are not so naïve, in this election year, as to believe it worth our while to call upon the Bush administration to cease its cynical politics of deceit in the midst of a presidential election campaign. UFPPC does call, however, on government servants of integrity to speak their minds openly with respect to U.S. foreign policy and its effects, and we applaud Richard Clarke for doing this. We also call on Americans to look beyond the headlines in their corporate press, and to seek to formulate their own views about the sources of international terrorism and the policies that are appropriate for us as a nation founded upon values embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.





"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions

rather than cooperative diplomacy."