Commemorating 9/11: War in Iraq - Rushing or Reflecting?

Congressman Ron Paul, Scott Ritter, Richard Falk

Commemorating 9/11: War in Iraq — Rushing or Reflecting?

"Eleven Days in September" is focused on the need to remember, reflect, and renew. If we seek to encourage reflection on the meaning of 9/11 and the place of America in the world, one issue that would seem important to reflect on is the possibility of a US war with Iraq.

The articles below all argue that reflection, not rushing, is a necessary part of any decision on whether or not to make war. They all suggest that Congress is not yet effectively using its power to require a reflective examination of proposals for war.

One article, by Congressman Ron Paul, M.D., (R. Tex) focuses on the Constitutional question of the role of Congress. One, by former arms inspector Scott Ritter, questions the official versions of what arms buildups are or are not happening in Iraq. One, by Professor Richard Falk, an expert in international law and foreign policy, examines the implications of international law on this question.

The decision will affect life and death for Iraqis and Americans, the level of civil liberties in the US, the US economy, the oil business and therefore global scorching, and the degree and shape of world conflict during the next decade, or longer. So serious reflection by the public, in public, seems wise. These articles might serve as a start for such reflection as part of a commemoration of 9/11 — perhaps on one of the evenings.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Will Congress Debate War with Iraq?

By Congressman Ron Paul, M.D. (Texas)

The Senate Foreign Relations committee spent much of last week hearing testimony about Iraq. A second U.S. invasion of Iraq seems a foregone conclusion, as the testimony focused not on the wisdom of such an invasion, but rather only on how and when it should be done.

Never mind that our own State department and CIA have stated that Iraq is not involved in terrorism; never mind that we're not discussing some of our so-called allies like Saudi Arabia, which actually funded and harbored those responsible for September 11th. None of those testifying questioned for a minute the President's absolute authority to order a military invasion at will.

One expert not invited to testify at the Senate hearings was Scott Ritter. Mr. Ritter is a Republican, a twelve-year veteran of the Marine Corps, a former intelligence officer, and a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He is a widely respected expert on the region, having dealt directly with Iraqi officials- and he is a very harsh critic of Saddam Hussein. The only problem is that he disagrees with the President and Congress about our war plans, arguing that Iraq poses no military threat to the United States. So although he is perhaps the most qualified person in Washington to speak on the subject, his viewpoint was not heard.

On C-SPAN last week, Mr. Ritter called the Senate hearings nothing less than a "sham," likening them to a "Stalinist kangaroo court" rather than a real inquiry designed to educate Senators with facts about Iraq.

Whether one agrees with Mr. Ritter's views or not, it's clear the Senate conducted nothing more than show hearings designed to support the predetermined conclusion that America must invade Iraq.

The fundamental question before Congress — whether the legislative branch once again will ignore its constitutional duty to declare war- remains unasked. The undeclared wars of the last 50 years- including Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, and Iraq- represent nothing less than congressional cowardice, an unwillingness by members to carry out their sworn legislative duties.

The result is an increasingly powerful presidency, and a terrible violation of the constitutional separation of powers.

War is war, no matter what we call it. When we bomb another country, when we send troops, planes, and warships to attack it, we are at war. Calling war a "police action" or a "peacekeeping mission" does not change the reality. War constitutionally cannot be waged by executive order — the President's status as Commander-in-Chief gives him authority only to execute war, not initiate it.

The Constitution requires a congressional declaration of war precisely because the founders wanted the most representative branch of government, not an imperial President, to make the grave decision to send our young people into harm's way. We owe it to those young people and the Constitution to have a sober congressional debate before we initiate war in Iraq.

Boston Globe, 7/20/2002
Is Iraq a true threat to the US?

By Scott Ritter

RECENT PRESS reports indicate that planning for war against Iraq has advanced significantly. When combined with revelations about the granting of presidential authority to the CIA for covert operations aimed at eliminating Saddam Hussein, it appears that the United States is firmly committed to a path that will lead toward war with Iraq.

Prior to this occurring, we would do well to reflect on the words of President Abraham Lincoln who, in his Gettysburg Address, defined the essence of why democracies like ours go to war: so "... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Does Iraq truly threaten the existence of our nation? If one takes at face value the rhetoric emanating from the Bush administration, it would seem so. According to President Bush and his advisers, Iraq is known to possess weapons of mass destruction and is actively seeking to reconstitute the weapons production capabilities that had been eliminated by UN weapons inspectors from 1991 to 1998, while at the same time barring the resumption of such inspections.

I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them.

While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.

With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agent produced by Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years (the jury is still out regarding Iraq's VX nerve agent program — while inspectors have accounted for the laboratories, production equipment and most of the agent produced from 1990-91, major discrepancies in the Iraqi accounting preclude any final disposition at this time.)

The same holds true for biological agent, which would have been neutralized through natural processes within three years of manufacture. Effective monitoring inspections, fully implemented from 1994-1998 without any significant obstruction from Iraq, never once detected any evidence of retained proscribed activity or effort by Iraq to reconstitute that capability which had been eliminated through inspections.

In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness — or inability — to provide such evidence.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld notes that ``the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.'' This only reinforces the fact that the case for war against Iraq fails to meet the litmus test for the defense of our national existence so eloquently phrased by President Lincoln.

War should never be undertaken lightly. Our nation's founders recognized this when they penned our Constitution, giving the authority to declare war to Congress and not to the president. Yet on the issue of war with Iraq, Congress remains disturbingly mute.

Critical hearings should be convened by Congress that will ask the Bush administration tough questions about the true nature of the threat posed to the United States by Iraq. Congress should reject speculation and demand substantive answers. The logical forum for such a hearing would be the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Unfortunately, the senators entrusted with such critical oversight responsibilities shy away from this task. This includes Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran who should understand the realities and consequences of war and the absolute requirement for certainty before committing to a course of conflict.

The apparent unwillingness of Congress to exercise its constitutional mandate of oversight, especially with regard to matters of war, represents a serious blow to American democracy. By allowing the Bush administration, in its rush toward conflict with Iraq, to circumvent the concepts of democratic accountability, Congress is failing those to whom they are ultimately responsible — the American people.

Scott Ritter is author of "Endgame: Solving the Iraqi Problem Once and For All" and former arms inspector in Iraq for the UNSCOP inspection team.

The Nation, August 19, 2002
The Rush to War

by Richard Falk

(Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University; currently Visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most recent book is Religion and Humane Global Governance.)

The American Constitution at the very beginning of the Republic sought above all to guard the country against reckless, ill-considered recourse to war. It required a declaration of war by the legislative branch, and gave Congress the power over appropriations even during wartime.

Such caution existed before the great effort of the twentieth century to erect stronger barriers to war by way of international law and public morality, and to make this resistance to war the central feature of the United Nations charter. Consistent with this undertaking, German and Japanese leaders who engaged in aggressive war were punished after World War II as war criminals. The most prominent Americans at the time declared their support for such a framework of restraint as applicable in the future to all states, not just to the losers in a war.

We all realize that the effort to avoid war has been far from successful, but it remains a goal widely shared by the peoples of the world and still endorsed by every government on the planet.

And yet, here we are, poised on the slippery precipice of a pre-emptive war, without even the benefit of meaningful public debate. The constitutional crisis is so deep that it is not even noticed. The unilateralism of the Bush White House is an affront to the rest of the world, which is unanimously opposed to such an action. The Democratic Party, even in its role as loyal opposition, should be doing its utmost to raise the difficult questions. Instead, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the chairmanship of Democratic Senator Biden, organized two days of hearings, notable for the absence of critical voices.

Such hearings are worse than nothing, creating a forum for advocates of war, fostering the illusion that no sensible dissent exists and thus serving mainly to raise the war fever a degree or two. How different might the impact of such hearings be if respected and informed critics of a pre-emptive war, such as Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, both former UN coordinators of humanitarian assistance to Iraq who resigned in protest a few years back, were given the opportunity to appear before the senators.

The media, too, have failed miserably in presenting to the American people the downside of war with Iraq. And the citizenry has been content to follow the White House on the warpath without demanding to know why the lives of young Americans should be put at risk, much less why the United States should go to war against a distant foreign country that has never attacked us and whose people have endured the most punishing sanctions in all of history for more than a decade.

This is not just a procedural demand that we respect the Constitution as we decide upon recourse to war--the most serious decision any society can make, not only for itself but for its adversary. It is also, in this instance, a substantive matter of the greatest weight. The United States is without doubt the world leader at this point, and its behavior with respect to war and law is likely to cast a long shadow across the future.

To go legitimately to war in the world that currently exists can be based on three types of considerations: international law (self-defense as set forth in Article 51 backed by a UN mandate, as in the Gulf War), international morality (humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing) and necessity (the survival and fundamental interests of a state are genuinely threatened and not really covered by international law, as arguably was the case in the war in Afghanistan).

With respect to Iraq, there is no pretense that international law supports such a war and little claim that the brutality of the Iraqi regime creates a foundation for humanitarian intervention. The Administration's argument for war rests on the necessity argument, the alleged risk posed by Iraqi acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, and the prospect that such weapons would be made available to Al Qaeda for future use against the United States. Such a risk, to the scant extent that it exists, can be addressed much more successfully by relying on deterrence and containment (which worked against the far more menacing Soviet Union for decades) than by aggressive warmaking.

All the evidence going back to the Iran/Iraq War and the Gulf War shows that Saddam Hussein responds to pressure and threat and is not inclined to risk self-destruction. Indeed, if America attacks and if Iraq truly possesses weapons of mass destruction, the feared risks are likely to materialize as Iraq and Saddam confront defeat and humiliation, and have little left to lose.

A real public debate is needed not only to revitalize representative democracy but to head off an unnecessary war likely to bring widespread death and destruction as well as heighten regional dangers of economic and political instability, encourage future anti-American terrorism and give rise to a US isolationism that this time is not of its own choosing!

We must ask why the open American system is so closed in this instance. How can we explain this unsavory rush to judgment, when so many lives are at stake? What is now wrong with our system, with the vigilance of our citizenry, that such a course of action can be embarked upon without even evoking criticism in high places, much less mass opposition in the streets.