Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Nine (9) Years After Bush Admin. Lies Took Us to War in Iraq: Remembering Some Who Said “NO!”

Monday, 19 March 2012, will mark the 9th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq: A war of pure choice based on lies and deception–lies mainly told by the Bush administration, but aided by lies from the Blair government, and by some in the mainstream media, especially at The New York Times and The Washington Post.  They lied about Saddam Hussein’s complicity in the attacks on 9/11 (He was an evil dictator, but had nothing to do with that attack, whatsoever); about “connections” between Hussein’s government and Al-Qaeda; about Iraq posessing “weapons of mass destruction,” including chemical weapons and the pursuit of nuclear weapons; lied about Iraq as a threat to the U.S. (it was under tough economic sanctions and TWO “no fly zones.”).  The vast majority in the United States Congress and the public were, at least initially, fooled by these lies and a majority (a slim majority at the time of the invasion which, as always happens when the nation rallies around the flag, quickly grew into a large majority for the first year) supported the invasion.  But not everyone.  I was among the many who said “no,” and I, along with many in the peace movement, did everything we could to make our objections loud and clear.

It is worth remembering the public figures who also objected and did what they could to prevent this national crime and international disaster.  I begin with the 156 Congresspersons and Senators who, in October 2002, voted AGAINST the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq” Resolution.  This is not a blanket endorsement of all their actions, before or since, but simply an acknowledgement that, on that day, these elected officials were right when so many were wrong:

The U.S. Senate:  These are the Senators who refused to authorize the invasion: Daniel Akaka (D-HI), a veteran of WWII, who is retiring this year at 87; Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) a Vietnam war veteran, who is retiring this year; Barbara Boxer (D-CA); the late Robert Byrd (D-WV) (1917-2010), who pleaded against the rush to war on the Senate floor; Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a U.S. Marine reservist during Vietnam, who left the Senate in 2005 to become Governor of NJ and has since returned to his previous career in finance; Kent Conrad (D-ND), who is retiring this year; Mark Dayton (D-MN), the current Governor of Minnesota; Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is now the Senate Majority Whip; Russ Feingold (D-WI), lifelong fighter against money and corruption in politics, who was defeated for reelection in 2010 and who now heads Progressives United, a movement that seeks to overturn Citizens United and work for electoral reform; Bob Graham (D-FL), who had been Gov. of Florida from 1979-1987, and who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2004 (after a brief run for U.S. President) for heart trouble; Daniel Inouye (D-HI), a veteran of WWII who lost an arm in combat while his family were in Japanese-American internment camps “guilty by reason of race;” the late Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA), (1932-2009) who served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1953, but who has been a strong voice for peacemaking since the days of the Vietnam War;  Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Patty Murray (D-WA), who gave a Senate floor speech against the invasion warning “you break it, you buy it;” Jack Reed (D-RI), a West Point alumnus, and U.S. Army Reserve Officer; Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) who retired from the senate at the end of 2006; Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); the late Paul Wellstone (D-MN), (1944-2002), a liberal icon who died in a tragic plane crash in 2002; Ron Wyden (D-OR); Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), the only Republican Senator to vote against the authorization to invade,  who switched from Republican to Independent in 2006 and, who, as an Independent, is now Gov. of Rhode Island; Jim Jeffords (I-VT), who had been a Republican, but switched to Independent in 2001 and then caucused with the Senate Democrats.

House of Representatives:  .

Neil Abercrombie (D-HI 1st), Tom Allen (D-ME 11st), Joe Baca (D-CA 42nd), Brian Baird (D-WA 3th), John Baldacci (D-ME 2nd), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI 2nd), Xavier Becerra (D-CA 30th), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd), David Bonoir (D-MI 10th), Robert Brady (D-PA 1st), Corrine Brown (D-FL 3rd), Sherrod Brown (D-OH 13th), Lois Capps (D-CA 22nd), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA 8th), Ben Cardin (D-MD 3rd), Julia Carson (D-IN 10th), William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-MO 1st), Eva Clayton (D-NC 1st), James Clyburn (D-SC 6st), Gary Condit (D-CA 18th), John Conyers (D-MI 14st), Jerry Costello (D-IL 12th), William Coyne (D-PA 14th),  Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7st).

Susan Davis (D-CA 49th), Danny K. Davis (D-IL 7th), Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th),  Diana DeGette (D-CO 1st), William Delahunt (D-MA 10th), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd),  John Dingell (D-MI) 15th, Lloyd Doggett (D-TX 25th), Mike Doyle (D-PA 18th), John James Duncan, Jr. (R-TN 2nd)Anna Eshoo (D-CA 14th), Lane Evans (D-IL 17th), Sam Farr (D-CA 17th), Chaka Fattah (D-PA 2nd), Bob Filner (D-CA 50th), Barney Frank (D-MA 4th), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX 20th), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th), Alcee Hastings (D-FL 23rd), Earl F. Hilliard (D-AL 7th), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY 22nd), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX 15th), Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th), Mike Honda (D-CA 15th), Darlene Hooley (D-OR 5th), John Hostettler (R-IN 8th), Amo Houghton (R-NY 29th).

Jay Inslee (D-WA 1st), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL 2nd), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX 18th),  Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH 11th), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH 9th), Dale E. Kildee (D-MI 5th), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI 13th), Jerry Kleczka (D-WI 4th), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH 10th), John LaFalce (D-NY 29th), James R. Langevin (D-RI 2nd), Rick Larsen (D-WA 2nd), John Larson (D-CT 1st), Jim Leach (R-IA 1st), Barbara Lee (D-CA 9th), Sander Levin (D-MI 12th), John Lewis (D-GA 5th), William Lipinski (D-IL 3rd), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 16th).

Other prominent opponents of the invasion included:

U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Scott Ritter, a registered Republican, decorated veteran of Gulf War I and former United Nations weapons inspector. Ritter was critical of the Clinton admin. over Iraq’s possible cheating on sanctions. But he stood up to the Bush admin., too, risking his reputation by stating (correctly) that by 2002 Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no ability to create or purchase any. Ritter was openly derided in the media. Many claimed that he must be in the pay of Saddam Hussein. He marched in his first peace march in London.  None of those who trashed his reputation EVER offered an apology when he proved to be right. The Obama admin. should’ve given him a Medal of Freedom to publicly rebuild his reputation.

Brent Scowcraft, a Republican who was National Security Advisor to the first Pres. Bush, wrote an article in the 15 August 2002 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled “Don’t Attack Saddam!” laying out the case against invasion and occupation–and correctly predicting the length and cost of the occupation against Bush admin. claims that the invasion and reconstruction would “pay for themselves” and take no more than a few weeks.  Scowcraft also correctly predicted that the invasion would distract from efforts against terrorism and from the urgent need (then much more possible than now) of forging a just peace between Israel and Palestine. (Wow. These days it’s hard to find DEMOCRATS who prioritize Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, never mind Republicans who care about it at all.)

U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, who would run as a Democrat for U.S. President in ’04 (and campaign for Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in ’08), repeatedly questioned the evidence that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. As a career military officer, Clark was no dove, and willing to invade Iraq (or anywhere else) if he thought it warranted, but he publicly continued to point out that the Bush administration case was weak to nonexistent.

U. S. Marine Corp General Anthony Zinni repeatedly threw cold water on the Bush admin. fantasies that “regime change” in Iraq would be easy. He mocked their lack of historical perspective and predicted a long, messy, occupation that would be costly in money, lives, troop morale, and U.S. reputation. He also stressed that an invasion of Iraq would drain focus and resources from efforts to destroy Al-Qaeda and work against terrorism.

Ray McGovern, a retired high-ranking intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (responsible for giving the first Pres. Bush his daily intelligence briefing), constantly exposed the lies leading to the Iraq War. He formed Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which I often joked was “Spooks Against War,” and, in 2004, publicly accused then-Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld of war crimes. (Note: McGovern has also been very critical of the Obama administration, including Obama himself, on war, indefinite detention, keeping Gitmo open, and other related matters intertwining civil liberties, national security, and foreign policy.) McGovern became a Christian pacifist about the time of his retirement from the CIA in the late 1990s and today works with the publishing arm of Washington, D.C.’s famed Church of the Savior. I have met and talked to him at several peace conferences and been very impressed with him.

Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat with the U.S. State Department who had been U.S. Ambassador to Iraq prior to the first Gulf War. Wilson was decorated with the Medal of Freedom by the first Pres. Bush for standing up to Saddam Hussein face-to-face and making sure that ALL Americans in Iraq were able to leave the country before the start of Gulf War I.  Wilson had been asked to go to Africa by the CIA to check out part of the Bush admin.’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon. (Wilson had the necessary contacts from his long career to easily check this claim.) He told the Bush folk that the claims were bogus and when W gave a State of the Union (in January 2003) address which repeated the erroneous claims, Wilson wrote an article, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” that exposed the lie in this part of the case for war. In retaliation the Bush administration illegally outed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert operative for the C.I.A.–ruining her career and, even worse, putting numerous American and allied lives at risk all over the world. (Dick Cheney’s aide, Scooter Libby, was the only one ever charged with a crime in this matter, but I am among the many who believe that Libby acted on the direct orders of Cheney, who should be in prison for this, among other, crimes.) It is widely believed that Plame was involved in counter-proliferation work to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, especially in Iraq and Iran and that her exposure set back major efforts to keep nuclear weapons from Iran. The smear campaigns against Wilson and Plame continued for years.

Pres. Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator from IL, spoke out against the invasion, calling it “the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.” Many peace activists, including myself, have been disappointed in the Obama presidency for not doing more for peace and, even on Iraq, ending the war slowly, on a timetable negotiated with Iraq by Pres. G. W. Bush in the closing days of his presidency, instead of much faster. But, it is worth remembering that Obama spoke up when it counted, showing real political courage, in trying to prevent the start of the war.

Social Justice advocate and entrepeneur Medea Benjamin, had been the founder of Global Exchange, an organization that used the principles of “fair trade” (rather than “free trade”) to work for human rights, global economic justice, and environmentalism. By 2002, it had become major success and many urged Benjamin to stay neutral in the debate over the planned invasion of Iraq. She refused (since the tragic events of 9/11, Benjamin has tried to work for a U.S. foreign policy guided by principles of peacemaking and respect for human rights) and risked her entire organization at risk to form Code Pink: Women for Peace.  Benjamin and Code Pink have used very confrontational forms of nonviolent civil disobedience to confront architects of U.S. foreign policy–not only in the Bush admin., but also in the Obama admin.

Ignored by U.S. conservative Catholics (even some of the hierarchy in the U.S.) on this matter, both the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI spoke out firmly against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, against torture, indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, against detention without (civilian) trials and against the Islamophobia of the “war on terrorism.”

Others could be mentioned. I invite readers to name others who spoke out and tried to stop the rush to war that resulted in a 9-year disaster and crime(s).  Many “went along to get along,” but these stood up when public, political courage was needed. We need to honor them–and promote such “speaking truth to power” no matter what political parties are in power and no matter what the context.

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March 17, 2012 - Posted by | History, peacemakers, U.S. politics, war, war resisters

2 Comments »

  1. Thank you for reminding us of all who said no to the invasion of Iraq. As you mentioned, Pope John Paul II spoke out against it, saying that war would be “a failure of humanity.” He was correct on that assessment.

    I also recall the thousands of ordinary citizens who marched in protest, with signs reading “No Blood of Oil.” You had to watch C-Span to see it because the networks gave it little attention. Dick Cheny called the protesters “kooks,” but I saw them with my own eyes on C-Span. They were ordinary folks, even grandparents, offering a voice of reason. I would also mention that just prior to the Iraq invasion, over 50% of the public were opposed to the war.

    Comment by Charles Kinnaird | March 18, 2012 | Reply

    • Actually, Charles, I was in NYC for the “No Blood for Oil” march in Feb. 2003, 1 month before the invasion. We had a million people in the streets. People got off of city busses to join us. New Yorkers, famed for rudeness, were extremely polite considering we were disrupting their lives. They were still traumatized from 9/11, but most of them seemed opposed to the war. 10 million people worldwide marched against that war that weekend. Desmond Tutu addressed us in NY. I was there with a contingent from the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. My favorite sign said, “Killing for Peace is like Fornicating for Chastity!” And, yes, the media deliberately underreported the visible opposition, both then and later.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 18, 2012 | Reply


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