UNITED NATIONS - A broad coalition of American peace activists and religious leaders, along with representatives of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), appealed to the U.N.'s 190 member states Thursday to help avert a new war in the Middle East.
The coalition, which includes the Lawyers'
Committee for Nuclear Policy, the Progressive
Religious Partnership, Global
Exchange, and the September
11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, urged the United Nations ''not to become
a tool of U.S. foreign policy, but to maintain its commitment to fostering an
international rule of law designed to prevent armed conflicts''.
Peter Laarman, of the Progressive Religious Partnership (PRP), told reporters that ''pre-emptive war'' and ''regime change'' are both contrary to the will of the international community and the U.N. charter.
And even if the Security Council should grant the United States what it demands, he argued, the proposed war will be illegal in the broadest sense and immoral in the deepest sense.
A statement by PRP, which includes a coalition of Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal,
Jewish and Muslim organizations, said that ''no one can defend the crimes of (Iraqi
president) Saddam Hussein against his own people and against neighboring countries''.
''But no credible new evidence has been brought forward to suggest that Iraq now poses an 'imminent threat' to peace in the region or in the world,'' it said.
Many other nations are run by oppressive regimes and many nations are known to harbor terrorists, the PRP said. So the question must be raised: ''Why Iraq, and why now?''.
Laarman warned that hundreds and thousands of Iraqi non-combatants will die or be made homeless in the impending U.S. war. The conflict will not be a war of self-defense, but unmistakably a war of aggression.
''We want all the member states of the United Nations to say 'no' to a war. And we want them to say 'no' to this disgraceful abuse of the United Nations itself,'' he added.
After nearly four weeks of closed-door negotiations, the United States introduced a draft resolution Wednesday that implicitly gives Washington a legal basis for a military attack on Iraq if Baghdad is in ''material breach'' of its obligations to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors in their search for weapons of mass destruction.
The draft says that the Security Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face ''serious consequences'' as a result of continually violating its obligations.
The strongest support for the American resolution has come from Britain, but the remaining three veto-wielding permanent members, China, France and Russia, have expressed reservations.
They are challenging the right of the United States to justify a military attack on Iraq if it refuses to cooperate with arms inspectors. Instead, they want Washington to return to the Security Council for a second resolution authorizing the use of military force.
The U.S. draft is currently under discussion. But the United States is not likely to force a vote until early next week. The resolution can be adopted only with nine affirmative votes and no vetoes in the 15-member Security Council.
John Burroughs of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy said Iraq's military has been severely weakened by years of sanctions and years of bombing by U.S. and British forces.
''There is no credible evidence that Iraq is going to attack anyone soon, and certainly not soon enough to support the lawful use of armed force under any widely held international law standard,'' he added.
Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, a San Francisco based human rights organization, said the U.S. administration is determined to initiate an illegal and ill-considered invasion. ''We the people must be just as determined to stop a war that threatens to tear the world apart.''
''When it comes to invading Iraq, the United States has zero allies,'' she said. Benjamin also pointed out that all the countries of the Middle East - including Kuwait, which was invaded by Iraq in 1990 - are opposed to a war with Baghdad.
''Our allies in Europe think an invasion is foolhardy. Only Great Britain's
(Prime Minister) Tony Blair has offered tepid support for a U.S. attack on Iraq,
and his approval is tempered by widespread opposition from the British public
and his own Labour Party,'' she added.
Listing 10 reasons why the United States should not invade Iraq, she said not only is there no justification for a war but also there is no clear and present danger from Iraq.
What the war is really about is oil, she said, because Iraq has the largest proven reserves of petroleum after Saudi Arabia. ''And U.S. oil companies, which exercise immense influence over the current administration, are eager to tap into Iraqi oil.''
The impending war is expected to cost as much as 200 billion dollars. During
the 1991 Gulf War, allies such as Japan covered 80 percent of the cost, Benjamin
said. ''It's doubtful that will happen again, leaving the U.S. taxpayers - already
facing renewed budget deficits - to pick up the costs.''
Dal LaManga, chief executive officer of Tweezerman Corporation, said that blowing up billions of dollars would hurt the American economy. ''Despite what some believe, a war will wound our stock market, sending it and the U.S. dollar on a downward spiral,'' he warned.
Rather than threatening the world with its military might, he said, the United States should be working to provide food, clean drinking water, basic education and freedom from slavery under regimes throughout the world. ''That's how you get ride of thugs, and that's how you build a strong global economy,'' he said.
Copyright 2002 IPS