Area anti-war leaders found little comfort in Friday's U.N. Security Council endorsement
of weapons inspections in Iraq and vowed to continue protests against U.S. plans
for a possible invasion.
Representatives of two large coalitions organizing upcoming demonstrations
said the United Nations bowed to U.S. pressure, and that the resolution merely
provides a token cover of international support for a Bush administration plan
to conquer Iraq to take over its oil.
After weeks of intense negotiations, the Security Council voted 15-0 in support
of a U.S.-British resolution demanding that Iraq allow full access for U.N. arms
inspectors or face "serious consequences."
"The Bush administration is not interested in weapons inspections," said Medea
Benjamin, representative of San Francisco-based United for Peace, a coalition
of 70 peace, church and student groups. "It is interested in going to war against
Iraq. This is a war for oil."
Benjamin, founding director of the San Francisco nonprofit Global Exchange,
said the resolution's terms are too difficult for Iraq to meet and will serve
as a pretext for a U.S. attack.
"We really feel the Bush administration is looking for an incident, a provocation,
to trigger war," she said. "Unfortunately, governments in the past, including
ours, have invented incidents to get us into destructive wars, like Vietnam."
President Bush, in stern remarks after the Security Council vote, said, "The
United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily, yet we are prepared
for the alternative."
The United for Peace coalition is planning a "national day of action" on Dec.
10, International Human Rights Day, said Benjamin, who is also leaving soon to
participate in a round-the-clock women's vigil in front of the White House beginning
Richard Becker, San Francisco representative for the International ANSWER Coalition,
sponsor of the demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators
to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and elsewhere on Oct. 26, said America seeks
a "colonial regime" that would "turn over Iraq's oil to U.S. oil companies."
The Gulf region holds two-thirds of the world's oil reserves, he said. Iraq
has the second largest reserves in the world, behind Saudi Arabia.
The United States threatened loss of access to oil or future aid to nations
that did not support the U.N. resolution, Benjamin said.
"Because the U.S. is so powerful, it means we can twist arms," she said. America
was "saying to the French and the Russians, 'Do you want access to Iraqi oil once
we control it?' " she said.
The International ANSWER Coalition is proceeding full-speed with its online
"people's anti-war referendum" at votenowar.org and with plans for three days
of protests and rallies on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Jan. 19-
20, in Washington, D.C., Becker said.
Not all opponents of U.S. war with Iraq dismissed the U.N. resolution.
Allan Solomonow, director of the Middle East Peace Program for the San Francisco
office of the American Friends Service Committee, said the Security Council role
"slightly whittled down" the power of the Bush administration.
"It's a small step and a very important one that shows the U.S. cannot go off
on its own," he said, adding that his organization will continue protesting U.S.
military plans for attacking Iraq.
Solomonow said the resolution will make it harder for the United States to
launch an attack unilaterally without Security Council approval. "I think it will
lose credibility if it goes out on its own," he said.
Benjamin said the United States believes that it agreed to discuss an attack
with the council, not secure its permission, and thus is unlikely to ask for another
Barbara Lubin, head of the Berkeley-based Middle East Children's Alliance,
said the U.N. resolution "takes us another step closer to war."
Lubin, who returned two weeks ago from delivering medical supplies to Iraq
in violation of the U.S.-enforced sanctions, said she visited high school classes,
where she heard pleas against war and the sanctions, which she blamed for killing
700,000 Iraqi children under age 5 since the Gulf War in 1991.
"The students from Basra to Baghdad told me, 'Please tell your President not
bomb us. Please beg your President to lift the sanctions,' " Lubin said. "I still
see their faces and hear their voices."
She said the need for protest is as strong as ever. "Our job is to organize,
organize, organize," she said, recalling when she stood with five women on
a Philadelphia street corner in 1964 as part of the early Vietnam War protests,
which grew to "a million out in the street."
Lubin goes to New York today for national meeting of "Not in Our Names," another
Organizers of upcoming local protests also said their plans were unaffected
by the Security Council vote.
The Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center will proceed with its rally and
march beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday at Santa Rosa Junior College, and a "Children
March for Peace" for parents and kids in Berkeley will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday
from New School at 1309 Bonita St. to the Civic Center.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle