It is a pleasure and honor to join you this afternoon at the National
Press Club. I have enjoyed listening to the broadcasts of this luncheon
series for years on Maine Public Radio—I have been known to
schedule my drive time so that I will have a chance to listen to
the broadcast uninterrupted. I appreciate being asked to be on this
side of the microphone.
I am speaking today in my capacity of National Director of Win
Without War, a coalition of 40 national membership-based organizations
including the NAACP, the National Council of Churches, the Sierra
Club, the National Organization of Women, Veterans for Common Sense,
to name but a few. While these organizations have diverse memberships
and missions, we were united late last fall by a sense of great
urgency to do everything possible to stop our government from launching
a war that we were convinced was unnecessary, illegal and that would
leave our nation and our world less secure. Despite the remarkable
and unprecedented expression of public opposition in this country
and around the world, nothing, it turns out, was going to deter
the Bush administration from invading and occupying Iraq.
A vital citizens movement capable of exposing the dangers of the
administration’s drive toward a world military empire is needed
now more than ever. The mission of the Win Without War coalition
is to defeat this administration’s policy of unilateral, preemptive
war and its rejection of international cooperation, international
law and the institutions that make the international rule of law
possible. In short, we need to everything within our power to bury
the Bush doctrine in Iraq. A small group within the administration
has staged a silent coup and is reshaping America’s role in
the world in radical ways that will severely threaten US and global
security. And the sad truth is that Congress has largely abdicated
its critical role as a check on executive power and a guardian of
the public welfare in matters of war and peace.
One of the first responsibilities of our coalition—and, I
must say, the media—must be to provide the American people
with the information and analysis necessary to give them a complete
and honest picture of what is happening in Iraq and its implications
for our country and the world. Despite the much-touted successes
of the military invasion, the costs and risks of this war remain
enormous, and there is no reason to believe the US is any more secure
now than it was before.
Don’t get me wrong—who among us is not relieved at
the downfall of a brutal tyrant and the end of his stranglehold
on a nation of millions? It goes without saying that the Iraqi people,
and the world, are better off without Saddam Hussein. Not surprisingly,
many Iraqis are overjoyed at the prospect of an end to decades of
oppression, 12 years of sanctions and weeks of heavy bombardment.
Of course, the outcome of the military invasion of Iraq was never
in doubt. As we said repeatedly in the weeks leading to the invasion,
it is easy to predict the outcome of a military confrontation between
the most powerful military in the history of the world and a weak
and impoverished nation with a defense budget less than one percent
of our own.
But it would be a mistake to confuse the current mood in Iraq with
enthusiasm for the foreign occupation now being imposed, or to ignore
the abundant indications that Iraq is descending into a pit of lawlessness,
sectarian fighting, and on-going humanitarian crises. Just as it
would be a mistake to conclude that the apparent ease with which
the US and Britain blasted its way through Iraq strengthened the
case for this unnecessary war or obviated its disastrous implications
for US and world security.
Most worrisome of all is that the hawks in the Bush Administration
will now proceed to the next phase of their program, and think that
it can turn its guns on Iran, or Syria or N. Korea. The US war against
Iraq is in many ways a trial run to establish what this administration
calls a “new norm” in international relations. This
new norm is the doctrine of preventive war that the Administration
announced explicitly in its National Security Strategy last fall
and which it has expounded on since. It holds that the US has the
right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential threat—not
an actual threat, nor an imminent threatbut a potential threat.
The new strategy stresses offensive military intervention, preemptive
first strikes, and proactive counter proliferation measures against
so-called rogue states and other enemies. By rejecting the notion
of working within international law, as well as the policies of
deterrence and collective security, the Bush Administration is pursuing
a vision in which the U.S. is not only the world’s policeman,
but also the world’s military dictator, answerable only to
Americans have the right to know the answer to the question—Does
the invasion of Iraq and this “new norm” of the Bush
national security strategy, make America safer?
Let’s start with the lessons that other nations, including
those we call the “axis of evil”, will take from the
trial run of the “new norm” in international relations—the
invasion and occupation of Iraq. The administration believes that
it will serve as a cautionary tale—one false move and you
will suffer the fate of the Iraqi leadership. Well, the fact is
that it is just as likely, if not more likely, that it could have
precisely the opposite affect. So called rogue states could very
likely conclude that they had better develop nuclear weapons, or
other weapons of mass destruction immediately, or they’ll
be vulnerable to a United States preventive war.
This is what the North Korea’s foreign ministry had to say
last week: “To allow disarmament through inspections does
not help avert a war, but rather sparks it.” The statement
concludes, with unerring logic, that “only a tremendous military
deterrent force” can prevent attacks on states the US dislikes.
Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program continues to speed ahead.
Does this make America and the world safer?
And what if the doctrine of pre-emption—that holds that one
nation can attack another if it believes that the other nation poses
a potential threat to it’s security—is embraced by bitter
enemies with their fingers on the trigger of nuclear weapons, like
India and Pakistan. What if it is embraced by North Korea? Does
this make America and the world safer?
The fact is that the administration will find that N. Korea with
its massive arsenal pointed at Seoul is not such easy prey for US
military might. And it will find that Iran’s nuclear program
cannot be stopped by attacking its facilities—many of which
we can’t even locate—and that there is no chance that
Iranians would welcome US troops as liberators.
The Bush doctrine rests on two unrealistic and simplistic notions:
that the world will welcome US domination because they say to themselves
“they’re the good guys” and that the American
public will accept the costs and risks of an American military empire
and US as world cop. The cost part of this equation is particularly
relevant to be asking on the 15th of April.
Before the invasion of Iraq the administration was reluctant to
discuss what the invasion would lead to—a full-scale occupation
for an indeterminate amount of time at an indeterminate cost. Nor
was it willing to talk about the fact that, unlike the first Gulf
War—that was sanctioned by the UN Security Council and where
90% of its costs were paid by our allies—the American people
will have to shoulder the full burden of the invasion and occupation
of Iraq. The administration has now proposed that Congress pay for
the $75 billion down payment for this adventure by tacking it onto
a federal deficit already heading to the $400 billion dollar mark
while cutting vitally important investments here at home.
Fed on a steady diet of pictures of cheering Iraqi crowds and young
American soldiers riding high in tanks and Humvees, Americans savor
the taste of victory and feel genuine relief that many nightmare
scenarios were avoided. But these pictures show only a part of the
story and cannot change the reality that this war was avoidable
and leaves the US, and the world, less secure than before.
President Bush took our nation to war on the basis of two specious
arguments: One claim was that this war was necessary to rid Iraq
of its weapons of mass destruction. The President and his administration
told the American people repeatedly about Iraq’s vast weapons
programs, with thousands of tons of chemical and biological weapons
that could kill millions of people. US and British forces now occupy
the entire country. They have so far failed to turn up any evidence
of any chemical or biological weapons, let alone massive programs.
The Iraqi regimes’ failure to use any such weapons, even at
the point of its own destruction, argues that either they do not
have any usable biological or chemical weapons or they concluded
their use would be ineffective. Whatever the reality, it demonstrates
that a tough inspection regime given time and resources could have
adequately addressed the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons programs.
The second claim was that the US was combating terrorism by overthrowing
Saddam Hussein and occupying the country. Iraq and 9/11 were repeatedly
spoken of in virtually the same breath by the President and his
administration. American soldiers reportedly inscribed the names
of 9/11 victims on the missiles and bombs they launched against
hapless Iraqi conscripts, buildings, homes, and marketplaces.
I would like to read you a quote from a mother of Capt. Tristan
Aitken, a US soldier who lost his life eleven days ago in Iraq:
“He was doing his job. He had no choice, and I’m proud
of who he was. But it makes me mad that this whole war was sold
to the American public and to the soldiers as something it wasn’t.
Our forces have been convinced that Iraqis were responsible for
September 11, and that’s not true.”
She’s right. But, it is important to ask—Why, according
to opinion polls, more than 50% of the American public believes
something that is, in fact, untrue—that Iraq was to blame
for the World Trade Center attacks on September 11 2001? No one
else in the world believes this. Only Americans.
Given the administration’s “new norm” of military
intervention and preemptive first strikes, this question becomes
critical—the most important decision that a government can
make—the life and death decision of war and peace—cannot
be allowed to be based on a fiction.
Perhaps some found comfort or satisfaction in the belief that the
US was responding to the evil of 9/11. But we should not be deluded
into thinking that we have struck a blow against terrorism. The
connection between the Iraqi regime and current terrorist activity
was tenuous at best. It is well documented that the plan for “regime
change” in Iraq pre-dated 9/11. The attacks that day provided
a political opening to push the Bush administration’s new
The fact of the matter is genuine progress against the international
terrorism has been made possible not by the Bush Doctrine, but by
international cooperation and coordination. The proof can be found
in the successful campaign to track down and capture key al Qaeda
operatives. Indeed, European governments, Pakistan and others are
responsible for the most significant achievements in apprehending
suspected terrorists and disrupting their plans. The fact is that
the battle against terrorism cannot be waged effectively without
intelligence from our countries, international law enforcement operations,
and worldwide coordination to shut down financial support that flows
to the terrorists. Alienating the international community and building
resentment with a go-it-alone foreign policy threatens what we know
works to rein in terrorism and keep Americans and the world, safer.
While Arabs do not mourn Saddam’s passing, they do not welcome
occupation of a sovereign Islamic state by a western military power.
As expected, the war has caused an upsurge in anti-American sentiment
in the Middle East—and around the world. Al Qaeda was created
and became empowered by the US presence in Saudi Arabia following
the first Gulf War. What new networks will be spawned in reaction
to the US presence in Iraq? What can we expect from the tens of
thousands of Iraqi children whose parents or siblings were killed
by their so-called liberators? Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, a
friend of the US, predicted last week that this war will produce
“a hundred [Osama] bin Ladens.”
The Administration has brought about regime change as promised.
But the world will be watching to judge their performance in fulfilling
its far more demanding promises: promises to rebuild the cities
we’ve just destroyed, restore order in the chaos of the vacuum
we created, meet the pressing, overwhelming, humanitarian needs,
and promote democracy, not just in Iraq, but in the region. It is
obvious to us that a lead role for the UN and outside relief agencies
in reconstruction is required if this effort is to be seen as legitimate.
Just as it is obvious that the President’s words will ring
hollow if the US anoints Iraq’s next leaders, or continues
unabated its support for autocratic regimes throughout the Middle
East, or most significantly, does not promptly make genuine and
sustained efforts to promote a just peace between Israel and the
Recent developments are not encouraging. The decision to run Iraq
out of the Pentagon, complete with the handing out of no-bid contracts
to politically connected firms like Halliburton, undermines US claims
that we are nation builders, not occupiers. The fact that many humanitarian
organizations will not operate under US military command will delay
getting desperately needed humanitarian aid to the suffering people
of Iraq. And how will any Iraqi government—even an interim
one—be able to gain the authority and legitimacy that it will
need, if it is brought to power by being anointed exclusively by
the United States?
One the tasks of the anti-war movement is to keep the spotlight
on the US’s obligations as an occupying power. Its track record
is not promising. A year and a half after the cheering in Kabul
has died down, rival warlords are back ruling most of Afghanistan
with widespread torture, Taliban-style repression, and rampant lawlessness.
Those of us who opposed the war on Iraq have a tough and critical
job to do. With a Congress that has abdicated its responsibility
to provide checks and balances to the administration, and the UN
having been cast aside, Win Without War and the citizens’
movement of this country is more important than ever. And so is
the press. Unless the media is able and willing to challenge the
administration’s spin and manipulation of facts, Americans
may find themselves at war again. We are talking about future wars
that are avoidable, that fuel terrorism, that isolate us from historic
allies—whose cooperation we need to fight terrorism effectively—that
undermine the rule of law, that heap enormous costs of the American
people alone, that serve as partial justification for the suspension
of civil liberties, and that make all Americans less secure.
Martin Luther King once said, “I do not believe our nation
can be a moral leader of justice, equality, and democracy if it
is trapped in the role of a self-appointed world policeman.”
We are committed to doing everything in our power to help our country
avoid that trap.
Tom Andrews, a former Democratic Congressman from Maine, is the National Director of Win Without War.