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Calling for a city council resolution against the war

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations indicates that the Bush Administration is now unanimous in its support for war against Iraq. In response, peace activists can and must continue mobilizing opposition at other levels of government. As of this week, two states and 66 cities have passed resolutions against the war. This article provides you with talking points to ask the Cambridge City Council and then the Massachusetts legislature to do the same. When several hundred cities and a dozen states have passed such resolutions, the Bush Administration and Congress will begin to take notice.

Powell's key points to the United Nations were: A) Iraq is lying about its weapons; B) Inspections cannot work to eliminate Iraqi biological and chemical weapons (this was Powell's most critical point, the one on which he attempted to marshal the most evidence); C) Iraq has ties to terrorist networks - this allegation is critical for tying the war on Iraq to the War on Terror. Peace activists can respond to each of Powell's points:

1) Nothing that Colin Powell presented at the UN weakens our arguments against war. We agree that Powell presented evidence that Saddam Hussein has lied and is continuing to lie. However, accepting that Saddam is a liar is not sufficient reason to initiate a war. We accepted that the Soviet Union deceived for decades, without claiming Soviet deception as a basis for war.

2) The evidence from the UN inspections of 1991 to 1998 and the preliminary progress of the renewed inspections today demonstrates that the inspection process can work to identify and eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), despite the difficulties and frustrations created by Iraqi resistance. Inspectors in recent weeks have found a dozen empty chemical warheads, thus renewing the process of disarming. The inspectors' reports not only reveal evidence, but pressure Saddam to further empower the inspectors, which will lead to further disarming. This week, for example, the inspectors have begun interviewing Iraqi scientists privately for the first time. The inspections process must be fully supported.

3) The evidence presented by Colin Powell demonstrates our ability to identify potential Iraqi WMD activities that now require further investigation. The United States must continue sharing intelligence data with the weapons inspectors in order to enhance their ability to carry out their task.

4) The evidence of links between Saddam and Al Qaeda remains weak and speculative and does not provide support for war. While Powell demonstrated some Al Qaeda activity in Iraq, there is no evidence of collaboration - Al Qaeda in fact considers Iraq an enemy and operates in areas of Northern Iraq not under Saddam's control. Recent press reports indicate Al Qaeda activity in countries ranging from Indonesia to Canada - we should not plan to invade those countries either. We should focus on working with nations around the world to identify and apprehend terrorists at home and abroad, rather than invading the countries in which they operate.

5) Saddam Hussein is and remains containable, and no evidence to the contrary was presented by Colin Powell. The presence of the UN inspectors further contains Saddam and pressures the regime to restrict their activities.

6) The prosecution of war against Iraq requires all of the following: The presentation of proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; The demonstration that Iraq cannot be peacefully disarmed of such weapons; The demonstration that Iraq can no longer be contained; The demonstration that Iraq presents an imminent threat to U.S. or global security; The demonstration that war on Iraq under such circumstances is worth the sacrifice of American and other lives, the cost to our economy, and the cost to our ability to reduce and ultimately eliminate terrorism.

7) None of these conditions have been met.

8) Military sanctions against Iraq, and control over the export of true dual-use technologies to Iraq, must be maintained. Economic sanctions, which severely harm the Iraqi people and increase their dependence on the government of Saddam Hussein, must be lifted.

9) We must proceed with Iraqi disarmament in ways that discourage other nations from pursuing the development and use of weapons of mass destruction. War against Iraq, and American efforts to develop and deploy so-called "usable nuclear weapons," are steps in the wrong direction. They escalate the cycle of violence and will encourage others to seek weapons of mass destruction. Thus, the future will find us continually facing situations similar to those we face today, with ever more danger for our nation and the world. If we are to avoid this fate, the United States must take the lead in efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, not only from Iraq, but from the entire Middle East and from all countries around the world, including our own.

10) A war could lead to thousands of Iraqi and American deaths, including putting at risk some Cambridge residents from the several Massachusetts reserve groups that have already been activated. The cost in lives of a war on Iraq is difficult to estimate, but the economic cost is more straightforward. Sen. Joseph Biden, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, indicates that the war may cost as much as $80 billion to $100 billion. The share of that expense to Cambridge taxpayers via their federal taxes is roughly $30 million, a substantial amount at a time when every town and city in Massachusetts is experiencing painful budget cuts.

Resolutions encapsulating several of the above points have been passed in the Hawaii and Maine state legislatures. Similar resolutions have passed in the city councils of San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, New Haven, and 60 other cities nationwide. Closer to home, resolutions opposing the war have passed in Amherst, Brookline, Northampton, and Somerville.

It's time for the Cambridge City Council to join these cities and states.

Councilor Decker, Councilor Murphy, and Vice Mayor Davis have introduced a resolution which is on this week's agenda. We encourage you to contact the City Council with your opinion and to support their passing this resolution. The City Council can be contacted at Council@ci.cambridge.ma.us or 617-349-4280. Upon passage of the resolution in Cambridge, we encourage you to push for Cambridge's legislators to introduce and pass a statewide resolution. Contacts for our state legislators can be found at www.CambridgeDems.org.

Alan Pearson is a member of the CPPAX Executive Board. Jesse Gordon, is CPPAX's media liaison. For more information, call CPPAX at 617-426-3040 or see www.cppax.org and www.RSVPeace.org.

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