Opposing the war: how have the
arguments stood up?
By Stephen Nathanson / Guest
Tuesday, October 28,
On July 11, 2002, Newton
Dialogues on Peace and War began a weekly vigil in Newton Centre to oppose a
U.S. war against Iraq. We also wrote a brief statement explaining our
reasons. I recently re-read the statement to see whether our views about the
proposed war had been vindicated or refuted by the war itself. How
accurately had we assessed the situation?
We gave five reasons for opposing
1. An attack against Iraq will
lead to huge loss of life ... civilians as well as combatants, Iraqis as
well as Americans, will be killed or injured. Iraq will be devastated,
making life difficult for years to come.
What has actually happened? More
than 300 American soldiers have been killed; more than 1,500 wounded. Our
government has not been interested in counting Iraqi casualties, but private
groups estimate the number of Iraqi civilians killed at between 5,000 and
10,000. Iraqi military casualties are probably much higher but are unknown
[Source: www.antiwar.com/ewens/casualties.html]. Much of Iraq's
infrastructure has been destroyed, and it will take years to restore water,
electricity, and security to Iraq. The oil industry that was supposed to pay
for reconstruction has also been destroyed.
2. Attacking Iraq will make
America less safe ... A U.S. attack could arouse intense opposition in many
countries, possibly destabilizing the regimes that we currently support. It
could provoke a biological or chemical attack by Saddam Hussein ... and
inspire ... terrorist attacks against the United States and against
Here, we were partly right and
partly wrong. Hostility to the U.S. has increased, but so far no friendly
governments have fallen. Fortunately, the invasion did not provoke a
biological or chemical weapon attack by Saddam Hussein, but no evidence of
such weapons has yet been found. The invasion and occupation have attracted
militant opponents of the U.S. to Iraq from around the world. There have
been numerous attacks, including terrorist attacks against the Jordanian
embassy and the U.N. relief headquarters in Baghdad.
3. A war would violate the
United Nations Charter....[which] limits military actions to circumstances
in which "an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations." A
preventive war would violate this provision.
The U.S. invasion is widely seen
as a illegal, aggressive war. The lack of evidence of "weapons of mass
destruction" has undermined the claim that the war was necessary for
4. It will alienate friends
and allies throughout the world....A "go it alone" strategy will undermine
both our status in the world and our hopes to combat terrorism, since this
can only be done with the cooperation of others.
This prediction was correct. A 44
nation poll by the Pew Research Center found that "opinions of the U.S. are
markedly lower than they were a year ago. The war has widened the rift
between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world,
softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global
public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era - the U.N. and
the North Atlantic alliance." [people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=185]
5. A war will make us less
able to meet the pressing needs of our society. We should be seeking a
society in which all people have access to education, medical care, adequate
food and shelter rather than spending our great national wealth on military
President Bush's request for an
additional $87 billion has made it clear to everyone that the Iraq war
carries a high price tag. Our economy is weak, and public programs are
threatened. $87 billion is more than enough to pay off all of this year's
state budget deficits for our entire country. This costly war weakens the
security of all Americans.
Our July statement urged people
to use our democratic rights to call on Congress and the president to
"renounce the plan for a pre-emptive war and to adopt an internationalist,
diplomatic approach that is based on U.N. policies." It was good advice then
and remains good advice now. America needs a cooperative, internationalist
approach to the problems that face us and people throughout the world. War
was not the answer.
Steve Nathanson is a professor
of Philosophy at Northeastern University and a member of Newton Dialogues on
Peace and War.