Submitted and Passed by the AEU National Leaders Council and AEU Board of Directors
The American Ethical Union, through its Board of Directors and The National Leaders’ Council, the professional association of Ethical Culture leaders, strongly opposes an American war against Iraq. In its stead, we advocate international containment of the Iraqi regime.
Ethical Culture’s regard for human life and its commitment to mutually fulfilling relations among nations inspires us to oppose war and seek solutions to the current crisis through international cooperation.
We recognize that in an age of terrorism security cannot be achieved through a policy of unilaterism and the brute display of military force. Peace and stability will only be attained through the democratic states working cooperatively, through international arrangements and adherence to international norms. We call on theUnited States to take leadership in this initiative through moral example and diplomacy.
We join with numerous religious and secular organizations, and millions of Americans and individuals throughout the world, in opposition to a war against Iraq. We call upon the American administration to support increased and intensified United Nations inspections to be continued indefinitely. Recognizing the dangers posed by the Iraqi regime, we maintain that the response needs to be containment of the Iraqi regime, supported by the threat of force and validated by the international community.
- Philosophical Commitments
Though not a pacifist organization, Ethical Culture considers violence and war the last resort to resolve disputes between nations. Ethical Culture’s highest value is vested in reverencing the dignity of human beings, and in preserving human life, on which that dignity, with rare exceptions, depends. Ethical Culture is also committed to creating a world community founded on mutually fulfilling relations on all levels, including relations among nations. We consider war, resulting in the wholesale killing of both combatants and defenseless civilians, and reflecting the most severe dissolution of the human bond, as the most egregious violation of the values we hold most dear.
We consider the planning for war, requiring the employment of human ingenuity in the service of destruction, a perversion of the dignity of the human spirit. It demeans both its victims and its perpetrators while subordinating the value of human life to instrumental and strategic ends.
Yet we recognize that the interests of self-preservation, and the protection of human rights, reluctantly make the use of force, on occasion, necessary. We express a general kinship to the international consensus, recognizing that war can only be justified in the service of national self-defense, and pre-emptive war, only when an assault on one’s own territory is imminent.
We conclude that a war against Iraq fails to meet the criteria of a justifiable war.
- The Dangers We Confront
We affirm that Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, presents significant dangers that require an international response. We recognize that his regime has been, and continues to be, a gross abuser of human rights, and that he has perpetrated the wanton offense of employing chemical weapons against his own people and against the people of Iran. We also find it likely that he continues to stockpile chemical and biological weapons, while employing resistance, deception and mendacity in the face of international inspection efforts, both in the 1990s and currently.
We proclaim our opposition to a war against Iraq with a sober understanding of the dangers posed by international terrorism, and the potential consequences posed by an Iraqi regime unchecked by a response from the international community. We believe, however, that the American administration has not made a compelling case with regard to Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capacity nor with regard to significant linkage to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. We affirm that the Iraqi regime does not present an immediate and direct threat to the safety of our country.
- The International Community and American Unilateralism
While the United States has sought endorsement by the United Nations Security Council for an assault on Iraq, we remain apprehensive that the policy of unilateralism pursued by the Bush administration will trump the will of the international community. We are concerned and fearful that a pre-emptive war against Iraq is not only a violation of the United Nations charter, to which the United States is a signatory, but will prove detrimental to America’s security interests in the long range.
We are alarmed at the aggressively unilateral designs of the American administration, of which a war against Iraq is a defining moment. A new doctrine of American unilateralism, dedicated to the creation of American military and economic domination on a global scale, is ominously resulting in the alienation of our traditional allies. This policy of the United States potentially undermines the good will and cooperation necessary for the successful pursuit of international terrorists. We are also concerned that a war on Iraq will divert efforts from the necessary pursuit and destruction of terrorist networks, while potentially augmenting the ranks of international terrorism. Moreover, the waging of pre-emptive war, in violation of the United Nations charter, will set a dangerous precedent that will encourage other state actors to initiate pre-emptive wars for interests of their own. American action against Iraq, especially undertaken without international sanction, will bring more violence to an already dangerous international scene.
Various wavering rationales have been proffered by the administration in defense of a war against Iraq. Among them have been the need to depose Saddam Hussein, the dismantling of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and the creation of a democratic regime in Iraq as a springboard to seeding democracy in the Middle East region. Despite these manifest rationales, we are concerned that the prevailing interest of the Bush administration is the establishment of military and economic hegemony over the region inclusive of Iraqi oil resources. We see a new “paxAmericana” enforced by American military might in accordance with the doctrine that will not tolerate any loci of power other than our own. Again, we are fearful of American unilateralism, which will further inflame our enemies, while eliciting resentment among our allies.
- Post-War Iraq
There has been little deliberation and less debate about a post-war Iraq. An American occupation of Iraq, either directly or through an Iraqi proxy government, will incur a monumental economic burden at a time when the American economy is experiencing deep stress.
We recognize that Iraq is an ethnically divided country held together through centralized, autocratic power. We are fearful that a post-Saddam Iraq will be characterized by inter-group violence and score settling among the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiites populations, which will render Iraq dangerous to govern, if not ungovernable. Refugee flight will likely be a source of further violence and instability in the region.
While we are opposed to the war, we recognize that America’s “going it alone” especially in a post-war reconstruction phase is one of the strongest arguments against an assault on Iraq.