We are at a critical moment in time. A real possibility exists to prevent war on Iraq. However, in one week it could be too late. If you have ever wanted to take action, the time is now.
High school and college students across the country are boycotting school and shouting, "Books not Bombs." Hundreds of thousands of Americans have gathered in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other cities declaring, "War is Not the Answer!" Great Britain witnessed the largest march in its history as more than 1 million people pleaded, "Don't Attack Iraq!"
Germany, France, China, and Russia openly oppose war without U.N. support, and Great Britain could change course.
Now, for the first time, a clear and compelling third alternative has emerged. Following an hour-long meeting of U.S. church leaders with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, led by Sojourners executive director Jim Wallis, we have outlined a six-point plan that details a more effective way to remove Saddam Hussein from power without killing innocent people.
1. Remove Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power.
The Bush administration and the antiwar movement are agreed on one thing--Saddam Hussein is a brutal and dangerous dictator. Virtually nobody has sympathy for him, either in the West or in the Arab world, but everyone has great sympathy for the Iraqi people who have already suffered greatly from war, a decade of sanctions, and the corrupt and violent regime of Saddam Hussein. So let's separate Saddam from the Iraqi people. Target him, but protect them.
As urged by Human Rights Watch and others, the U.N. Security Council should establish an international tribunal to indict Saddam and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indicting Saddam would send a clear signal to the world that he has no future. It would set into motion both internal and external forces that might remove him from power. It would make it clear that no solution to this conflict will include Saddam or his supporters staying in power. Morton Halperin pointed out, "As we have seen in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, such tribunals can discredit and even destroy criminal regimes." Focusing on Saddam and not the Iraqi people would clearly demonstrate that the United States' sole interest is in changing his regime and disarming his weapons rather than in harming the Iraqi people. It would cause world opinion to coalesce against Saddam's regime rather than against a U.S.-led war, as is now happening.
a. Military enforcement. Removing Saddam must be coupled with greatly intensified inspections to fully enforce all U.N. Security Council resolutions that relate to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war. Inspections have shown progress - the agreement by Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud-2 missiles is significant. But rather than simply increasing the number of inspectors, inspections must be conducted more aggressively and on a much broader scale. The existing U.S. military deployment should be restructured as a multinational force with a U.N. mandate to support and enforce inspections. The force would accompany inspectors to conduct extremely intrusive inspections, be authorized to enter any site, retaliate against any interference, and destroy any weapons of mass destruction that it found. A more coercive inspections regimen should also include the unrestricted use of spy planes and expanded no-fly and no-drive zones.
b. Strengthen the arms embargo. The current system for preventing Iraq from acquiring prohibited weapons must be strengthened by a more effective monitoring system and the installation of advanced detection technology on Iraq's borders. At present there is no international monitoring of commercial crossings into Iraq from Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and other neighboring states. The use of advanced monitoring and scanning technology along with sanctions assistance missions on the borders would significantly improve the capability to monitor borders and prevent illegal arms shipments.
3. Foster a democratic Iraq.
The United Nations should begin immediately to plan for a post-Saddam Iraq, administered temporarily by the U.N. and backed by an international armed force, rather than a U.S. military occupation. An American viceroy in an occupied Iraq is the wrong solution. A true democratic opposition must be identified and developed, rather than simply identifying forces who would contribute to a U.S. invasion. An internationally directed post-Saddam administration could assist Iraqis in initiating a constitutional process leading to democratic elections.
4. Organize a massive humanitarian effort now for the people of Iraq.
The 1991 Gulf war, the following decade of sanctions, and the corrupt regime of Saddam Hussein have caused immense suffering for the people of Iraq. In recent days, U.N. humanitarian agencies have begun evacuating personnel in light of an impending war. Rather than waiting until after a war, U.N. and nongovernmental relief agencies should significantly expand efforts now to provide food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq. Focusing on the suffering of the Iraqi people, and immediately trying to relieve it, will further help to protect them from being the unintended targets of war. It also helps to further isolate Saddam Hussein from the Iraqi people by contrasting the world's humanitarian concern with Saddam's indifference toward his own people. Humanitarian aid deliveries must be protected, if necessary, by a U.N. force under Security Council mandate.
5. Recommit to a "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East.
The road to peace in the Middle East leads not through Baghdad, but through Jerusalem. The United States, United Kingdom, and other European Union nations must address a root cause of Middle East conflict by committing to a peace plan resulting in a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It should guarantee a Palestinian state by 2005 while guaranteeing the safety and security of Israel. This would show the clear political and moral link between the deeply rooted and unresolved Middle East crisis and the larger war on terrorism, including the Iraq issue.
The international campaign against terrorism has succeeded in identifying and apprehending suspects, freezing financial assets, and isolating terror networks - most recently with the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But it is in danger of being disrupted, both by acrimony and by lack of attention, as the world focuses on the impending conflict with Iraq. Most significant, a war against Iraq will fuel anti-American animosity in the Arab world, where cooperation in the war on terror is most needed.
It is five minutes before midnight, as Martin Luther King Jr. might have put it. Unless an alternative to war is found, a military conflagration soon will be unleashed. A morally rooted and pragmatically minded initiative, broadly supported by people of faith and people of good will, might help to achieve a historic breakthrough and set a precedent for decisive and effective international action in the many crises we face in the post-September 11 world.
This plan is supported by the members of the U.S. religious delegation that met with Prime Minister Blair on February 18, 2003: Jim Wallis, Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners; John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C.; Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA; Melvin Talbert, Ecumenical Officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; and Dan Weiss, Immediate Past General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches in the USA.
We encourage you to:
1. Read the plan.
2. Send it to your family, friends, teachers, pastors, denominations, and others.
3. Encourage them to do the same.
4. Write or call local newspapers, radio and television stations, and politicians and tell them about this new alternative to war.
5. Lift up this effort in your prayers.