My Turn: A different vision for this country

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2002

President Bush is leading the United States toward another military campaign against Iraq. I deplore the rule of Saddam Hussein, but I do not accept the idea that the problem of terrorism justifies a military attack on that country. I am urging the president to look for other non-military and more effective means to meet the challenges posed by Saddam Hussein. War is not the answer to this crisis. Every additional bomb we drop, and every senseless death we cause draws us further away from the path of justice.

The U.S.-led UN economic sanctions against Iraq and the 10-year war of attrition have utterly failed to achieve disarmament and security. Instead these violent tools have managed to kill more than 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians and have left the Iraqi people destitute, sick and even more committed to supporting their leader. We need to end the sanctions and permit humanitarian aid to flow freely into this devastated country.

The president's continuing insistence that, in the "war on terrorism," those who are not with us are against us, is increasingly damaging to the legitimate needs of our democratic society for open dialogue on extremely important matters of public policy. It clamps down on any dissent at home, inhibiting freedom of speech, one of the central tenets of our constitution and democracy itself. Wise public policy decisions should be formulated through open debate that encourages the expression and consideration of views from all concerned citizens and their elected representatives.

I am urging the president to reassess the policies that call for the use of military force against Iraq, and to look at the nonviolent alternatives still open to us to help achieve peace and security in the Middle East. I oppose extending the war on terrorism to Iraq. To insist that a military campaign is a means of bringing terrorists to "justice" makes a mockery of the meaning of the word "justice." Those responsible for the events of Sept. 11, and other acts of murder against innocent civilians, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction must be brought to justice in a court of law, not on the battlefield.

The full consequences of our actions in Afghanistan have yet to be learned. The potential for destabilizing the entire region by U.S. unilateral use of military force anywhere Mr. Bush wants is great. It is arrogant and misguided to ignore the opinions of the other nations of the world. How can the United States ignore the untold suffering of the Iraqi people, inflicted by our continuing bombing of the U.S. self-declared "no-fly zone" and the imposition of economic sanctions for the past 10 years which only the United States insists must be continued?

I am urging the President to refrain from further military action against Iraq. There are other nonmilitary and more effective means to reduce the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

The U.S. must choose a different path - a way that strengthens the rule of international law and breaks the cycle of violence. Such a path would include: Implementing a plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace; advancing regional disarmament in the Middle East; dramatically increasing U.S. investment in health care, education, and nutrition programs throughout the developing world; ratifying the Rome Statute to establish the International Criminal Court; supporting the current proposed draft verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention; preserving the ABM treaty; and de-alerting and making deep cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. War against Iraq would compound the failures of the military strategy of dealing with the threats posed by terrorism.

Why is Mr. Bush not listening to the other voices speaking out against the misguided and dangerous policies that rely on military force? His vision is one of unending war, violence and hatred. I have a different vision for this country and my children.

Amy Paige has lived in Alaska since 1966 and in Juneau since 1981. She has worked in the state as a social science researcher and applied anthropologist.

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