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My Turn: What'll it take to end war?

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What will it take to end the occupation of Iraq?

Sound off on the important issues at

Before our invasion of Iraq began, millions around the country and the world demonstrated in support of diplomacy and peace, and against the invasion. But that did not prevent the occupation from happening.

Since then, public opinion in this country has swung ever more strongly against the occupation, and yet it still continues. Those who placed their hopes for change in a democratically controlled Congress are disillusioned by recent events. Our Alaska congressional delegation, especially Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, turned a deaf ear to pleas demanding an end to the occupation.

David Chandler, states in his May 28 My Turn, that Albert Petrarca is living in a dream world if he thinks that a resistance movement by soldiers is the only way to end the "war." Yet Petrarca's recitation of what happened during the Vietnam War (May 22 Juneau Empire), when soldiers resisted authority, suggests that he may indeed be right. I don't remember ever hearing there was anarchy and chaos in the military after Vietnam-era soldiers "rebelled," but there is evidence that their actions did help bring a swifter end to the war.

Chandler states that he "doesn't necessarily agree with the politics of this war." On that, he and Petrarca may have common ground. But how would Chandler suggest we bring an end to it? Our current leaders and elected representatives in Congress are doing nothing toward this end. At this point, if not the soldiers, then who?

Petrarca was talking about soldiers who resist for reasons of conscience, soldiers who believe the invasion and resulting occupation was and is immoral, that it was based on lies and false claims, and that it violates international law. Chandler calls these people cowards. To the contrary, those who take such a stand are exercising a certain kind of moral courage in deciding not to "abdicate to their military or political superiors the human duty to make responsible moral judgments, and to accept individual moral responsibility for their actions," as Ed Hein so eloquently stated in his letter to the editor on May 28.

Under the Nuremberg Principles, Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

In speaking of Lt. Ehren Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the president's Iraq policy, recently stated that Watada followed his conscience. Batiste says he respects Watada even though he does not agree with what the lieutenant did. Batiste does not consider Watada a coward.

The First Amendment of the Constitution protects the rights of individuals to express their views. By saying "soldiers are protecting (Petrarca's) right to protest this war," Chandler seems to be suggesting that soldiers fighting in Iraq are there to protect our freedom to express our views.

This claim is clearly false. Since 9/11, the Bush administration has done everything it can to curtail our civil liberties and discourage open debate on its policies. The soldiers are there to ensure that the United States, via "friendly" oil companies, has access to and control of what happens to Iraq's oil. That is what passage of the Iraq oil law is all about.

Chandler's suggestion that Petrarca might have been imprisoned or killed under Saddam's regime sounds like an attempt to stifle debate on this issue and a statement that Petrarca should keep his opinions to himself. That would certainly make the Bush administration happy.

Just remember what Theodore Roosevelt said: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president ... is morally treasonable to the American public."

• Barbara Kelly is a resident of Juneau.



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