OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "A Response to a Response to a Response"


By Tony Russell

Dear Mr. X -

Thanks for taking the time to write me about my recent column on Colin Powell's speech at the UN, in which he attempted to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq. I'm sorry you found the column "disgusting," but I would suggest that time spent night after night watching CNN might not be the best way to get a balanced view of what is happening in the world. That isn't meant to be sarcastic. I remember reading of a study which showed that the more TV news people watched, the less they actually knew about world affairs.

I'm also sorry if I was unclear when I lamented the failure to provide an alternative viewpoint to Mr. Powell's presentation. I don't believe that is the administration's responsibility at all; I do expect it from members of Congress and from the news media. Both of them have been deathly silent. You are right that some U.S. poll numbers (as opposed to poll numbers almost everywhere else on the planet), while varying from poll to poll, do show a majority of U.S. citizens support a war if it draws U.N. support; it's possible I overstated that case. It also seems true that, under an unrelenting domestic propaganda blitz, the numbers have shifted somewhat toward support of a war. I was drawing on a Los Angeles Times- commissioned poll, conducted nationwide in mid-December, in which 72% of respondents, including 60% of Republicans, said the president has not provided enough evidence to justify starting a war. I'll attach the article giving the poll's results.

Those are the failures on my part that I'm aware of. You charged that my column was made up of assertions, not facts. I would call them assertions of facts. It was a column, not a research paper, so I didn't attach footnotes. However, to demonstrate that my comments weren't created from thin air, I'll share some of my sources with you. I hope you'll take the time to read them. I also hope you're open minded enough that you will feel obliged to either change your mind, or undertake to share the evidence you have that shows these facts to be wrong.

The attachment "How Did Iraq Get Its WMD?" describes, in painful detail, the role of the U.S. in supplying all those "weapons of mass destruction" which we now claim are so terrible. The facts: the U.S., in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Senior, sold Iraq the materials it needed for biological and chemical warfare. The items in the Reagan/Bush goodies bag? Anthrax. Botulism. Nerve gas. West Nile fever germs. Brucella melitensis (damages major organs). Clostridium perfringens (causes gangrene). The information on these sales is contained in a 1992 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which oversees U.S. exports. The report is entitled "US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq." The hypocrisy of George Bush, the younger, in complaining about how terrible it is that Iraq should have these evil weapons, when in fact his own party and his own father bear responsibility for supplying them, would gag a goat.

The attachment "No casus belli for First Gulf War" uncovers the deceptions used to win the U.S. public's backing for Gulf War I. It names the reporter who uncovered the lie about the satellite photos, the newspaper which carried the story, the means she used to document her story, and the university researcher who validated it. It also names the person responsible at Hill and Knowlton for concocting the "incubator babies" story.

"Iraq War Unjustifiable, Says Church Head" documents religious opposition to the war from Mr. Bush's own denomination, and carries a wealth of quotes from Methodist leadership on the wrongness of this war.

I could go on, but what's the point? If you find these check out, and you would like sources for other points, please let me know. I would particularly recommend a very thorough document called "13 Myths About Iraq." It is online at http://13myths.org, and contains 120 footnotes of mainstream and primary sources. A condensed version is available at http://13myths.com. Another fine resource is at http://www.truthout.org which contains links to hundreds of documents, articles, and reports. If you are genuinely interested in getting at the truth, and want documentation, there is God's own plenty at these two sites.

Let me move on to a few of your other comments. You write, "It is truly sad when someone defends a ruthless man like Saddam Hussein, and pillories the leaders of the most, caring, compassionate country in the world." If that is intended to apply to my column, I have no idea what you're referring to. That Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and company may be a group of unabashed imperialists willing to kill thousands and thousands of people doesn't make Saddam Hussein an angel, and I have no illusions about his brutality. Where do you see something to the contrary in what I have written? I would agree that Americans, in general, are a caring and compassionate people. I would also point out that the Bush administration has a reported quarter of a million troops in the Gulf region, ready to use radioactive depleted uranium munitions, bomb Baghdad (a city of 5,000,000 people, almost half of them children), and kill an estimated 35,000 people, mostly women and children, to take over a country that has not attacked us, has not threatened to attack us, and is, in every respect, weaker and more crippled than it was during the first Gulf War.

You go on to say, "If I read your article correctly, you are also saying we shouldn't have defended Kuwait in the 1990 Gulf War." Well, no, you didn't read it correctly. What I wrote is that two major factors in winning public backing for the U.S.'s entering the war-the claim of a massive Iraqi buildup on the border of Saudi Arabia, and the dramatic story of incubator babies being killed-were both lies. And I believe the people who lied to us before are lying to us again. You have ignored both the facts and the logic of my argument, while jumping to a conclusion about an issue I didn't address.

No, you don't see any plans to disarm Iraq in my column. Again, that wasn't the focus of the column; the focus was to rebut Colin Powell's claims. But let me turn that approach around. I've tried to deal fairly with each of the substantive issues you've raised. Yet you simply bypassed the most central point in my column-that an attack on another nation that has neither attacked nor threatened to attack us is immoral and indefensible. Do you simply ignore that issue? Religious leaders from the Pope to the head of the National Council of Churches have denounced our war plans as unjustified and condemned them in the strongest terms. Do you ignore them?

I've said that Colin Powell lied. I've attached documentation to that effect. What do you do with that? Are you even open to the possibility that he did lie? Because if that is simply not a possibility that you will examine, there's no search for truth involved. When you begin convinced that you already have the truth, it's hard to end up with it.

I value some words of wisdom by Bill Moyers: "Not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. And it's not un-American to think that war-except in self-defense-is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomatic skill. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country." What is there about preserving thousands of lives, saving hundreds of billions of dollars, avoiding a wider split with our traditional allies, avoiding antagonizing Muslims throughout the world, and declining to strew tons of radioactive particles all over Iraq (to sicken our soldiers as well as Iraq's children) that is so unpatriotic, so un-American that you are disgusted by it?

Editors Note: See Opinions & Comment (02/15/2003) OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "An Answer to Colin Powell"

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