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Writers and Artists Petition Against Iraq (Take Three)
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Here's Douglas Lain's latest response (I'll respond in a separate entry, but again, feel free to comment away yourself):

[By the way last Friday, December 6th, Ursula K. LeGuin delivered the petition to Congressman Wu, one of the members of Congress who voted against the Iraqi resolution.]

Mr. Derek,

I want you to understand that I'm Samuel Delaney and you're Isaac
Asimov according
to the "which science fiction writer are you" quiz. This means we are
bound to
have differences.

If, in the paragraphs below, I seem to be overheated I'm sorry. I'm
writing this late
at night and I'm not censoring myself very well. Still, I think the
content of what I've
said below is accurate enough.

> You begin, for example, by implying that the war on terrorism is a
> presumably because in your estimation the U.S. is a terrorist state.
Part of the
> problem is settling on reasonable consensus regarding the definition
of terrorism,
> but without tackling that, I'd say we're probably off to a bad

Actually, I think this might be a good place to start. The definition
of terrorism that
I'm working from is pretty simple. Terrorism is the use of violent
force, or the threat
of violent force, in order to achieve political or ideological ends.
When states use
violent means to achieve their ends this is "state terrorism," when
individuals or
groups use violence to achieve their objectives it is also terrorism.

When are individuals, groups or states not committing the crime of
terrorism when
they resort to violent solutions to achieve their goals? When this
violence is an act
of self defense.

> If you're incapable of making the moral distinction between the
> structure, intent, and policies of say, the United States and Iraq,
then it is
> doubtful our discussion will make much headway.

I can easily enough distinguish the differences in the political
structures of Iraq and
the US. The US is a free society, perhaps the most profoundly free
society on the
planet. Even with the current attacks on our civil liberties we
remain, at least for
the moment, a profoundly good example when it comes to our toleration
of dissent,
for instance.

The policies are also different. While the United States tacitly supported the
gassing of the Kurds in the 80's and supplied Iraq with the ingredients
for his
chemical weapons, the US itself never gassed its own people.

When it comes to intent, however, I think we have some major
differences in our
opinions. I see the US as seeking global dominance, you seem to feel
that the US
some other benign purpose that it is motivating it. I think my
position is the one
that can most easily be proven out. It's certainly mentioned in the
Strategy Document that you can find on the White House's very own
Buried underneath paragraph after paragraph of florid language you'll
find that, in
order to maintain security, we must maintain absolute military
superiority. This is
the goal of the United States, to maintain our position as the world's
will entail suppressing the third world's economic development. It
will mean
exercising our power constantly through pre-emptive strikes. It will
mean that the
UN is irrelevant and that we are not to be held accountable by the
newly formed
international criminal court. It's all in there, and it's all pretty

> You say that we're not justified in threatening Iraq with military
force because
> Saddam is not an immediate threat. This implies that a country must
be an
> immediate, direct threat, or have already attacked us, in order to
> military action.

That's not just my opinion, that's international law.

> Do you then consider the Gulf War to be an unjust war?


> Iraq attacked a sovereign country, an ally of the United States,
Kuwait. They were
> not an immediate threat to us, and we had not been directly
attacked. So was
> action taken to oust them unjust? The point is, there are a number
> justifications for the use of force. The use of force should always
be the last
> resort, but it should not be ruled out as an option if all others

In the case of the Gulf War there were other options available. One
thing we might
have done is not give Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait. But,
barring that
option, there were opportunities for a peaceful resolution of the
conflict that
included a complete Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. For instance, the US
rejected a
Iraqi offer to negotiate a peace, which was the Iraqi response to UN
resolution 660.

Later on, but before the war began, Saddam offered to withdraw from
without resolving the land dispute it had with Kuwait if we would, at a
later date,
agree to diplomatic talks about weapons of mass destruction (this time
the main
concern, for Iraq, was Israeli weapons) and the occupation by Israel of

> You say there is no credible evidence that Iraq is in cahoots with Al
> and I
> think you're right. But this isn't the only danger from Iraq
> nuclear
> weapons. I am staunchly opposed to nuclear proliferation. Are you?

You're not seriously suggesting that the US attack every country that
is suspected
of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, are you?

>...More should have been done to prevent countries like India,
Pakistan, North
> Korea, and yes, Israel, from developing nuclear weaponry, by force if

I think that Bush's dismissal of the Nuclear nonproliferation treaty,
his headlong rush
to develop SDI and the policy of preemption is going to push countries
to develop
nuclear weapons. It's the only way to keep from getting trounced.

> You say you feel strongly about the food aid issue. Do you honestly
> that the people of Afghanistan are better or worse fed now than they
> been at this point in time under the Taliban? And upon what are you
basing this
> assumption?

I think the war caused the already horrific famine in Afghanistan to
intensify. I think
that, in Kabul, the situation is improved, but for most of the country
the situation is
just as bad socially as it was before, and the material conditions are
much worse. I
base my assumption upon having read the newspaper on a consistent
basis. There
has been no investigation into the famine in Afghanistan since the
famine was averted there, but from the evidence I have I think it's got
to be ugly.
People are starving there, and dying from disease, and the country is
in chaos.

Again let me point you to some relevant articles:

> You at least offer an alternative suggestion to what was done (which
> critics don't), but I'm confused about your suggestion of a "police
action". Are
> you talking about actual police, or about a military action under the
euphemism of
> "police action". If actual police, then are you seriously suggesting
that a jeepful
> of Interpol agents should have driven up into the mountains of
Afghanistan and
> tried to arrest Osama bin Laden?

The first thing we ought to have done was provide some evidence and
asked for
extradition. I think if we'd done that alone we'd have Bin Laden
right now.
it's also conceivable that we could have sent special forces in to
capture Bin Laden
without bombing the country to smithereens and putting 7.5 million at
risk of
starvation. But, we preferred to bomb. In this way Bush isn't very
different from
Clinton who, when offered a dossier on Al Qaeda from the Sudanese in
bombed the country instead. Of course, that bombing was completely
illegal. It
was, in fact, an act of terrorism.

> The fact is, we eliminated an oppressive regime that was warned that
we would
> not tolerate them harboring terrorist. They did not comply, and for
it they were
> rightly ousted. In doing so, our military tried, to the best of its
ability to
> mitigate civilian deaths.

We did very little about the mass starvation. The food drops were
called "ugly acts
of propaganda" by food aid workers, and we never did the massive air
lift that was
being discussed, nor did we provide peace keeping troops to help with
the delivery
of food. In fact, we blocked British efforts to provide peace keeping

> You also spout the Chomskian line that we're (And who is the "we"
> anyway? The U.S. alone? The U.N.?) responsible for killing half a
million Iraqis. Do
> you sincerely think that the U.S. and U.N. have a vested interest in
killing Iraqi
> civilians? And to what end? What possible conspiratorial explanation
could lead
> anyone to such a conclusion? We're sadists?

I like Chomsky, but it's not his line that I quoted before. If you
remember I
mentioned the three UN officials who resigned from their posts, all of
them working
on the oil for food program, and all of them calling the sanctions an
attack on the
people of Iraq. I also mentioned that the US government knew that
the impact of
bombing the infrastructure of Iraq and then imposing harsh sanctions
would be
civilian death, mostly children. This is documented and a quick
google search will
reveal lots of sources on this subject.

> Why do you not place the majority of the blame for suffering and
death on
> Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime? Do you refuse to believe
credible reports
> that the Iraqi government has been skimming money from the
> that they've been involved in illicit oil trade over the past ten
years, and that much
> of that money never goes towards much needed health care, food, or
> Why are you willing to cut a guy who has multiple opulent palaces
while his people
> are apparently in dire need, so much slack? I simply do not
understand this
> tortured logic.

There is nothing tortured about the logic. I believe that everything
mentioned is true, but I don't think that the blame falls in Saddam's
direction only.
The skimming, the illicit oil trade, the misdirection of funds, even
with all of it taken
into account the US still bombed Iraq's infrastructure, changed the
terms of the
sanctions program, and purposefully disrupted the oil for food program
in order to
intensify the desperation of the Iraqi people. The idea was to spark
a popular
uprising against Hussein by making life in Iraq unbearable.

The other thing to consider is that most of the deaths, or at least a
lot of them,
come from diseases stemming from polluted water supplies. Without
chemicals like
chlorine (a dual use item) it's difficult to provide clean water.

Still, I'm not saying Saddam was blameless. He should have stepped
down so that
the US would have the regime change it wanted and lifted the sanctions.
A decent
person wouldn't cling to power in the face of so much consequential
Believe me, if I were an Iraqi I'd be calling for Saddam's head. But
I'm an American, so
I focus on what we Americans do.

> The only thing you seem to agree with me about is the idea that force
is what
brought Iraq onto the path of possible compliance. You say that the
fact that
inspectors are in country right now is proof that not all diplomatic
efforts have
failed. Are you suggesting that this is diplomacy? The suggestion is
laughable. We're
holding a gun to their head, and that is the only reason they've let
the inspectors
back in. I wouldn't call substantive threats diplomacy. Perhaps you do.

I guess I agree with you that we're not being very diplomatic. Still,
allowing the
weapons inspectors to disarm Iraq would be a peaceful way to resolve
the issue.

> Either way, the credible threat of force was the only option left.
The use of force
will follow if Iraq so much as blinks. And it shouldn't be any other
way. There is too
much at stake.

What's at stake? What will happen if we don't bomb Iraq? He'll
attack his
neighbors? They don't seem to think so, even Kuwait was willing to
relations with Iraq at the last meeting of the Arab League. He'll
develop nuclear
weapons? Not if the weapons inspection process is allowed to be
completed. In
fact, weapons inspections is a far more successful means of disarming a
than bombing. So, what will happen. What will Saddam do?

Let's say we find out he's left something off the list of sites .
Shouldn't our impulse
be to send the inspectors to the site we know he's left off the list?

> I truly believe that if our government had not pulled the security
> toward passing yet another resolution (but this one with actual
> then Iraq would eventually develop the deadliest weapons know, and
that the
> likelihood is that they would contribute to proliferation by selling
weaponry or
> technology to others

You think Iraq would do something as nasty as that? But...wait a
minute, aren't we
the world's biggest provider of weapons, including the technology to
weapons of mass destruction?

> I
> think unchecked, Iraq's deception and noncompliance would result in a
> less
> safer world, and would result in the eventual use of nuclear
weaponry, which
> is
> perhaps inevitable anyway, unless world governments, ALL world
> begin
> to get serious about stemming the nuclear tide.

I agree with this, but your way of stemming the tide is to attack every
country that
might possibly have nuclear weapons. That's not sane.

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