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Open Letter on Iraq

Monday, March 10, 2003

March 10, 2003

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to express my deep misgivings about the direction of U.S. policy toward Iraq.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, you spoke forcefully and persuasively of the need for “humility” in U.S. relations with other countries of the world.  Respect for the views and interests of our friends and allies must be the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy if we are to succeed in our quest to promote democracy, free markets, and the rule of law around the world. 

Regrettably, however, such respect has been lacking in this current crisis, and the price we are likely to pay for an excess of hubris is potentially immense.  I urge you to work with vigor and determination to mend relations with our most trusted allies in Europe, with Russia, and with China to preserve the integrity and the utility of the UN system. 

Precisely because we are the world’s premier power, with political, economic and military instruments that far surpass those available to any other country, our diplomacy must be measured, wise and generous.

I realize, of course, that the international community must be prepared to employ force, if necessary, to ensure that the Iraqi leadership complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Saddam Hussein must be held accountable for his long-standing, willful defiance of the United Nations, his criminal misrule in Iraq, and his repeated attempts to subjugate his neighbors.

But any use of force against Iraq must be a last resort, once the UN Security Council has exhausted all other efforts to guarantee that country’s compliance.  Only by exploring every avenue to resolve the current crisis short of war can we count on broad-based international support, as well as the requisite unity at home, to compel Iraq to disarm—by force of arms, if necessary.

Many Americans have doubts about the imminence of the threat that Iraq poses to the United States.  At a minimum, it is incumbent upon you as commander-in-chief to articulate persuasively why Iraq constitutes such a challenge to American interests and to the security and well-being of the American people.  Since you are asking the young men and women of our armed forces to place themselves in harm’s way, you must present a clear and compelling case for doing so—one that leaves no doubt as to the urgency of this task.

By its very nature, war is unpredictable.  We cannot anticipate all its consequences.  If the patient but firm application of pressure against Iraq has the potential to succeed—to result in that country’s surrendering its weapons of mass destruction—we must stay the course.

Mr. President, much has changed in the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001.  We are justifiably engaged in a global campaign to disable terrorist groups and to disrupt their plans to attack us.  Nothing must be allowed to divert our attention from this central task.  Attacking Iraq now, before we have articulated a compelling case for taking such drastic action, will undermine the anti-terrorist campaign, breed resentment of the United States throughout the Muslim world, and destabilize the greater Middle East.

The time has not yet arrived to jettison diplomacy and embrace a military option.  War is always the least best answer.  Let us redouble our efforts—political, economic and diplomatic—to induce Iraq’s compliance with the will of the international community while, at the same time, striving to preserve regional peace and security.


S. Joseph Simitian, Assemblymember
Twenty-First District

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