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Southern California Says: 'No War!'

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By Rep. Maxine Waters

For the past few months, there has been opinion poll after opinion poll on the issue of war against Iraq.

As far as I am concerned these polls have done more to confuse rather than clarify where the American people stand on another war in the Middle East. One poll indicates that Americans support going to war in Iraq, if there is international support. Another poll has indicated popular support for war against Iraq, only if a UN weapons inspection proves that Iraq does indeed possess weapons of mass destruction; or if Saddam Hussein refuses to comply with a UN resolution to inspect his arsenal.
I wanted to hear directly from the people on this issue. That’s why last Saturday, I conducted a Town Hall meeting about war in Iraq at the First Church of God in Inglewood. The 500 or so in attendance voiced a resounding and virtually unanimous “no” to a preemptive U.S. military strike against Iraq.
This is consistent with the phone calls, faxes and emails I have received at my office—a resounding no to war. It is also consistent with what I have heard on Capitol Hill. When I discuss the issue of war with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, many of them tell me their constituents have also voiced opposition to this country going to war.
At the town hall meeting, most of those who stepped up to voice their opinions about a war in Iraq agreed that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator who rules Iraq with a vicious, murderous hand, but they did not believe the Bush Administration had made a case for war. They were unconvinced that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. There were those at the town hall who expressed the opinion that there is a hidden agenda in President Bush’s quest for war. Some believed that oil is the catalyst for another war against Iraq. Others expressed a belief that all the talk of war is a diversionary tactic, to draw attention away from the Bush Administration’s economic failures as congressional elections draw near.
Many of us in congress have been expressing similar sentiments about the possible war against Iraq. However, we have no facts pointing to a hidden agenda in the Bush Administration’s call for war, nor has President Bush offered any facts to uphold his position that military action must be taken against Iraq.
Basically, the president has told us that Iraq may have biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction; perhaps Saddam Hussein has access to nuclear material and may be developing nuclear weapons. I do not believe, and many of my colleagues do not believe the president has made a case for war and question the sudden urgency to invade Iraq. Even in his speech of Monday night, the president offered no new information, only more speculation about what Saddam Hussein might have and what he may do.
Saul Landau, a political analyst, author, lecturer and professor at Cal Poly Pomona joined us at the town hall to present his reasons for opposing war in Iraq. Landau has visited and has communicated with members of a United Nations commission established in 1994 to monitor the dismantling of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In reference to Iraq’s arsenal of weapons, Landau quoted Scott Ritter, an inspector on that commission.
According to Landau: “Scott Ritter said that ‘by 1996, we were able to ascertain that 90 to 95 percent of Iraq’s capabilities were destroyed. …By 1997, we had fundamentally disarmed Iraq.’”
Al Sutton, who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969, was one of several veterans who spoke in opposition to war at the town hall. Sutton told us he had heard nothing to justify a war in Iraq except that George W. Bush wanted it, and that was not good enough. “I hurt people in the interest of this country and I don’t want to see anyone do that again without righteous cause,” he said.
Joe Turner, who served in both Korea and Vietnam, was outraged at hearing President Bush use an unsuccessful assasination attempt against his father as justification for war. He wanted to know how many American children would actually lose their fathers if the United States goes to war in Iraq.
The president has said not only said he is willing to act unilaterally, but is prepared to go without allies and he has asked congress to give him that authority. He has said that Saddam Hussein presents an imminent danger to the United States, but he has not been able to document that assertion, and he has not been able to provide details.
Too many Democrats in the House are lining up with the president, possibly because they don’t want to appear to be unpatriotic as they campaign for re-election. However, many of us are willing to stand up and ask the questions that need to be asked and we are pushing for more time to debate the issue in congress.
Although I don’t put a great deal of stock in opinion polls, there are two very recent polls I believe must be mentioned. One of these polls indicates that by a four-to-one margin, the American people would rather hear the president talking about our struggling economy than about war. The other indicates that by a two-to-one margin, Americans will support war against Iraq only with the consensus and participation of our United Nations allies.
I believe we can still silence the drums of war being beaten by the Bush Administration, but the people must become more involved. Write, call or email your senator or representative and state your case against war. Make your voices heard on radio talk shows, in rallies and in demonstrations.
The people of Southern California have given me a strong message to deliver to President Bush and I intend to make sure our voices are heard.

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