Over the last six weeks, major civic groups with deep concerns about the impending war with Iraq have requested meetings with President Bush, who not once in the past year has met with a domestic antiwar delegation.
Astonishingly, not one of these groups, which collectively represent millions of Americans, have received any invitations to meet in response to their written requests.
After the completion of his long overdue news conference on March 7th, Senator Robert Byrd remarked: “He spoke like a man who has stopped listening.” There are many engaged citizens who wonder whether President Bush ever started listening or at least directly hearing views of civic leaders who don’t want a war, invasion or lengthy occupation of Iraq.
Many commentators and reporters — having spoken with people inside the Bush Administration — have noted the isolation, the solitude and the exclusionary nature of the Bush White House on this subject. Others such as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who interviewed President Bush, say the President views himself as a “black and white” type of person, of a man who makes decisions “from the gut” or from instinct.
Combined with isolation from many informed contrary views, this attitude is made more disquieting by the President’s continual invoking of God and God’s will, when it comes to Iraq. Viewed from abroad, this Messianic militarism appears to millions of people as if President Bush is embarking on a religious war.
Now is the time for President Bush to spend a few hours listening to cogent presentations by these Americans of widely different backgrounds and insights, but mostly similar in their opposition towar-invasion-occupation.
Meeting with representatives of these groups, which oppose the President’s proposed policies would afford President Bush an opportunity for a two-way exchange. There have been too many monologues, which serve their purpose of course, but a dialogue tends to probe and clarify the issues and test the strength of opposing views.
Leaders of veterans groups and former military leaders are anxious to convey to the President details of the horrific toxic aftermath of the war-invasion to both Iraqis and U.S. troops. They know about the first Gulf War first hand and have been closely associated with the treatment of over 200,000 soldiers who were disabled and have been receiving disability payments. Even were the President to take this country to war he would benefit from knowing how under-trained and inadequately equipped U.S. soldiers are to defend themselves against what the President has said is the likely prospect of chemical warfare by Iraq’s brutal dictator.
*From women’s groups, including those back from numerous trips to Afghanistan, he would learn about the terrible effect on the civilian population long after hostilities ended, due in part to the lack of promised follow-through assistance by the United States to the Kabul government. They can also convey the likely consequences on Iraqi families whose elderly, mothers and children will especially suffer from lack of food, spreading disease, fires, and score-settling.
*From the perspective of working families, the President would hear why this is the first time that major labor unions, with the encouragement of the AFL-CIO, have ever opposed a war by the United States, in part because it is an unprovoked war.
*From the business leaders, he would hear concerns about the further instability and decline of our economy with its effects on standards of living, employment and neglected domestic budgets.
*From representatives of the clergy, the President would hear why the broad religious community believes there is no moral justification for this war and its chaotic.
*From leading physicians having experience poor with health conditions and capacity in Iraq, the President will be informed of the scale of civilian mortality and morbidity, including contagious diseases, that come from war and its aftermath.
The additional organizations requesting to meet with the President represent a broad cross-section of the American people. They include: elected representatives of city councils representing tens of millions of Americans; environmental organizations knowledgeable about the environmental devastation to the region and the planet on a level even greater than 1991 that is likely from this proposed war; international intelligence specialists with past governmental experience who will tell the President what many dissenters inside the Pentagon and the State Department cannot say about consequences and alternatives, prominent academics, historians and civic leaders; and the next generation, from groups representing millions of college students.
They seek a dialogue with President Bush, not out of political partisanship, but because they have not been convinced that war with Iraq is necessary.
The texts of the letters from the civic groups to President Bush are available at (www.essentialaction.org) (See Spotlight on Iraq).