Open Letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, from "Americans Against the War"


Open Letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, from "Americans Against the War" (AAW-France)

Paris, May 22, 2003

Mister Secretary,

We are a group of U.S. citizens living in France. We are taking advantage of your visit to Paris to ask you some questions and share with you our outlook on the war in Iraq.

1. As a General, you have known the horrors of war, including the 1991 Gulf War. You were initially opposed to a new military intervention in Iraq. Compared to President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, you gave the impression of being the voice of reason, while your colleagues, who have never seen combat, looked like irresponsible warmongers. Many people hoped your point of view would prevail. Why did you capitulate to the warmongers?

2. You supported the idea of sending UN weapons inspectors into Iraq, thinking that Saddam Hussein would refuse to let them do their job. But when he accepted them, your administration did not give them the necessary time to complete their work. Today, it is your administration that refuses the return of the inspectors, while also admitting that it would take several months to prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction (this has not been done!). How can you justify such contradictions?

3. Before the UN Security Council, last Februarym you claimed that war on Iraq was justified because of the weapons of mass destruction - chemical and biological weapons, ballistic missiles, etc. - that the regime of Saddam Hussein had hidden throughout the country while waiting for the opportunity to use them against the U.S. or Israel. However, Hans Blix and the weapons inspectors declared that no prohibited weapons had been found and that they needed more time to complete their mission. Several weeks after the fall of Baghdad, no such arms have been found, but thousands of Iraqis are dead, including at least 4000 civilians. The country's infrastructure has been reduced to rubble; the population is undernourished and deprived of vital services. Has your administration not committed a tragic error by ordering the destruction of the country for unfounded reasons?

4. In the Security Council your arguments met strong opposition. The majority of the member countries opposed military intervention and preferred to let the inspectors continue to work. This was also the dominant sentiment in the General Assembly. The U.S.'s military "coalition" was for all practical purposes made up of only two countries: the US and Britain. How can you justify a war rejected by the overwhelming majority of countries in the world, and by millions of citizens the world over?

5. By refusing to take into account the views expressed within the UN, was your administration not trying, deliberately, to weaken that organization? Was it not trying to justify, at the same time, the "principle" of preventive wars, decided unilaterally? Was this not a way of also trying to justify further interventions against other enemies constructed as "threats" -- Iran or Syria for example?

6. As Secretary of State, it is your responsibility to ensure that the U.S. respects international treaties and norms. But by invading Iraq, and not providing for the security of civilians, nor assuring their adequate nourishment; by letting the looters run rampant; by claiming to place the country under U.S. administrative authority, and y taking over the country's oil resources, your administration has trampled on the very idea of international legality. How can you justify this?

7. When your counterpart Mr. Dominique de Villepin eloquently defended before the Security Council the position of opposing an automatic authorization to intervene militarily in Iraq - a position shared by the majority of member countries - your administration stigmatized France as an "anti-American" country. And yet the French position proved correct: no weapons of mass destruction were actually found. Iraq has been destroyed for no valid reason. This did not prevent your administration from engaging in campaigns of disinformation against France and thereby feeding into virulent and demagogical anti-French media campaigns. Do you consider justifiable the anti-French xenophobia that is spreading in the U.S. under the influence of your administration?

8. In spite of the appeals of human rights organizations prior to the invasion, your administration did not take measure to make sure that the population was properly fed, or that water was distributed, or that the sewer system worked, or that adequate medical care could be given to a war-torn country. It did not listen to the appeals of hundreds of academics, including U.S. academics, who demanded that the archeological sites and museums be protected from bombing and looting. Do you recognize that your administration, on the pretext of overthrowing the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, has provoked a no less inhumane and unacceptable situation?

9. During the war, the Ministry of Oil was one of the few public buildings that received the protection of U.S. troops. What is referred to as the "reconstruction of Iraq involves the granting of billion-dollar contracts to Halliburton, Bechtel and other companies close to the Bush administration. Do you recognize, Mr. Powell, that the question of weapons of mass destruction was a mere pretext allowing this administration to justify its urge to control the Iraqi oil industry and favor its own narrow network of private interests?

10. The press informs us that U.S. military bases may be installed on a long-term basis in Iraq. The U.S. administration claims to govern the country, but has done so very badly. Throughout the world, public opinion rejects the usurping of Iraqi sovereignty. Can you not see that this is provoking even more instability in the world? Do you not see how much this encourages the same transnational terrorist networks that your administration claims to be fighting?

11. Anarchy currently reigns in Iraq. Political or political-religious polarizations are developping throughout the region and beyond. We are perhaps heading toward new conflagrations. Do you not think it is high time to place the fate of Iraq into the hands of the United Nations - the only organization that can bring to the management of Iraqi affairs an internationally recognized legitimacy?