LaDuke: The case against the war

I am opposed to a war with Iraq. I would like to see the 240,000 brave soldiers and officers who are now posed for war, brought home, safe and sound. The Iraq War is not a just war.

In Anishinaabeg teachings, there are teachings about Ogitchidaag (those who defend the people), but there is no set of teachings for a pre-emptive war which will likely destroy thousands of people, and devastate a country, for what at best, can be considered ulterior motives.

The Pope, joining with most other international religious leaders opposes the War. One of the reasons is the body bags, l00,000 or so, and 6,000 coffins, which were sent to Sicily in anticipation, I would assume, of the return of American soldiers to their own soil. Then there is the question of Iraq's casualties itself.

Baghdad is the size of Paris: 8 million people. According to Pentagon sources, the first stage of the war plan was to launch 3,000 missiles and bombs on a relatively defenseless Iraqi population within a few hours, with, as former President Jimmy Carter noted in his New York Times editorial opposing the war, "the purpose of so damaging and demoralizing the people that they will change their obnoxious leader, who will most likely be hidden and safe during the bombardment."

"Collateral damage" is the inevitable result of extensive aerial bombardment, even with precise accuracy. General Tommy R. Franks has expressed concern about the military targets near schools, hospitals, mosques and homes. Those targets amount to high civilian casualties. Today wars have a high collateral damage toll, some estimate 90 percent of those killed are non-combatants, and I do not want my tax dollars supporting these military actions. Nor do I want my relatives, many of whom, like other Native American men and women, have enlisted in the military to fight a collateral damage intensive war.

Don't mistake me, I am not a fan of Saddam Hussein. He is seemingly an evil man, but honestly, I can not tell the truth anymore, since the media biases are so overwhelming and our motives have become so ulterior. For instance, the Bush administration has sought to link Saddam Hussein to the events of 9/11, without any success. If the Bush administration was to bomb a country as retaliation for 9/11 (in addition to Afghanistan), Saudi Arabia might be better suited for that campaign, where 11 of the highjackers, as well as Osama bin Laden came from. One might ask the question, "why are we not invading Saudi Arabia," and one might get the response, "because they are our friends."

The United States tolerates some dictators and mass murderers quite well (looking aside when a million people were killed in Rwanda and ignoring the genocide in East Timor and Tibet, would be a couple of examples of American selective amnesia). Our interests in human rights quite often seem to intersect with our oil interests.

My position is that there are alternatives to full-scale invasion, and the killing of peoples and the destruction of the land. The New York Times and many other publications call for extensive or "smothering" weapons inspections and continued disarmament. The only way thorough weapons inspections could have been achieved was through negotiations and a peaceful resolution, not by an attack.

I also believe we need to transform U.S. foreign policy, and not fund terrorists. The United States is promiscuous with its weapons sales. It sells and gives weapons to 91 countries, and trains the militaries of 151 countries. We are the country with the infamous School of the Americas (now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation) which has trained 60,000 terrorists in the Americas. These include the death squads of El Salvador and Guatemala, and the militaries, paramilitaries and just about everyone in Columbia where vast human rights violations continue to occur and where we lost our family member Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa, to a bullet paid for by my tax dollars four years ago.

There is a joke I heard. "How do we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction?" Answer: "We saved the receipts." A 1994 Senate Committee report shows the United States was involved in the sale of biological toxins to Iraq from at least 1985 to at least 1989 (the last recorded sale was Nov. 28 1989). Sales included: Bacillus Anthracis, the cause of Anthrax; Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin; Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord and heart; Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria which can damage major organs; Clotsrtidium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness, E. Coli.

From the same report, "It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the U.S. were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the biological warfare program."

My position is don't sell or give weapons to terrorists. Don't be in the business of weapons of mass destruction, and instead, be in the business of peace.

At home, while the federal budget squeezes the lifeblood out of our families and our communities for war, we could better use the money here.

The present military budget is 50 percent of the federal budget, or without the cost of the war about $379 billion for 2003. Compare the military budget to overall Indian programs at the BIA, where you have $1.8 billion total for Indian Health Service or $19 million in set-asides for strengthening tribal colleges. Joseph Biden, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee says war will cost upwards toward $100 billion or enough to:

Provide health care to uninsured children for five years (three times as much as the government spends on K-12 education). With so much money going to the military it will be hard to get justice in a case like Cobell v. Norton, the Indian Trust Fund case. Add to the war costs the figures for rebuilding Iraq, which is likely to cost another $50 billion more (if we decide to do it) and you have quite a large deficit.

A pre-emptive war with Iraq is not a just war. It is not a war worth sending our people to fight. After all, Native Americans have the highest levels of enlistment; with, for instance 44,521 going for World War II (or 10 percent of the Native population represented), and some 50,000 Native people serving in Vietnam, and thousands more for Desert Storm.

America should uphold laws and treaties, not disregard them.

A dozen members of Congress unsuccessfully sued President Bush for essentially usurping the War Powers Act, and illegally moving the country towards war without the express approval of Congress. Article 1 section 8 specifically states, "The Congress shall have power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water," not the President.

The U.S. should also abide by international law and treaties, and not open up the door for total disregard.

However, since the United States did go to war, it has violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which does not authorize armed force, invasion or bombing for a "material breach." And if the United States decides to violate the Nuremberg Charter (Article VI) of "planning, preparation or initiation or waging a war of aggression," or violating the U.N. Charter in attacking another country without an armed attack, the U.S. is no better than any other country, and will in fact open the doorway for more, and endless, flagrant violations of international law.

The past Gulf War has already subjected hundreds of thousand of American troops to high levels of exposure to toxins including the most lethal: uranium depleted bullets, which were once again manufactured by ourselves, and used in a way which endangered our own soldiers, as well as devastating much of the region.

We need to move away from war. Instead, I say the United States should be law abiding, abide by its own treaties, and be about the process of making peace, not making war. Turn the weapons industry into a trade of food, health care, and justice. And, bring our Ogichidaag home.

Winona LaDuke, an Ojibwe from the White Earth reservation, is program director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American environmental justice program. She served as the Green Party vice presidential candidate in the 1996 and 2000 elections. She can be reached at her e-mail address: wlhonorearth@earthlink.net