Opposition grows to a new war on Iraq
On Sunday, February 8, 1998, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien got a 10-minute telephone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton, who asked for Canadian armed forces to support the U.S. in the event of an air strike on Iraq. The specific support Clinton requested was transportation and "search and rescue".
On Monday, February 9, 1998, a special debate was held in the House of Commons in Ottawa to give every Member of Parliament the chance to debate the U.S. request. The government did not table a votable motion, so there could be no vote on Canada's participation. The Prime Minister announced that his cabinet would decide on the request the next day. Of all the opposition parties, only New Democratic Pary leader Alexa McDonough and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe came out against sending Canadian troops in response to Clinton's request.
New opposition to the war on Iraq proposed by U.S. President Bill Clinton:
- Feb. 9, 1998: Ottawa Quakers hold peace vigil in front of Parliament
- Feb. 6, 1998: Letter to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien from CFSC Clerk Carol Dixon and CFSC Co-ordinator Peter Chapman
- Feb. 4, 1998: Letter to U.S. President Bill Cllinton from AFSC Executive Director Kara Newell
Ottawa Quakers hold vigil in front of Parliament
On Monday, February 9, 1998, the day that Parliament debated sending Canadian troops to aid in an air strike against Iraq, more than a dozen Ottawa Quakers and others held a vigil for peace around the Eternal Flame in front of Parliament. Friends gathered in the vigil from 4:00 p.m. until sunset, bearing signs reading "War is never the answer" and "Vigil for Peace", at the call of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of the Ottawa Monthly Meeting. Afterwards, a small group entered the visitors' gallery of Parliament to watch the debate on the request by U.S. President Clinton for Canada to send armed forces in a support role.
Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien from CFSC Clerk Carol Dixon and CFSC Co-ordinator Peter Chapman
CANADIAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE
60 Lowther Avenue
Toronto ON Canada
February 6, 1998
Prime Minister of Canada,
Langevin Block, House of Commons,
Dear Jean Chrétien,
I write to you on behalf of Canadian Friends Service Committee, the service arm of Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada to express our deep concern for the citizens of Iraq.
The United States is seeking support for another military intervention to pressure the Iraqi government to comply with weapons inspection by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM team). We acknowledge the potential devastation that could be wrought if any nation were to use such an arsenal at any time, but we oppose the use of military might as a way of compelling the Iraqi government to comply with the request of UNSCOM inspectors.
For more than 300 years Quakers have stood by their testimony of non-violence by refusing to participate in or support violence as a solution to any problem. We believe that there is within each and every person that which is divine. This divinity is often very hard to discover in the other. However that is not an excuse to kill nor an excuse to extract the price from ordinary people who live in Iraq.
Iraqi citizens suffer severely the effects of both the continuing sanctions placed on their country in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the devastating results of bombing in 1991. They live with an extensive and prolonged loss of infrastructure such as water supply, sewage, hospitals and transportation which would normally provide the necessities of their lives. The health of most of the citizens and in particular the children and the elderly has been critically compromised. Malnutrition and disease take their daily toll on the vulnerable in a country that previously provided well for most of the people.
We support your calls for a diplomatic solution to the current tension in Iraq. We ask you to take a stand against the use of weapons of war and destruction which will make life even worse for the Iraqi people. We ask you to support a negotiated agreement, to promote among your international colleagues an attitude of acceptable compromise.
Carol V. Dixon, clerk
Canadian Friends Service Committee
60 Lowther Avenue
Toronto, ON M5R 1C7
Tel. 416 920 5213
Fax 416 920 5214
Letter to U.S. President Bill Cllinton from AFSC Executive Director Kara Newell
February 4, 1998
William J. Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
By fax #: (202) 456-2461 and mail
Dear Bill Clinton,
On behalf of the American Friends Service Committee I write to you profoundly concerned that the United States and some of its allies are preparing to launch a massive air strike against Iraq. As Quakers we totally oppose all forms of violence. We call upon you now, even at this late hour, to refrain from this military attack. We laud the efforts to resolve this current crisis with Iraq by diplomatic means and encourage you to give your full support to these efforts. Diplomacy can work if given enough time, support and creativity.
We recognize the importance of Iraq's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions and we too are deeply troubled about Iraq's manufacturing and previous use of weapons of mass destruction. We have supported the work of UNSCOM and urge the Iraqi government to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions. This is consistent with our work over the years in support of a regime of disarmament and arms control that would include all nations in the Middle East. Sadly, since the Gulf War the region has seen an unprecedented growth in weapons purchases instead of pursuing a course of regional disarmament. The U.S. leads the way in arms exports to the region. It is the militarization of the region as a whole, and not that of one country, that is the most significant threat to long term regional peace.
We believe that an attack against Iraq, rather than driving Saddam Hussein toward compliance with the UN Resolutions, would result in the end of the UN weapons inspections programs in Iraq. An attack against Iraq by the US and its allies would strengthen, not weaken, support for Saddam among the Iraqi people as well as many millions of others in the Middle East who consider the present UN imposed sanctions to be punitive, especially as they have contributed so much to the suffering of the Iraqi people over the last seven years.
Seven years ago, at the end of the Gulf War, Quaker organizations from around the world called for the lifting of the economic sanctions against Iraq to allow it to rebuild its civilian infrastructure. Now, as then, we recognized the importance of Iraq's compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions, but we cannot support and are horrified at the means of enforcement -- the brutalization and debasement of an entire generation of Iraqis through prolonged economic sanctions and threats of massive air strikes -- up to and including the threatened use of tactical nuclear weapons.
A US-led attack against Iraq would inevitably result in heavy loss of life. A sustained attack would also destroy key portions of Iraq's already dangerously weakened infrastructure leading to even more loss of life and suffering in the months to come. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's recent report to the Security Council documents that major portions of Iraq's infrastructure -- water, electricity and sanitation -- are in peril of collapse due to a sanctions regime which has deprived Iraq of the means to repair and maintain its civilian infrastructure.
We believe the UN can achieve its objectives regarding Iraq through patient diplomacy. We urge you to support and continue with diplomatic initiatives and to step back from military confrontation. In closing I repeat the words addressed to you in a letter from the Friends Committee on National Legislation last November and "urge you to reject clamor and fear and answer to the whisperings of hope in this very difficult situation."
Kara L. Newell
American Friends Service Committee
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Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Ottawa Monthly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends,
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