Dear Mr. Secretary,
There are more than 8 million American-Muslim citizens of various ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds, including many converts from other faiths. More than 40 percent of American-Muslims are Black Americans, born in this country and converted to Islam.
Voting in greater numbers than ever before, Muslims, encouraged by their leaders, supported President Bush because of our admiration for his moral approach to governance and his stated desire to reform U.S. domestic and foreign policies accordingly. We believe the sanctions against and the bombing of Iraq are morally wrong.
We appreciate that the United States has a need to defend itself for the sake of all its citizens. But, we believe that Iraq presents no danger whatsoever to the United States. The Iraqi targets were defense, not offense, systems for the purpose of protecting itself, not only from the United States, but from any country which invaded its airspace and would destroy its land and its people. These defense systems were located outside the “no-fly zones.” A defense system is a right every nation must have in this day of world-wide ownership of weapons of mass destruction. And, yet, the United States has chosen to make Iraq defenseless, to make it vulnerable to destruction from any country.
The alleged purpose of the “no-fly zones,” maintained by the United States and the United Kingdom, is the protection of the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Shi’a Muslims in the South. Although Turkey has frequently invaded Northern Iraq for the purpose of killing Kurds, has killed thousands of Kurds, and was condemned by Human Rights Watch, the United States does nothing to protect the Kurds against its ally, Turkey. We can only believe that the “no-fly zones” are not for the purpose of protecting the lives of the Iraqi Kurds, but to provide an excuse to destroy the land of Iraq, our Biblical heritage, and the lives of Iraqi Kurds and Arabs.
Although not one U.S. or U.K. airplane has ever been hit, that is, according to the Pentagon in its briefing on February 16, the U.S. and the U.K. have dropped over 7,000 sorties a month on Iraq since December 1998. Civilians, hospitals, schools, pipelines, houses, and land have been destroyed. No, Mr. Secretary, we do not believe this is done for the sake of the Kurds.
There are those who say that the real purpose of bombing Iraq is not to protect the Kurds, but to do as Israel wishes. Some say that Israel needs to be protected from Iraq. Israel is the third largest dealer in the world of weapons of mass destruction. Israel has both nuclear and chemical weapons. It has more than enough to destroy the small country of Iraq. Israel needs no defense, Mr. Secretary. We see here as well a double standard, for when Israel illegally invaded and occupied Southern Lebanon for 22 years, in violation of many U.N. resolutions, when Israel trucked away tons and tons of rich Lebanese soil to Israel, when it diverted Lebanese water resources, when it detained for as long as 17 years, innocent civilian Lebanese and tortured them, where was the United States in enforcing U. N. resolutions, in stopping these Israeli crimes, in protecting an innocent people? The rest of the world knows of this double standard, Mr. Secretary, and they have lost faith in the integrity of the United States.
When President Bush announced, with you at his side, his decision to nominate you as Secretary of State, you answered questions from the press. One question had to do with Iraq. You said that you intended to rejuvenate sanctions against Iraq “in some form,” recognizing the harm of sanctions to the Iraqi people. We were disappointed to hear that you planned to retain sanctions, but felt hopeful that, when you added “in some form,” you would at least remove all economic as opposed to military sanctions. In more recent days, your position seems to have toughened against the Iraqi people by saying that President Hussein has sufficient money to feed his people.
If that is so, Mr. Secretary, we must wonder why the experts do not agree with you. Did former U. N. head of Humanitarian Aid, Denis Halliday, give up his 30-year employment with the U.N., as he stated, in opposition to the sanctions imposed by the United States? Did Hans Von Sponeck also mean what he said when he resigned in opposition to the sanctions imposed by the United States? Did the other U.N. staff members in their offices mean what they said when they resigned in protest? Both leaders have spoken on Capitol Hill in support of their position against the sanctions, stating that the sanctions were never intended to work. Denis Halliday has toured the United States speaking in opposition to the sanctions.
Major Scott Ritter, in his book “Endgame” and in his public appearances, has stated his opposition to the sanctions. He has argued for negotiation with President Hussein. Yet, the United States refuses to do this, despite the fact that it negotiates with leaders of China, Korea, and other countries it does not consider as allies. Why the distinction with Iraq, Mr. Secretary?
It is our fervent hope and prayer that, in your review of U. S. policy towards Iraq, moral questions will be given equal and earnest deliberation with economic and military questions, that you will negotiate with President Hussein as President Nixon did when he went to China, and that you will save the lives of, rather than kill, the Iraqi people.
Dr. Ahmed Yousef is Director of United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Affairs Journal.