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Oct 8th, 2008

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the October 8, 2002 publication of an open letter in opposition to invading Iraq, by College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University psychology professor Michael Livingston.

Dr. Livingston’s letter was circulated to CSB | SJU faculty on September 26, 2002 and published in the campus newspaper, The Record (p. 8), as a paid advertisement sponsored by 126 faculty signatories.

The ad was followed by a student referendum on the war, sponsored by Campus Ministry and the Student Coalition for Global Solidarity, on October 29, 2002. In a low turnout, approximately 80 percent of participating students voted against the war.

Trusting Secretary of State Colin Powell and giving President George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt, I did not sign the petition.

In retrospect, I was wrong.

Six years on, the substance of the letter is tragically prescient.

An Open Letter to Students

By Michael G. Livingston
September 26, 2002
Published in The Record on October 8, 2002

We, the undersigned faculty at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, oppose an invasion of Iraq by the United States.

A war is not a videogame or a Hollywood fantasy. Real people kill other real people. As citizens of a democracy we should not let our leaders decide this issue for us. We, the people, should collectively decide. We believe that the Bush administration’s reasons offered to date for going to war do not justify such a serious course of action. Our reasons for opposing an invasion include:

An invasion would lead to the loss of many innocent Iraqi lives. The first Persian Gulf War resulted in over 100,000 Iraqi deaths. Many more people have died, according to the United Nations and other sources, due to the 11-year-long embargo that was put in place immediately after the war. A new war will lead to even more people being killed. In the event of a ground war, the deaths will include Americans sent to fight for the wrong reasons.

The Iraqi threat is not real. The administration has presented little beyond repeated assertions to show that Iraq is indeed a threat to the United States. Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska) has stated that the CIA has “absolutely no evidence that Iraq has or will soon have nuclear weapons.” Further, Iraq has no delivery system capable of hitting the U.S. Finally, many nations such as India, Pakistan, Israel, and the United States itself have chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. No nation should be attacked merely for possessing such weapons.

An invasion to replace the Iraqi government would destabilize the region. An invasion will produce prolonged instability in Iraq, increase anti-American feelings in the region, and heighten the appeal of terrorist groups. An invasion will exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, compounding the enormous suffering of both groups. An invasion of Iraq “could turn the whole region into a cauldron” as former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft has written.

An invasion would not address the root causes of terror. Most of the participants in the September 11th attacks came from American allies such as Saudi Arabia. In such undemocratic regimes, idealistic young people do not have the option of expressing their grievances through the political process. They are thus vulnerable to manipulative, authoritarian groups such as al-Qaeda. A better response to terrorism would be to help our allies become more democratic and thus empower their own citizens to pursue social change constructively and peacefully.

An invasion would harm the U.S. economy. Wars are expensive and divert money, time, and people from the economy. An invasion could disrupt oil supplies, increase the deficit, and take much needed money away from domestic problems that we must face.

For these and other reasons we oppose going to war on moral and realistic grounds. We urge you to join us in our shared responsibilities as citizens. Educate yourselves about the issue. Speak out. Act.


Related: Immelman Statement on the Iraq War

Iraqis look at a car destroyed by planted explosives outside the Iraqi Foreign Ministry building in Baghdad on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. At least five people were hurt in the blast, police said. Two powerful bombs exploded just outside Baghdad’s tightly-guarded Green Zone as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was due to address reporters inside. (Photo credit: Loay Hameed / AP)

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