Physicians Letter Requesting Meeting With Bush
February 21, 2003
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
We are writing on behalf of PSR’s 22,000 physician members and supporters united in our deep concern with the administration’s rush to war with Iraq. PSR has previously raised objections to unilateral, pre-emptive war with Iraq in a full-page declaration published in the New York Times, Roll Call, and the Nation; a copy is attached.
We fear that a small circle with narrow perspectives is advising you, and that you have been insulated from voices counseling patience, nonviolence and respect for international law and institutions.
Accordingly, we are writing to request a meeting with you personally, not with staff, as soon as possible, to discuss our views on a potential war with Iraq.
It should go without saying that we believe the regime of Saddam Hussein is exceptionally brutal and antithetical to the interests of the Iraqi people, to the region and to the world community as a whole.
Unfortunately, however, that does not make it unique. Nor does it provide cause for the United States to initiate a war against Iraq that is almost sure to inflict enormous suffering on the Iraqi people and especially their children. A report from the UN says there may be 100,000 direct and 400,000 indirect casualties. The destruction of medical and environmental health infrastructure in a war will aggravate these problems. The Iraqi health system has been gravely weakened by years of war, worsened by sanctions and the neglect of the regime.
We believe that there are no grounds for launching a preemptive attack against Iraq. As was discussed in recent Senate Foreign Relations hearings, there is no evidence that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. The international inspections process is working. Iraq is being disarmed. This process should be allowed to continue to a successful conclusion, or until it is evident to all that the Hussein Regime has broken off cooperation.
The United States should offer its full, unconditional support to the inspections process, not undermining it by regularly asserting that inspections by definition cannot work. This should include the supply. We believe our government should provide the inspectors with all intelligence and information concerning possible Iraqi possession of WMD that you have at your disposal, so that they can do their job. This would be a more productive response than repeatedly insisting that Iraq will have to be attacked regardless. Your administration inappropriately works to de-legitimize it by the argument that, if inspectors fail to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction, then the inspections have failed. This pre-judgment of the outcome of the inspections — which implicitly insists there are grounds for attack against Iraq irrespective of what the inspectors discover, and irrespective of how the Iraqis respond to the inspectors’ conclusions — all which inhibits the inspections’ efficacy, and suggests an unalterable commitment to war.
We are firmly opposed to any unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq, or action that bypasses the UN Security Council. If the twenty-first century is to be less marred by the carnage and brutality that characterized the twentieth, it is vital that military power, when necessary, be exercised with proportionality and maximum restraint, and with authorization by legitimating international institutions. Any rush toward combat and its resultant devastation, breaking treaties, only encourages other nations to do the same.
We fear an environmental catastrophe if the Hussein regime, in retreat under attack or facing its end, sets fire to oil wells and intentionally spills oil. Combat in this area also raises the horrible specter of the unleashing of weapons of mass destruction in the region on the world — whether chemical, biological, or nuclear, with severe consequences for all humanity. Beyond these immense acute dangers, any Iraqi survivors of the conflict, already compromised by inadequate diets and healthcare, would be subject to long-term health costs from a devastated post-war environment. Compounded by injury and death from military action, the environmental health consequences of war on a population whose health is already compromised by poor diet and lack of healthcare could be catastrophic. As physicians we urge you to take all this into account.
In addition, our homeland security will be seriously compromised. We also believe, as the CIA has contended, that going to war now will raise the risk of a terrorist attack on Americans at home or abroad. The CIA has projected increased risks of terrorist attacks against the United States in the event of war; common sense also suggests the risk, both from Iraq or its agents, and from terrorists with no connection to Iraq, will worsen.
War, then, is not only morally wrong, but a real threat to our national security. This threat to our national well-being is a foreseeable consequence to war, for which we are certain you do not wish to be held accountable.
As physicians, we endeavor first and foremost to do no harm. Secondly before we offer a treatment, we ascertain that all are aware of both the probability of benefits and against the likelihood of untoward complications. These are grave matters. We would hope you would do the same and apprise us and the American people of the potential negative outcomes and the costs both in terms of lives, as well as the and funds, which will be diverted from health enhancing programs for the citizens of the United States. As in medicine it is crucial to have informed consent. We hope to meet with you in the coming days and weeks to discuss these issues of critical concern. A President needs to listen as well as speak.
Robert K Musil, M.P.H., Ph.D.
Robert Gould, M.D.
CEO and Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility