Statement by Ralph Nader regarding Letters from Civics Groups to Pres. Bush

ORGANIZATIONS REPRESENTING CLERGY, LABOR, ENVIRONMENT, BUSINESSES, STUDENTS, PEACE GROUPS, WOMENS’ GROUPS, CITY COUNCILS, CONSUMERS, VETERANS, PROFESSORS AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EXPERTS REQUEST MEETINGS WITH PRESIDENT BUSH

Over the last six weeks, civic groups with deep concerns about the impending war with Iraq have requested meetings with President Bush, who not once in the past year has met with a domestic antiwar delegation.

These groups, which collectively represent millions of Americans, have not received any invitations to meet in response to their requests. In most cases, they have not even received a reply from the White House.

Today, as commentators increasingly remark on the international and domestic isolation of the White House and President Bush in particular, the civic groups’ letters were aggregated under a cover letter to President Bush from consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Mr. Nader’s letter is reproduced below.

The texts of the letters from the civic groups to President Bush are available at (www.essentialaction.org) (See Spotlight on Iraq).

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March 10, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

After the completion of your long overdue full-scale news conference on March 7th, Senator Robert Byrd remarked: “He spoke like a man who has stopped listening.” There are many engaged citizens who wonder whether you ever started listening or at least directly hearing views contrary to your determination to start a war, invasion and lengthy occupation of Iraq. Indeed, it appears you have not met with a single domestic antiwar delegation, despite numerous requests from varied constituencies for a meeting.

Many commentators and reporters — having spoken with people inside your Administration — have noted the isolation, the solitude and the exclusionary characteristic of your office on this subject. Others such as Bob Woodward, who interviewed you, tell readers of your self-description as being a “black and white” type of person, of a man who makes decisions “from the gut” or from instinct. Combined with isolation from many informed contrary views, this attitude is made more disquieting by your continual invoking of God when it comes to Iraq. Viewed from abroad, this appears to millions of people as if you are embarking on a religious war. From stateside, you will forgive those Americans who instead view such allusions as indicative of a refusal to entertain empirical inputs and broader policy arguments from Americans, many of whom have been following, experiencing or studying the Iraqi situation longer than some in your very tight ideological circle of advisers.

In the past several weeks alone, a distinguished array of groups has written you about issues and has requested a personal meeting with you in the White House. Now is the time to spend a few hours listening to cogent presentations by these Americans of widely different backgrounds and insights, but mostly similar in their opposition to war-invasion-occupation. According to press reports, your travel schedule over the next two weeks has been sharply reduced to concentrate on the United Nations and other related situations which should include a decent respect for the opinions of those organizations who have asked for an audience with you.

The country is deeply and almost evenly divided according to numerous polls that ask more comprehensive questions. Meeting with representatives of these groups, which oppose your proposed policies would afford you an opportunity for a two-way exchange. There have been too many monologues, which serve their purpose of course, but a dialogue tends to probe and clarify the issues and test the strength of opposing views.

The benefits of these meetings, were you to allow them to occur, are more than what may be described as good public relations on your part. For example, leaders of veterans groups and former military leaders, whose letter is on its way, can convey the horrific toxic aftermath of the war-invasion to both Iraqis and U.S. troops. They know about the first Gulf War first hand and have been closely associated with the treatment of over 200,000 soldiers who were disabled and have been receiving disability payments. Even were you to take this country to war, you would benefit from their knowledge of how under-trained and inadequately equipped U.S. soldiers are to defend themselves against what you have said is the likely prospect of chemical warfare by Iraq’s brutal dictator.

>From women’s groups, including those back from numerous trips to Afghanistan, you’ll learn about the terrible effect on the civilian population long after hostilities ended, due in part to the lack of promised follow-through assistance by the United States to the Kabul government. They can also convey the likely consequences on Iraqi families whose elderly, mothers and children will especially suffer from lack of food, spreading disease, fires, score-settling and fleeing refugee conditions of an awful nature.

>From the perspective of working families, you will hear why this is the first time that major labor unions, with the encouragement of the AFL-CIO, have ever opposed a war by the United States, in part because it is an unprovoked war.

>From the business group, you will hear concerns about the further instability and decline of our economy with its effects on standards of living, employment and neglected domestic budgets.

>From representatives of the clergy, including your own Bishop, as well as from many other Christian denominations and other major religions, you will learn the depth of their disagreement with you regarding the moral justification for this war and what they have learned from their visits to Iraq.

>From leading physicians having serious experience with health conditions and capacity in Iraq, you will be informed of the scale of civilian mortality and morbidity from the looming devastation. Notwithstanding assurances to the contrary in 1991, there was severe destruction of the drinking water infrastructure leading to epidemics that most cruelly took the lives of many tens of thousands of Iraqi children.

In recent weeks, you took the time to travel to Pennsylvania and to a Washington hotel to meet with doctors complaining about their insurance premiums and malpractice lawsuits.

Surely you can meet in the White House with physicians whose compassion, insight and knowledge about the fate of millions reflect the highest obligation of the medical profession, which is prevention.

Consider how much more enriched your perspective will become after exchanging views and information with the other groups who have also asked to see you. These include: elected representatives of city councils representing tens of millions of Americans; environmental organizations knowledgeable about the environmental devastation to the region and the planet on a level even greater than 1991 that is likely from this proposed war; international intelligence specialists with past governmental experience who will tell you what many dissenters inside the Pentagon and the State Department cannot say to you about consequences and alternatives; prominent academics, historians and civic leaders; and the next generation, from groups representing millions of college students.

Attached are copies of more than a dozen of these letters to you. Most of them have not received the courtesy of a response. None have been accorded an affirmative invitation.

The organizations requesting to meet with you represent a broad cross-section of the American people. They seek a dialogue with you not out of political partisanship, but because they have not been convinced that war with Iraq is necessary.

These attached requests ask for meetings of short duration but, in the retrospect of history, long significance for historians who will judge your decision-making process on the road to war-invasion-occupation.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
P.O. Box 19312
Washington, DC 20036

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