AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


The attacks of September 11, 2001, awakened this nation to the vulnerability of its citizens--indeed, the citizens of all nations--to terrorist attacks by individuals, groups and states motivated by anti-democratic ideas.  This threat is magnified by the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the hands of people who, in the service of tyranny, have inflicted savagery on innocents.  We are harshly reminded that democracy, with its hard-won rights and freedoms, exists here at home and is growing throughout much of the world today only because the world's democracies have fought to defend it.  Looking back, it sometimes seems as if the victories in the great battles for democracy and freedom came naturally.  It was not so.  For example, like now, many citizens groups--of both the left and the right--resisted U.S. involvement in World War II until the nation was attacked.  And the American labor movement often stood alone--both prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and often during the Cold War--in principled opposition to totalitarianism and dictatorships of every kind.

Throughout these years, in the context of its core principles, the AFT has been a determined advocate for democracy and its bedrock value, freedom of association.  In a very real sense, the AFT has defined itself through its vigorous participation in the civic and democratic life of our country and its support for democracy throughout the world.  We have never shrunk from tough issues or challenges.

The challenge today is not so different as it was in other years, as we confront the rogue state created by Saddam Hussein and the companion threat of terrorism.  Saddam rules the Iraqi people through torture, murder and fear.  At his command, Iraq has invaded Iran and Kuwait, launched missile strikes against the civilian populations of countries in the region.  He has unleashed chemical weapons against ethnic minorities within his own borders, massacring many thousands of civilian men, women and children.  Repeatedly, he has proven his intent to manufacture and conceal stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, while working relentlessly to build a nuclear capacity.  Again and again, his regime has defied the resolutions and agreements of the United Nations.  Through its actions and ambitions, this regime has demonstrated that it poses a unique threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East, to the peaceful world order promoted by the ideals of the United Nations and, therefore, to the national security interests of the United States.

We believe that the president has not fulfilled his responsibility to make a compelling and coherent explanation to the American people and the world as to why military action in Iraq is necessary at this time.  We are also gravely concerned that the president is pursuing a deeply partisan domestic agenda at a time of prospective war.  The Bush administration's use of the Iraq issue, as admitted by Republican strategists, is deplorable.  The country needs leadership that rises above partisanship.  Nevertheless, we know that our position on national security issues must be taken in response to security threats and not from our disagreement with the administration on other issues.

We note that the United Nations, NATO and the U.S. Congress have all stated unequivocally that Saddam Hussein's Iraq has broken its international commitments with regard to (1) terrorism, (2) repression of its civilian population, (3) access by international humanitarian groups to all Iraqis in need and (4) Iraq's current material breach of its international obligations.  In this context, in 1998, then President Clinton and the U.S. Congress approved support for the liberation of Iraq.

In response to the dangers posed by the regime of Saddam Hussein to world peace and security, the United Nations has adopted a resolution that requires the Saddam Hussein regime to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and to end persecution of its civilian population once and for all and to demonstrate conclusively that it has done so.  Iraq's failure to comply may lead to armed conflict.  AFT supports the U.N. resolution with the hope that war can be avoided, but with the sober recognition that military conflict may become unavoidable as a last resort.

Military action against Saddam Hussein's regime must not be taken lightly and will only have the support of the American people if they believe that such action is only a last resort.  Therefore, it is particularly important for the United Nations' inspectors to be given the appropriate time to work.

Having said this, the AFT, along with the AFL-CIO, recognizes that the U.S. may at times have to act unilaterally in defense of its national security.  We also recognize that in order to be fully effective and constructive, it is strongly preferable that in this instance military action in Iraq be taken in concert with an international coalition of allies or with the United Nations itself.  The AFT also recognizes that the end of the current Iraqi dictatorship will be the beginning of a long and difficult struggle for an Iraq that is free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous.

There is a special opportunity, here, to end the suffering of the Iraqi people--and provide hopes for peace and democracy throughout the entire Middle East.  Military action may open the way for change, but the Iraqi people, acting on their own, must have both the freedom and the means to run their government.  It is a moral and practical imperative that any international military action in Iraq must be followed by a comprehensive and fully funded international program to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, along the lines of the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe.  The long-suffering Iraqi people--like the people of Afghanistan--deserve a chance for a normal life of self-government and self-respect.  Economic rehabilitation, free and open education, basic healthcare, the rule of law, tolerance for diverse views, acceptance of and support for diverse religious groups, and the right of free association into trade unions and civic and community groups are crucial components for a new Iraq.

The weapons inspection process, to remain credible, may go on for some time.  In the event of a prolonged inspection process, the United States and its allies must continue to provide every encouragement and support to Iraqis who are in a position to effect an end to Saddam Hussein's rule.  The world's democracies cannot await the fall of Saddam Hussein to act.  There are now significant Iraqi opposition forces seeking to bring about fundamental, democratic change in Iraq, and the international community must do all in its power to assist them.

We know there are tensions and rivalries between and among opposition groups, and certainly AFT cannot and would not choose among them.  Our basic belief is that the Iraqis themselves must decide--and that, ultimately, with liberation and protection from the brutal tyranny that now engulfs them, they will do so.  Iraq has been a pluralistic, educated and tolerant society before.  It can and will be so again.

Accordingly, and in light of AFT's historic support for democratic values and our commitment to support oppressed people who suffer under dictatorship:

(1) AFT supports the efforts of those working toward a pluralistic democracy in Iraq, where human rights and freedom of association will be respected regardless of religious affiliation or ethnic identity. Accordingly, we support U.N. Resolution 1441 as well as the NATO resolution of November 2002 and the congressional resolutions of 1998 and 2002 on this matter;

(2) AFT will strongly support the development of education and cultural initiatives, and programs by international organizations, governments, teachers, trade unions and other democratic forces to promote democracy, the rule of law and tolerance in Iraq, as well as a commitment to long-term support for rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure;

(3) AFT calls upon the government of the United States as well as the Security Council of the United Nations to materially support those Iraqis, both within and outside of Iraq, who are committed to the development of a free, open and pluralistic society after the fall of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship;

(4) AFT resolves to work with Education International and the agencies of the United Nations and the United States charged with helping to foster freedom and democracy under a new Iraqi government and to provide AFT expertise--particularly in education and healthcare--as part of a program to enrich civil society and foster the rule of law in Iraq;

(5) AFT believes that America's strength and security is tied as strongly to the education and health of its citizens as it is to our military strength.  If armed conflict with Iraq is used as an excuse for a lack of attention to domestic needs and the erosion of civil rights in our country, it will weaken our body politic when national unity is needed. Therefore, we will not countenance any attempt to pit our national security needs or foreign policy obligations against our domestic needs, as the Bush administration is doing, but pledge to fight for appropriate support in both arenas.

No one can foresee the outcome of the current standoff with the Iraqi dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.  For its part, the AFT believes there can be no equivocation.  The Iraqi regime must disarm.  It must comply fully and completely with appropriate United Nations resolutions or face military action.  The AFT supports a comprehensive program of support for members of the Iraqi democratic opposition inside and outside of the country who are attempting to topple the regime.  And, to the people of Iraq, we promise our strongest efforts to support your resolve to live in peace and freedom. [Executive Council, Jan. 23, 2003]


I. The international community, by virtue of the following resolutions, recognizes the continuing threat posed by Iraq to world peace:

A. The United Nations' Security Council Resolution of 11-8-02 states::
"Recognizing the threat Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security…
Deploring the fact that Iraq has not provided an accurate, full, final and complete disclosure, as required by RESOLUTION 687(1991)…
Deploring further that Iraq repeatedly obstructed immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by UNSCOM and the IAEA…
Deploring also that the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism, pursuant to resolution 688 (1991) to end repression of its civilian population and to provide access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in Iraq, and pursuant to resolutions 68 (1991), 687 (1991) and 1284 (1999) to return or cooperate in accounting for Kuwaiti and third country nationals wrongfully detained by Iraq, or return Kuwaiti property wrongfully seized by Iraq…

B. NATO leaders, meeting in Prague, November 2002, state:
"…We deplore Iraq's failure to comply fully with its obligations which were imposed as a necessary step to restore international peace and security and we recall that the Security Council has decided in its resolution to afford Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council.

NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the U.N. to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions, with UNSCR1441.  We recall that the Security Council in this resolution has warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations."

C. The U.S. Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 states:
"…(11) On October 31, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-338, which declared in Section 2 that the government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations and urged the President--to take appropriate action in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations' and in Section 3 (that)...It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

D. A joint resolution of the U.S. Congress in November 2002 states:
"…Whereas, Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations…

Therefore, be it resolved…the Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to -

  • (a) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
  • (b) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all Security Council resolutions...

The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

  • (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq;
  • (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq..."

II. It is well documented that Saddam Hussein has engaged in crimes against humanity, as evidenced by the following excerpts from international organizations and documented reports:

A. Prime Minister Tony Blair, TUC address 9-10-02
"So let me tell you why I say Saddam Hussein is a threat that has to be dealt with.  He has twice before started wars of aggression.  Over one million people died in them.  When the weapons inspectors were evicted from Iraq in 1998 there were still enough chemical and biological weapons remaining to devastate the entire Gulf region. Uniquely, Saddam has used these weapons against his own people, the Iraqi Kurds. Scores of towns and villages were attacked.  Iraqi military officials dressed in full protection gear were used to witness the attacks and visited later to assess the damage. Wounded civilians were normally shot on the scene.  In one attack alone, on the city of Halabja, it is estimated that 5,000 were murdered and 9,000 wounded in this way. All and all, in the North around 100,000 Kurds died, according to Amnesty International.  In the destruction of marshlands in Southern Iraq, around 200,000 people were forcibly removed.  Many died."

B.  Jordan Times, 8-3-92
"Reports reached Amnesty International in 1989 of hundreds of children whose eyes were gouged out to force confessions from their adult relatives…In a 1992 attempt to control market forces, Saddam Hussein detained 550 of Baghdad's merchants on charges of profiteering; 42 of them were executed, their bodies tied to telephone poles in front of their shops with signs around their necks that read 'Greedy Merchant.' "

C.  Washington Post, 10-6-02, David Ignatius
"Makiya and other Iraqi dissidents describe scenes of unimaginable cruelty--children thrown from helicopters to force their parents to confess to crimes against the regime, for example...To quote one horrific passage from the British government report on Iraq: 'Prisoners at the Qurtiyya Prison in Baghdad and elsewhere are kept in metal boxes the size of tea chests. If they do not confess, they are left to die.'"

III. Iraqi deceit has been established beyond a reasonable doubt as exemplified in the following statements:

A. David Kay, Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector, UNSCOM
Washington Post, 11-17-02
"By October, 1991, inspectors had found more than 100,000 chemical shells--almost ten times  the amount in the declaration...It uncovered a previously unknown biological weapons program, more concealed Scuds, and renewed efforts to perfect chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them…Iraq eventually filed almost two dozen "full, final and complete disclosures" of its prohibited weapons--and each one proved to be false."

B. Senator Hillary Clinton, Senate Floor debate on Congressional Resolution
"Saddam Hussein agreed and a weapons inspection system was set up to ensure compliance. And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities."