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AFT Resolutions

IRAQ

After continuing political missteps and strategic mistakes by the Bush administration, the situation in Iraq has grown more perilous. America’s military campaign in 2003 freed the Iraqi people from the terror and tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, but failure by the Bush administration to plan for the aftermath has left Iraqis in a state of insecurity, further isolated the U.S., and squandered much of the good will felt by Iraqis and Americans at the fall of Saddam. This situation, coupled with the continued disruption of normal life—public safety, food, lights, water, healthcare, jobs—has brought growing strength to guerrilla-style terrorist campaigns.

It need not have been so. In February 2003, on the eve of U.S. military action in Iraq, the American Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution that warned of the enormous responsibility faced by the U.S. government in the event of war. While the AFT worried that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein represented a serious threat to the world, it also noted that President Bush had yet to fulfill "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." It is a responsibility that remains unmet.

The AFT called for "United Nation’s inspectors [to] be given the appropriate time to work," and for any "military action in Iraq [to] be taken in concert with an international coalition of allies or with the United Nations itself." These steps were not seriously pursued and a broad coalition was never built. Indeed, it is now quite clear that the Bush administration exaggerated, misread or distorted the evidence on weapons of mass destruction, the claims of imminent threat, and the connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of Sept. 11. The Bush administration also acted to alienate many of the nation’s historic allies and generated anger across the region toward America.

The AFT’s 2003 resolution also declared "a moral and practical imperative that any international military action in Iraq be followed by a comprehensive and fully funded international program to rebuild that nation’s infrastructure, along the lines of the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe…. 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," it said, "are crucial components for a new Iraq." At the same time, institutions as various as the State Department’s Future of Iraq project, the Army War College’s "Reconstructing Iraq" report, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Rescue Committee, and Refugees International all warned that America’s post-war mission—the restoration of public order, political reconstruction and humanitarian concerns—would prove to be more difficult than the war itself.

Unfortunately, this advice was not heeded. Although the Bush administration had many, many months to prepare for the aftermath of war, they had no credible plan to win the peace. Yet the stakes for success are enormous. A peaceful, prosperous and democratic Iraq could help move the entire Middle East region toward democracy, stability and hope, while reassuring the rest of the world that we seek to build democratic allies, not an empire. However, an unstable, occupied Iraq, or one wracked by civil war, or a new Iraq dictatorship will increase the ranks of terrorist organizations and embolden terrorists around the world.

Given where we are now in Iraq, the AFT reiterates its belief in the value of the emergence of a democratic government in Iraq that will respect and protect Iraqi citizens’ civil, political and worker rights. Indeed, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has a proud, historic tradition of support for democracy and worker rights, at home and around the world—from Chile to China and Serbia to South Africa—based on practical, enlightened self-interest. History has taught us that freedom of association, including the right to organize, cannot exist without democracy. And as long as any nation’s economic or political elites have the power to dictate the conditions of work for the majority of citizens, they have the ability to erode the rights and benefits of workers everywhere.

Understanding this, the AFL-CIO, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and Education International (EI) are also active supporters of the development of independent trade union organizations in the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq, as well as the broader rights of free association, including the right of religious, civic and other voluntary groups to organize, all of which can help seed and nurture democracy in the region:

RESOLVED, that the AFT

  • Convey to the Bush administration the outrage of its members at the misleading nature of the  case it made for this war and the mishandling of its aftermath;
  • Go on record as supporting our brave men and women serving in the United States armed forces in Iraq and honoring the service and sacrifice they and their families have made on behalf of the nation;
  • Urge the Bush administration and Congress to provide adequate resources to enable U.S. troops to protect themselves and to fulfill their responsibility to protect Iraqi citizens and others engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq;
  • Urge the Bush administration to mend relationships with the international community and make a commitment to share authority, not just responsibility, with the United Nations and NATO in restoring security and rebuilding the physical, economic and political infrastructure of postwar Iraq;
  • Urge the Bush administration to make a special effort to reach out to those members of NATO and the United Nations who can provide significant support in the training of Iraqi military and police forces to create a climate of security on the ground in Iraq;
  • Although the AFT supports bringing our troops home as soon as it is responsible to do so, we urge the Bush administration, the Congress and the American people to reject calls for the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces and to recognize the continuing U.S. responsibility to make significant contributions to the security and reconstruction of Iraq after the transition to Iraqi sovereignty;
  • Support U.S. and international efforts to help the Iraqi people reconstruct their country as a free and democratic nation, with particular emphasis on its school systems, healthcare facilities and civil service structures;
  • Urge the Bush administration, the international community and a new sovereign government of Iraq to respect citizens’ right to freedom of association—including the right to worship as they choose—thus enabling the formation of a broad array of independent unions, non-governmental organizations, religious institutions and voluntary groups that can act to deepen and protect the emergence of democracy;
  • Urge the Bush administration to ensure that all contracts that affect the Iraqi economy and its natural resources are transparent, competitive and interim in nature;
  • Continue to develop assistance programs for Iraqi educators, healthcare workers, civil servants and other workers as they strive to build democratic unions, including building on current EI and AFT programs to assist Iraqi trade unionists as they develop civics education and other curriculum materials, prepare union trainers, and design union training programs; and
  • Continue to seek funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and other nonpartisan foundations to support AFT assistance efforts to help Iraqi workers build the trade union, education, healthcare and other institutions that will help sustain democracy and improve the lives of ordinary men, women and children.

(2004)