To: Port of Olympia Commissioners
Olympia City Council
Thurston County Commissioners
From: Lawrence Mosqueda, Ph.D.
Date: March 25, 2010
Re: Possible Renewed Use of Port of Olympia for Military Shipments
It has come to my attention that the Port of Olympia Commissioners are again considering using the Port of Olympia to ship military equipment to and from the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This would be a terrible mistake, both legally and morally.
As you know, over the past three years many Olympia residents, South Sound residents and others have protested and resisted the use of the Port for illegal wars. These protests have been relatively peaceful, except for attacks from police and from those whom the police have allowed to harass the protesters. Much has been written about these protests and I will not repeat all of the issues that have arisen. However, I will summarize and cite some of the sources that I, and others, have used to explain why the Port of Olympia should not participate in these illegal wars. I would ask that you read this carefully and submit it to your staff for discussion.
I. Illegality of Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
The first point has been well documented by those who have studied these wars for more than eight years now. In addition to being a bad policy as a war of aggression in Iraq, built on lies that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction or that Iraq was complicit in 9/11 (even George Bush does not believe that anymore1) — the war in Iraq has conclusively been demonstrated to be an ILLEGAL war built on false premises and lies from the Bush administration. Eight years ago, some could argue that this might be a debatable assertion, by 2010 it should be accepted as fact.
I wrote an article, “A Duty to Disobey All Illegal Orders,” on February 26, 2003 which pointed out that the upcoming Bush/U.S. war in Iraq did not meet any criteria for a legal or “just” war, and that the U.S. military had an affirmative obligation to disobey illegal orders under the oath taken at the time of induction and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Please see the article at http://www.counterpunch.org/mosqueda02272003.html. This article has been reprinted on the web and elsewhere many times. In addition to the sources I cited in the article, many prominent scholars, lawyers and others have added significant research on the illegality of the U.S. war in Iraq2. At some unguarded moments, even those who aided in this criminal war planning have admitted that the war was illegal. See the admission by Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/nov/20/usa.iraq1 (2003).
The war in Afghanistan is equally illegal, as pointed out by many international lawyers, scholars and other prominent authors. As Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, has stated:
“The invasion of Afghanistan was not legitimate self-defense under article 51 of the (U.N.) charter because the attacks on Sept. 11 were criminal attacks, not ‘armed attacks’ by another country. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. In fact, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, there was not an imminent threat of an armed attack on the United States after Sept. 11, or Bush would not have waited three weeks before initiating his October 2001 bombing campaign. The necessity for self-defense must be ‘instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.’ This classic principle of self-defense in international law has been affirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal and the U.N. General Assembly.” 3
The wars did not become legal under international law or national law just because we have now transferred authority of the Presidency from the original perpetrator of the wars to a more articulate, more intelligent person in 2009. The Iraq war does not become more legitimate, more legal, or more moral by a dubious “drawdown” that will take many more years to complete, if ever. The war in Afghanistan does not become more legitimate or more legal by a “surge,” in fact, it becomes even more illegal.
The citizens of our area have done a great service for us as they have made the conduct and continuation of the wars a local and national issue. An illegal war must be stopped, not slowed down.
II. Right and Obligation to Protest and Resist
In addition to having a right to protest and resist the flawed foreign policy of these illegal wars of aggression, the citizens of Olympia and elsewhere have a RIGHT and an OBLIGATION to resist under international and domestic law. I stated in my article, “A Duty to Disobey All Illegal Orders,” (page 3):
“As Hamilton Action for Social Change has noted “Under the Nuremberg Principles, you have an obligation NOT to follow the orders of leaders who are preparing crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. We are all bound by what U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson declared in 1948: ‘[T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.’ At the Tokyo War Crimes trial, it was further declared ‘[A]nyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes.'”
Those who have protested and resisted at the Port over the past few years are exercising their legal obligations under the laws that the U.S. government created, along with the other allies, after WWII. I am quite sure that the citizens of the area will again resist any effort to use the Port for the purpose of illegal wars.
The Port itself also has an OBLIGATION to follow the law and not to continue to participate in the war crimes of the Bush legacy and the continuing war crime activity of the Obama administration. At the very least, the Port should continue (as in the past year) NOT to be used as an entry and departure point for arms and equipment for these illegal wars. For more courage, the Port should DECLARE that it will not allow itself to be used for the wars, because of their illegal nature.
Some have said that we need to use the Port for transporting military equipment to “Support the Troops.” Being complicit in the continuing war efforts is not “supporting the troops.” As I stated in my previously cited article from 2003, support for the troops is not done by supporting the actions of the U.S. government:
The idea that those who oppose the Bush plans for war are against the troops is a fundamental lie. Support for the troops is not done by sending them off to a war which is fundamentally unnecessary—support is keeping them home. Support for the troops is not done by lying to them about the purpose and goals of the war and allowing those who will benefit and profit a free ride on the backs of the troops. Support for the troops is not done by making them complicit in an illegal and immoral war—it is done by exposing the lies and giving the troops an opportunity not to be complicit in war crimes.
By 2010, over 6,000 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and over a million Iraqis and Afghans have been killed. (See British Lancet study of 2006 with the estimate of 600,000 dead in Iraq alone, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(06)69491-9/abstract ). Millions of Iraqis and Afghans have become refugees, and large numbers in their populations suffer with injuries and disease caused by war.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer from PTSD and other injuries. See, for example, the New York Times of April 18, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/18/us/18vets.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1269727319-s/xby3Ipy7Z0Jbb4G7tM0g. Every day that we allow these illegal wars to continue, we allow more death and destruction on all sides.
There are some who have argued that we have an obligation to follow our national “leaders” and open our ports and other public services to their business and facilitate their wishes. It should be remembered that several of the persons convicted by the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials were not those who actually got their hands dirty by killing others directly, but who allowed and facilitated the actions of others. This was especially true in the Justices’ trial that convicted the Judges of Germany in WWII. The fact that some of the Justices were “hesitant” or were “just following orders” was not considered to be a defense for allowing war crimes to continue. (See http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/alstoetter.htm#Commentary)
In addition to many academic sources on this, these events were also immortalized in the classic 1961 film “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
These German public officials had the power to do something about their complicity, albeit with considerable personal risk to themselves, but chose not to act. The public officials in Olympia are not at anywhere near the same level of risk, and yet many of them are not taking the needed courageous action to refuse cooperation with the national government’s war policies.
The time for the Port and others to take action is not in 10-20 years, when they may issue a late apology for cooperating with these wars—but now when their actions may have some positive consequences.
III. Law Enforcement’s Duty During Peaceful Protest
Since the wars are illegal and the citizens and the local officials have a right and a duty to protest and resist, the “authorities” have an obligation not to beat, harass, or gas the citizens as they fulfill their obligations to stop the war machine from engaging in the continuation of the illegal policies and practices that perpetuate these wars. The protesters and resisters, for many days during the last three years, were involved with peaceful protests and assembly in Olympia (and Tacoma). These protests have been peaceful and nonviolent. Many people have been arrested for being in the streets. Most of those arrested have not been convicted of any crimes. As far as I know, there have been no arrests for any attacks on the police – because there have been none.
The police department of the City of Olympia and the Thurston County Sheriff’s office should facilitate peaceful protest, not exacerbate tensions as the citizenry engage in peaceful actions. Of course, no actions at all would be necessary if the Port and the local authorities were following domestic and international law and NOT allowing use of public facilities for illegal wars. The City of Olympia should not allow itself to be used for this effort – even if they are “paid” for the services of the police.
IV. The Cost of War
The immorality and illegality of the wars is no longer in rational dispute. The wars are also grossly costly and not in the interest of the American people and the local residents of the South Sound. For current information on the dollar costs, see the National Priorities Project, which tracked the total cost of the wars and breaks down the cost for local entities. (Seehttp://www.nationalpriorities.org/) As of this writing, the U.S. cost of the wars is $975.4 billion. The cost to Olympia residents is $152.9 million. This does not include the cost of providing police services that have “protected” the Port from citizens who are exercising their Constitutional rights to protest illegal wars. The citizens have international and domestic obligations to resist complicity in war crimes in their back yards.
V. Actions Needed from Local Government
The City of Olympia and Thurston County should make it clear that they will not subsidize the war efforts by providing police “protection” when no real protection from the public is needed. The Port of Olympia should make it clear that they will not participate in actions that contribute to continuing war crimes, and that they will not accept “blood money” for additional shipments, nor accept “back door payments” from Homeland Security to militarize the Port. This is an opportunity for local government officials to make principled stands and be an example to other entities by saying that they will not cooperate in continuing these wars. This would truly be supporting the local communities and supporting the troops.
- The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are illegal under international and domestic laws.
- The citizens of the United States and their local officials have not only a right but a duty to resist those actions that continue these illegal wars, including stopping military shipments through the Port of Olympia.
- Citizens, in the performance of their duties to resist illegal wars, have the right to be free from repression, beatings, chemical attacks, etc. from the authorities, as these citizens are exercising their rights.
- The local governments should not be expending local resources to facilitate the continuation of these illegal wars.
This is a somewhat lengthy letter, but public testimony at regularly scheduled meetings is usually limited to 2-3 minutes. However, the issues discussed here are complicated and cannot be explained in a few short minutes. In addition to this letter, I am willing to meet with those who receive this to provide more explanation and documentation on the issues.
Furthermore, I would urge the City of Olympia, Thurston County and the Port of Olympia to exercise transparency and accountability regarding use of the Port. For issues with high importance to local residents, such as military shipments, public forums should be held (with sufficient time allotted for each participant) — where citizen input is taken, and most importantly, taken into account when decisions are made about Port activities.