Green Party candidate for Governor Rich Whitney issued the following statement today in response to President Obama’s address committing an additional 30,000 or more U.S. troops to Afghanistan:
As my friends and I in the peace movement protest the latest escalation of the occupation of Afghanistan, I take this opportunity to remind Illinois voters that the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are not simply a matter of national policy. By virtue of the fact that the Governor is commander in chief of the Illinois National Guard, it is an issue for our State as well. 9,600 Illinois guardsmen have been deployed to Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. 200 are there now and the National Guard Bureau in Washington can call up additional numbers at any time. Thirty-two members of the Illinois Guard have been killed since the U.S. went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Any Presidential order to commit more troops to Afghanistan is illegal under established principles of international law, just as the initial invasion and occupation were illegal. The war against Afghanistan violates international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and international agreements dealing with the suppression and control of terrorism.
One of the principles that our nation championed during the Nuremberg War Crimes trials was the repudiation of aggressive war as an instrument of foreign policy. International law would have justified aggressive efforts to locate and apprehend Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists following the 9/11 attacks. But no international law or principle of self-defense justified invading an entire sovereign nation, overthrowing its government and continuing to occupy it, while attempting to control both the form and direction of its future government.
Such orders are also illegal under our Constitution. The Authorization to Use Military Force passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, gave the President powers to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks…or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism….” This amounts to a permanent delegation of congressional authority to the President, with neither standards to rein in his actions, nor a clear means of regaining control in Congress. As such, it was, and is, an unconstitutional abdication of Congress’s exclusive power to declare war.
Another principle established at Nuremberg is the principle that government officials have an overriding duty to disobey illegal orders. The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal states that government officials have a responsibility not to commit or further “an act which constitutes a crime under international law.” If elected Governor of Illinois, I would honor my commitment to the Constitution and established international law, and assert the Governor’s right to veto any mobilization of the Illinois National Guard for service in Iraq of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, there are other sound reasons for opposing the continued occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Aggressive war and occupation of other nations, against the will of their people, is not only criminal; it is immoral. It has brought with it the evils of war crimes against civilians, torture, radioactive contamination and environmental destruction, the creation of millions of refugees, and other massive human suffering, not only abroad but among our own service men and women.
These policies are also self-defeating, ignoring the most elementary lessons of history – that no nation will long stand to be occupied and controlled by another; and that even sincere efforts to “win hearts and minds” cannot overcome this natural tendency to resist outside domination. If some other nation occupied the United States, even with declared good intentions, we would surely fight to throw off such domination. We should not expect others to act any differently. Continued occupation will only create more resistance, and more recruitment for the very terrorist forces that our own forces are trying to suppress.
Finally, these policies are exacting a terrible economic cost, compounding the terrible human cost – and this is one more reason why the wars are a State issue as well as a federal issue. To date, $915.1 billion dollars have been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The share paid by Illinois taxpayers to date comes to about $49.1 billion – or more than four times the size of the structural deficit that our government has been wrestling with in Springfield. Our schools, colleges and universities, public services, pension system, neglected infrastructure, and our economy generally can all be said to be casualties of these misbegotten wars. For the same amount of money, we could have paid the cost of single-payer universal health care in Illinois for about four years, provided over 65 million homes with renewable electricity for a year, or paid the cost of nearly 5 million annual college scholarships.
These are among the reasons why I, along with the Green Party generally, opposed the Afghan and Iraq wars before they began and have consistently opposed them since then. I will continue to oppose them, to the fullest extent of my ability, if elected Governor of Illinois. The peace movement, largely ignored by both the Democratic and Republican parties, even though it represents a prevailing sentiment among the American people, has a candidate of its own in this Governor’s race.