Sweeney Cover Letter to AFL-CIO Statement on War

The statement issued yesterday by the AFL-CIO regarding the war - a statement of support for US troops had not a hint of criticism.  The unpublicized cover letter below to AFL-CIO affiliates which accompanied that statement had a somewhat different tone.  But what President Sweeney says privately means little when his public pronouncements don't even live up to the terms of the General Executive Council resolution adopted a few weeks ago.  

Michael Eisenscher

To:     AFL-CIO National and International Unions               From: John J. Sweeney
       State Federations and Central Labor Councils
       Trade and Industrial Departments
       Allied Organizations

Re:     AFL-CIO Statement on the War in Iraq            Date:   March 20, 2003

Attached is the statement that I released today on behalf of the AFL-CIO regarding the war in Iraq.  When our nation is at war I strongly believe that we need to come together in support of our troops on the front lines.

Nevertheless, I do not believe that President Bush’s insistence on military action rather than further diplomatic efforts serves our nation well. In the days and weeks after the attacks on America in September, 2001 citizens of every nation rallied to show their support and sympathy for the United States.  Huge crowds gathered in nearly every city around the globe waving the American flag, and peoples of every nation placed flowers in front of American embassies.  Never were the values of the United States more revered, and never was America more respected for the heroism shown by common citizens and front line responders to the evil acts of September 11th.  At that moment the world was united in its resolve to rid the planet of the evils of terrorism.  And America clearly was the recognized leader of the free world.

Now, just eighteen months later, that respect and that good will have been squandered.  In nearly every city around the globe citizens are marching to protest against the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq without sanction from the United Nations. Here in America, while citizens are naturally rallying around their President, the nation is deeply troubled.

President Bush vowed to seek United Nations support for his actions. Then, seeing he could not convince enough other nations that his views were correct, he decided to ignore the United Nations.  America cannot live securely in a world where the institutions of international cooperation are not respected.  In fact candidate Bush, criticizing the Clinton Administration, ran for office vowing not to be “the world’s policeman” and to seek broad coalitions for international security.

History will judge whether the actions taken by the United States will be seen as just and necessary.  And Americans will judge if the foreign policy of the Bush administration is one that keeps us more secure in a dangerous world.  While our fellow citizens are in harms way, we are united in support of them and their families.

[emphasis added]

History will indeed judge not only the decision to commit the nation to an unjust war.  It will also judge the leadership of the US labor movement, which despite its experience during the Vietnam War appears not to have learned much from history.  The only meaningful support labor can give to US troops is to demand that they be brought home at once.  Those who sent them should be indicted and tried for war crimes.  (These views are my own.)

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney On the War with Iraq
March 20, 2003

The AFL-CIO stands firmly behind our troops. These brave men and women are America’s best.
The Iraqi regime is a brutal dictatorship that is a threat to its neighbors and its own citizens. We support fully the goal of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. We sincerely hope this conflict will result in a more democratic and prosperous Iraq and a more peaceful and stable region, and that it will be resolved with little loss of life. For this to occur, it is vital that the Administration work diligently to repair relations abroad and rebuild a true global coalition to engage in the task of reconstruction and democratization in Iraq.

People of good conscience and good faith bring a range of concerns to this war. Expressing those concerns should not be grounds for challenges to one’s patriotism. The AFL-CIO has maintained that the best way to disarm Saddam Hussein would be with a broad international coalition sanctioned by the United Nations. Now that a decision has been made, we are unequivocal in our support of our country and America’s men and women on the front lines as well as their families here at home. We also urge the president as commander in chief to redouble the administration’s commitment to bolstering our security against terrorist attacks here at home, an imperative that cannot wait for the completion of the Iraqi operation.

Contact: Lane Windham (202) 637-5018

Copyright © 2003 AFL-CIO