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Brookline TAB
Brookline, Massachusetts

For an Anti-War Town Meeting

Dennis Fox

November 7, 2002

At first, the mainstream media underplayed Washington's massive October 26 anti-war demonstration. After growing criticism, The New York Times finally reported that DC police estimated the crowd at 100,000 -- half the organizers' own estimate, but still a number the media can't dismiss as just a few persistent Sixties leftovers.

Then a Boston Common rally last Sunday drew thousands of New Englanders.

Next week, it's our turn: Brookline's Representative Town Meeting can take a stand right here at home and vote against the Bush administration's rush to war.

The Board of Selectmen has added to Town Meeting's fall agenda an article proposed by Brookline PAX. The article resolves that "the Brookline Town Meeting [A] opposes any U.S. attack on Iraq until and unless (1) there is clear and convincing evidence of a serious and imminent threat of aggression by Iraq, and (2) the U.N. has determined that collective action is necessary against Iraq; and [B] believes that, at this time, neither of these conditions has been met."

If I were a Town Meeting Member, I'd vote for the article even though it isn't perfect. (See the full text.)

The first problem is the six preliminary whereas clauses. The traditional justifications for the resolution combine legal argument, historical lesson, and philosophical musing. They make some useful points -- especially about President George W. Bush's dangerous new doctrines of unilateral action and preemptive attack. Unfortunately, the wordy details and civic-minded generalizations will make it easy for on-the-fence Town Meeting Members to find something objectionable. Even the Advisory Committee, which decided to recommend a "yes" vote, first eliminated a particularly confusing segment.

A broader hitch comes in the final Therefore-Be-It-Resolved section. I don't much like the part about relying on a United Nations mandate. Since the U.S. can generally bribe and browbeat other nations to get its way, the UN will probably pass a resolution just ambiguous enough to let Bush claim he has UN backing. The final language will likely support whatever interpretation Bush wants to give it, even if France and Russia interpret it differently once the shooting starts.

So using the UN to determine whether war is necessary won't help anti-war forces as much as we like to think it will. In the long run, of course, we have to figure out how to counter the U.S.'s superpower status and transform ourselves into an equal member of the world community rather than remain its most powerful bully. Unfortunately, the UN's concern seems to be the same as it was for many in Congress: not whether to go along with Bush's war mania, but whether to insist on first being cursorily consulted.

A second part of the article's resolve clause is also ambiguous. The language used -- requiring "clear and convincing evidence of a serious and imminent threat of aggression by Iraq" -- consists of legalistic terms of art open to varying interpretations. Brookline PAX and Donald Rumsfeld no doubt differ about whether existing evidence is "clear" and "convincing" and whether Saddam Hussein's tyrannical regime poses a "serious" and "imminent" threat against the U.S.

Fortunately, the final clause saves the article: Brookline Town Meeting "believes that, at this time, neither of these conditions has been met." For here is the point: Regardless of Bush's earnestness or Rumsfeld's sarcasm or any statements emanating from a malleable UN Security Council or U.S. Congress, Brookline's citizens don't support any war we're not persuaded is necessary. We won't just take George Bush's word for it.

Town Meeting will discuss the anti-war article Wednesday, November 13, at 8:00 pm. You don't have to be a Town Meeting member to sit in the high school auditorium and encourage Brookline to become a leader in grassroots opposition to Bush's war for world dominance. In Brookline, at least, we can say formally -- and clearly and convincingly -- that this president does not have our support.

In the meantime, contact your Town Meeting representatives, whose email addresses and phone numbers are posted on the town website.

Update: The anti-war resolution passed by a 2-1 margin!

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Note: this version may differ from the published version.

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