2003 Emergency Warnings Against the US Invasion of Iraq
20 Years Ago Today
First, I highly recommend this beautiful interview my friend, investigative journalist, Sam Husseini did with whistleblower Katherine Gun, the subject of the film, Official Secrets, which I also highly recommend.
Katharine Gun, Who Came Closest to Stopping the Occupation of Iraq: The Invasion was a Success
Interview with Katharine Gun on Iraq Invasion "Anniversary", Her Upbringing in Taiwan, Christianity, Pandemic, Geopolitics and the Future of Humanity
Daniel Ellsberg: “No one else -- including myself -- has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it."
Our Collective Failure to Prevent the War, A Done Deal
The March 19, 2003 US led invasion of Iraq was cataclysmic. I cried.
In the months before I had done everything in my power to try to prevent it, but it was a done deal. I felt like I was watching Romeo and Juliet and trying to warn them not to take the poison.
I went on the radio. I brought colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania’s Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict with me to lobby Senator Arlen Spector. Alas, to no avail.
I tried unsuccessfully to organize a press conference, including Dr. Phil Zimbardo, well known psychologist, then president of the American Psychological Association. Known for the Stanford Prison Experiment, he testified about Abu Grahib and placing our soldiers into situations that provoked extreme behaviors, and more recently the Heroic Imagination Project, and retired Admiral Eugene Carroll, director of the Center for Defense Information, who sadly died at the time.
As a political intuitive, I predicted the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. Though not knowledgeable about Al Qaeda, I could feel in my body how our aggressive policies would inevitably provoke desires for revenge against us. In asymmetric conflict dynamics, terrorism is the warfare of the weak.
The invasion is considered the blunder of the century. In Sam Husseini’s interview with Katherine Gun they consider that it was not a mistake or a failure, but a success, intending to blow up the Middle East. It caused a cascade of death, destruction, trauma, displacements, refugees, environmental devastations and geopolitical upheavals… and more terrorism.
George W. Bush boasted that we had the terrorists on the run. We sure did. They morphed from a small, localized group to recruit, expand, splinter into many new groups, and evolve to become more clever, powerful and lethal. It produced ISIS and other malignant transformations.
According to the law of opposites, our actions multiplied terrorism many times over. So much for the GWOT — Global War on Terror. It produced the war on the war on terror.
They can’t say we didn’t warn them. Here are two op-eds coauthored with friends/colleagues.
· PSYCHOLOGICALLY INCORRECT: ERRING ON THE SIDE OF DANGER with
Richard Rubenstein George Mason University Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (now called The Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution).
· Emergency Statement — Our Professional Duty to Inform with Dr. Marc Pilisuk, my co-chair of the Committee on Global Violence and Security of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence, Division 48 of the American Psychological Association.
PSYCHOLOGICALLY INCORRECT: ERRING ON THE SIDE OF DANGER
Diane Perlman, PhD and Richard Rubenstein, PhD
Psychotherapists are bound by an ethical code known as "duty to warn." When someone poses a danger, we are legally required to take steps to prevent harm. That code now requires us to go on public record to warn of the inevitable catastrophic consequences of US-led invasion of Iraq.
As psychologists and experts in causes and prevention of conflict, terrorism, and violence, we are usually in a better position than the lay public to recognize potential for explosive behavior before it boils over. In such cases we have a professional responsibility not to remain silent, lest we become complicit in some preventable disaster.
Just as loyal experts warned NASA about O-rings and heat shield tiles, we now publicly warn our government about vastly greater dangers that will be unleashed by war. Previous warnings have gone unheeded, yet these dangers can only be prevented now, before the shoe drops and an attack is ordered.
Actions which provoke global tensions, and fuel cycles of fear, hatred, rage and revenge, are likely to explode in ways that will horrify us later. Not only our deployed troops and innocent Iraqi civilians, but we at home, will be endangered by this war, whose consequences include new terrorism here.
We have good cause to be terrified. There is a broad consensus of expert opinions that catastrophic consequences are inevitable if we continue to escalate the violence. But experts also agree they are avoidable if we change course.
As practitioners in tension reduction, violence prevention, and conflict transformation, we know of viable alternatives to war. We reject notions of "acceptable risks," "acceptable deaths," and "necessary war" as psychologically illiterate and baseless. This language of inevitability, being forced into a war we don't want, seduces people into accepting the worst-case scenario. War is likely to spiral out of control, causing problems far worse than those it claims to solve. Using violence to prevent violence is irrational, especially in an age of terrorism, asymmetrical warfare and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The airwaves are saturated with dangerous false assumptions about the nature of conflict and our enemies, made by pundits speaking far outside of their areas of expertise. Among the familiar myths they propound:
* You have to stand up to a bully or you invite worse attacks; war now will prevent more violence later;
* War may provoke some terrorist reprisals, but they will be "manageable." The benefits of the war outweigh any terrorist risks;
* Al Qaida will attack us whether we invade or not, so we might as well invade;
* We have exhausted all other alternatives; war is our only choice.
On all counts, observation demonstrates the opposite:
* Americans have been offered unrealistic fantasies of destroying Saddam and "liberating" Iraq quickly and cleanly. War will provoke widespread violence quickly, including a chain reaction of terrorist reprisals, prompting new recruits and motivations for renewed attacks. We will be perceived as the bullies.
* Such cycles of violence are anything but manageable. They create what Dr. Robert Jay Lifton calls "an atrocity producing situation," setting precedents for "preemptive strikes" to be imitated by others, inviting global anarchy. Invasion won't prevent proliferation or use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; it will provoke them. Both UK intelligence source and US security experts including former US President Carter predict that Saddam Hussein will only use his WMDs, if he has them, if provoked by an invasion, which only makes psychological sense.
* Terrorists are likely waiting for a US invasion to signal more terrorist attacks. Analysis of cycles of violence reveals a pattern and ethic of reciprocity. If we attack Muslims, they retaliate. Bin Laden's words, "So let America increase the pace of this conflict or decrease it, and we will respond in kind." are psychologically credible and plausible.
* There are many options between the extremes of invasion and inaction. Professionals have many strategies for preventing future violence. Escalating violence only propels cycles of retaliation. Establishing communication transforms them. Multilateral discussions with Iraq over a wide range of issues, using proven conflict transformation approaches, is psychologically sound. Continued inspections should be embedded in a context of effective strategies of tension reduction and violence prevention.
The 62% of Americans who favor war were not asked in polls if they also favored provoking terrorist attacks at home, or whether they would be in favor of trying clinically proven non-violent conflict resolution approaches as an alternative. This, too sends up warning flags: media and policy discourse about the war, like the polls themselves, risk being superficial, misleading because they ignore the most basic lessons of psychology regarding predictable human behavior which we continue to ignore our gravest peril.
Diane Perlman, PhD,
Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania, contributor to The Psychology of Terrorism.
Richard Rubenstein, JD, MA
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, author Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World
Emergency Statement — Our Professional Duty to Inform
Diane Perlman, PhD & Marc Pilisuk, PhD
We are psychologists and social scientists who have worked with trauma, fear, humiliation and violence, and who have studied the psychology of terrorism, conflict, enmity, domination, and creative ways of ending cycles of retaliation. As war preparations accelerate, we see evidence for a clear and present danger that can be prevented.
As psychotherapists, we are bound by an ethical code which states that if someone is dangerous to oneself or others, we are legally required to warn those in danger. Our duty to inform is mandated above all ethical considerations. We cannot remain silent in the face of avoidable danger.
In our professional opinion, the war now being planned is likely to trigger a
series of violent reactions which could spiral out of control and traumatize untold numbers of innocent civilians. Effects of trauma can be devastating and long-lasting, extending from individuals to families and to society. Transmitted from generation to generation, they perpetuate personal suffering and political conflicts. Surviving soldiers will suffer psychological and physical injuries and syndromes, guilt, depression, despair, increased suicide, crime and homelessness.
For billions, war will be experienced as an escalation of the hatred, terror
and evil that is brewing. It will likely provoke massive uprisings against Americans and allies as a retaliation — if and when President George W. Bush orders an attack. Threats, humiliation, and military buildup plant psychological time bombs, increasing terrorist recruitment, motivation and justification for further acts of terror. War is likely increase rather than decrease terrorism. We and our descendants may all be in harm’s way.
War planners, gripped by indignations and hidden geopolitical motivations, tend to be overconfident, exaggerating potential for success while downplaying negative consequences. They surround themselves with advisors who support their one-sided views, and ignore, dismiss or punish those who warn of dangers. They are surprised when events backfire catastrophically. Most negative unintended consequences, due to psychological ignorance, are predictable and inevitable if we go to war. History is filled with military blunders and unintended consequences.
The Bush administration and mainstream media present illogical, uninformed, and dishonest justifications for war that require a denial of facts, irrational beliefs, and disregard for human consequences. Exaggerated threats and stereotyped enemy images increase fear and tension in ways that can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy. Beliefs that military action is “necessary”, and that there are no better alternatives, ignore bodies of knowledge of tension reduction and conflict transformation.
The fantasy that US forces can simply take out Saddam and establish democracy without unleashing catastrophic reactions, is naive and unrealistic. We have been misled to believe war will prevent violence later. CIA officials, military leaders,and social scientists say the opposite is true. What is deceptively called a preemptive strike and preventive war is more accurately called a provocative strike. Our aggressive bullying style, tough talk, and domination produce unstable, dangerous conditions.
Gripped by our images of a dangerous, evil enemy, we are oblivious to the “mirror image of the enemy,” by which they see themselves as noble, just, and true, and see us as hostile, aggressive, and evil. Military action will confirm these images, inspire demonization of the US, and inflame passions for retaliation in “self-defense.” The way to be more secure is to make your enemy more secure. People are more dangerous when threatened and backed into a corner.
We live in a world with proliferating weapons of mass destruction and terrorism as a form of asymmetrical warfare. There is no amount of domination that cannot be turned against us. Possessing and boldly threatening to use nuclear weapons, we provoke proliferation by frightening other countries and terrorist groups into acquiring their own for deterrence and self-protection.
Strategies of war and counter-terrorism that attempt to physically eliminate
enemies, terrorists and “infrastructure” without addressing the underlying
psychological forces and root causes, provoke more clever terrorism and escalate cycles of retaliation. They cannot make us safer. There is no endgame
We are warning the public to see through the deception and manipulation of
emotions and beliefs in a “necessary” war. War is not a last resort. It is the worst resort. War is a failure of imagination. The current paradigm is not survivable.
We have enough knowledge and ability to devote significant resources to develop ways to replace war with effective methods, based in the social sciences, that understand the psychology of our enemies and can reduce tension, fear, and violence A few examples are setting up a council of wise elders, including Nobel Peace Prize winners, indicting Saddam to the International Criminal Court, working with allies, deploying the Global Nonviolent Peace force, citizen diplomacy, sending massive numbers of unarmed civilians, a Marshall plan, and other ideas to be explored by wise experts.
We must all do everything in our power to prevent a catastrophe. Americans have the capacity to use our great power in new ways, consistent with the true ideals of our country.
Diane Perlman, PhD & Marc Pilisuk, PhD. are licensed psychologists, political psychologists, and Co-chairs, Committee on Global Violence and Security, of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence, Division 48 of the American Psychological Association and Psychologists for Social Responsibility (for identification purposes.) Both have contributed chapters to The Psychology of Terrorism, Edited by Chris Stout, 2002
Diane Perlman, PhD
* Member, TRANSCEND Practitioner Peacebuilders Network
* Fellow, The Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict
* Senior Fellow, Global Dialogue Institute
* Research Associate, the Citizens Panel on Ultimate Weapons at the Center on Violence and Human Survival.
* Liaison to Psychology community, Global Nonviolent Peace Force
* Founding member and Research Associate, The Transcending Trauma Project
* Speaker for Physicians for Social Responsibility in the 1980s and 1990s
* Media Task Force, Psychotherapists for Social Responsibility
Marc Pilisuk, PhD
* Professor Emeritus, University of California
* Faculty, Saybrook Graduate School and research Center
* Author of International Conflict and Social Policy, The Healing Web: Social Networks and Human Survival
* Past President of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence, Division 48 of the American Psychological Association
When I was young the very same people calling for war today are the people who spit on our Vietnam Vets for fighting a war that they did not volunteer for.
I understand that the sacrifice can be worth it, but the pain that Katharine experienced could have been hard to bare at times.
As you may know, some of us are compelled beyond our comfort zones.
I think that being a political empath would be the worst. Thank you to Katharine Gun.
My apologies for having to lead a life of pain and sacrifice to inform and protect the rest of us.
It seems that in hindsight, the more reverent I was in my youth towards a peaceful America, the more I ended up backing the warmongers.
Can that be true?