If the opinion of those who gathered last night at the Michigan League is any indication, the local community is opposed to any attack on Iraq. And U.S. Rep. John Dingell was clearly aware of that prevailing sentiment last night as he discussed the possibility of another war in the Persian Gulf during a town hall meeting.
For his part, Dingell (D-Dearborn), who is heavily favored to win the election to represent the new 15th Congressional District that encompasses Ann Arbor, said he has not made up his mind yet on whether he, as a member of Congress, will authorize the use of force against Iraq. President Bush has requested that Congress do so, and Dingell expects such a vote to be held within the next week to 10 days.
But immediately after taking questions from community members and University students, Dingell said, “the president should be encouraged to seek as much international support as he can get.”
Of the approximately 100 people gathered to hear Dingell, few were willing to support such action. By a show of hands, only two encouraged him to support the president’s draft resolution sent to Congress. That number jumped to about 10 if European countries were supportive of the U.S. position and stayed about steady at 20 if the United Nations and Middle Eastern countries were to support an invasion.
Dingell said he is unsure of the extent and timing of the threat posed to the United States by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and for that reason does not know whether he would be justified in supporting a war resolution with or without international, regional or U.N. support.
But before he supports a use of force resolution, the congressman said the Bush administration must explain what it will do after the Iraqi leader is deposed.
“If we knock out Saddam Hussein, we have no choice but to make sure the rest of the Middle East is stable and the people of Iraq” can form a democratic society, before Congress supports a “shoot-em-up,” Dingell said.
Many of those gathered at the League expressed concern that the United States would be violating international law if it took preemptive action against Iraq without the support of the United Nations, and thereby violating American law since the United States ratified the U.N. charter.
Some even questioned Bush’s motives, fearing a “war over oil” and a gimmick to distract Americans from economic woes as the mid-term elections approach.
Dingell said he had no reason to question the president’s reasoning in requesting the congressional authorization, and rather wanted to focus on the question of whether the country should or should not enter into war.
“The United States must be very sure we have the ability to prevail and the solid plan for the conduct of any military action we perform,” he said.
One speaker at the forum said that any preemptive strike against Iraq would open up a Pandora’s box.
The invoking of the president’s rationale for going to war, he said, “will enable any country at any time for any reason to attack any other country.”
As to whether Hussein is connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, Dingell said, “There’s no evidence he was and I am aware of none.”
The level of risk posed by the Iraqi leader and the probability of his use of weapons of mass destruction against American interests would determine “how quickly we’d have to act.”
Jesse Knight, an LSA junior who attended the event and said he leans toward not going to war, praised Dingell “for not coming here with a pre-set attitude but coming to find out what the people think.”