An Open Letter to Barack Obama on Iran

On this the day, the Fourth of July, we celebrate our own Independence.  Citizens revel in our love of freedom and tranquility.  Today, may we take a moment to reflect upon how an unwarranted, or unnecessary war might have a profound effect on our lives and those of all mankind throughout the globe.  

I offer a correspondence intended for the person we hope will be our next President, Senator Barack Obama.  Please ponder the possibilities, and if you choose, I invite you to add your signature. You fellow Americans appreciate your consideration.

By Many Authors

Dear Senator Obama . . .

We the undersigned may have different views on U.S. foreign policy with respect to Iran. We all, however, are deeply concerned about the stories in the press in the past few weeks suggesting that the Bush administration might be considering a military strike on Iran, that it might give a green light to such an attack by Israel, or that it might engage in other acts of war, such as imposing a blockade against Iran.

We welcomed your stand against the war on Iraq in 2002. And we were encouraged by your early campaign statements emphasizing diplomacy over military action against Iran. Today, you have an opportunity to forestall a repeat of the tragic Iraq war. We hope you will use that opportunity.

We agree with the conclusion of Muhammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that “A military strike … would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball…” A military attack, he said, “will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West.” (Reuters, June 20, 2008.)

We don’t know, of course, whether an attack on Iran is in fact being considered, or if there are serious plans to initiate other acts of war, such as a blockade of the country. But we call on you to issue a public statement warning of the grave dangers that any of these actions would entail, and pointing out how inappropriate and undemocratic it would be for the Bush administration to undertake them, or encourage Israel to do so, in its closing months in office.

An attack on Iran would violate the UN Charter’s prohibition against the use or threat of force and the Congress’s authority to declare war. Moreover, the public right to decide should not be foreclosed by last-minute actions of the Bush administration, which will set U.S. policy in stone now.

We were heartened by your earlier comments suggesting that an Obama administration would act on the understanding that genuine security requires a willingness to talk without preconditions (something Iran has offered several times to no avail), and that threats and military action are counterproductive. We hope you will follow through on these commitments once in office, but also that you will speak out now against any acts of war by the Bush administration.


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(organizations listed for identification purposes only)

Michael Albert ZNet?

Cathy Albisa exec. director, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative?

John W. Amidon U.S. Veterans for Peace?

Stanley Aronowitz Professor of Sociology, Graduate Center, CUNY?

Rosalyn Baxandall Distinguished Teaching Professor, SUNY Old Westbury?

Phyllis Bennis Institute for Policy Studies?

Stephen Eric Bronner Professor (II) of Political Science, Rutgers University?

Charlotte Bunch exec. director, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers Univ.?

Noam Chomsky Institute Professor (retired), MIT?

Ray Close retired CIA Middle East specialist; Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity?

Rhonda Copelon Professor of Law, CUNY Law School?

Hamid Dabashi Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia Univ.?

Lawrence Davidson Professor of Middle East History, West Chester Univ.?

Ariel Dorfman author?

Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor, Hunter College & the Graduate Center, CUNY?

John Feffer co-director, Foreign Policy in Focus?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. exec. editor,

Libby Frank Women’s Internat’l League for Peace & Freedom, Philadelphia?

Arthur Goldschmidt Professor emeritus of Middle East History, Penn State Univ.?

Tom Hayden author?

Doug Henwood Left Business Observer?

Doug Ireland journalist?

James E. Jennings exec. director, U.S. Academics for Peace?

Nikki Keddie UCLA (emeritus), historian, Iran specialist?

Janet Kestenberg Amighi v.p., CDR (sponsor of Holocaust child survivor research)?

Rabbi Michael Lerner chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives; editor, Tikkun mag.?

Mark LeVine Prof. of Modern Middle Eastern History, Culture and Islamic Studies, U. Cal., Irvine?

Manning Marable director, Center for Contemporary Black History, Columbia Univ.?

David McReynolds former chair, War Resisters Internat’l?

Rosalind Petchesky Distinguished Prof. of Poli. Sci., Hunter College & the Graduate Center, CUNY?

Rachel Pfeffer interim exec. director, Jewish Voices for Peace?

Katha Pollitt writer?

Danny Postel No War on Iran Coalition, Chicago?

Matthew Rothschild editor, The Progressive magazine?

Stephen R. Shalom Prof. of Poli.  Sci., William Paterson Univ.?

(Rev.) David Whitten Smith Univ. of St. Thomas, Minnesota (emeritus)?

Meredith Tax writer; president, Women’s WORLD?

Michael J. Thompson editor of Logos?

Chris Toensing editor, Middle East Report?

Cornel West Professor, Princeton University?

Stephen Zunes Professor of Politics, Univ. of San Francisco

I, we, the people thank you for your time, care, and actions.