EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE DECISION ON UNILATERAL ACTION BY THE U.S. AGAINST IRAQ Russell Silverman, Chairman, UAHC Board of Trustees Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, UAHC
September 23, 2002 18 Tishri 5763
TO: The Leadership of UAHC Congregations
We write to inform you of the position adopted by a wide margin (45-10, representing over 900 congregations) at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the UAHC Board of Trustees with regard to the possibility of a war with Iraq.
As you are undoubtedly aware, President Bush has sought both UN and Congressional resolutions authorizing military action against Iraq. On September 19th the President asked Congress for sweeping authority to use "all means he deems appropriate, including force," to disarm Iraq and dislodge Saddam Hussein, including unilateral action by the United States if necessary. Many Jewish organizations, as well as religious groups of all denominations, have been struggling with the question of what guidance their religious traditions offer on this issue.
The question before the UAHC Executive Committee was: "Under what conditions, if any, would the UAHC support unilateral action by the U.S. against Iraq?"
At the outset of the discussion, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, discussed the position of Jewish law permitting pre-emptive or preventive action where there is a significant, immediate threat to innocent people; the arguments for and against U.S. military action in Iraq; and the geopolitical context in which this decision is being made.
The UAHC Executive Committee discussion was thorough, thoughtful, and informed. The many arguments for and against U.S. involvement, the uneasiness that many share about the policies being articulated by various government officials, and our concerns about the State of Israel were articulated, as the Committee understood the gravity of the moment and the importance of the vote that was being taken.
After an hour of discussion, the Executive Committee endorsed a proposal in which the UAHC would support unilateral military action by the U.S. in the context of four propositions:
International cooperation is far, far better than unilateral action, and the U.S. must explore all reasonable means of attaining such support.
Non-military action is always preferable to military action, and the U.S. must fully explore all options to resolve the situation through such means.
If the effort to obtain international cooperation and support through the United Nations fails, the U.S. must work with other nations to obtain cooperation in any military action.
The President should not act without Congressional approval of the use of force including any unilateral military action taken by the U.S.
The Executive Committee stated that it would support unilateral action if the Government of the United States made every reasonable effort to meet the conditions noted above and yet the threat posed by the Government of Iraq, particularly its possession of non-conventional weapons, remained unresolved. The Executive Committee authorized the chairman of the Board and the president to speak on this issue on behalf of the Union. In addition, the Committee urged the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to redouble its efforts on behalf of all these alternatives to unilateral military action, even while advocating, as the U.S. formulates its military policies, that such policies include provisions to protect the lives of innocent civilians as well as plans for the rebuilding of a democratic society in Iraq.
This Executive Committee decision will be used to direct the advocacy efforts of the UAHC staff members at the Religious Action Center in Washington and to determine UAHC policy in communal forums. In other respects, it is advisory only; Reform congregations and individual members of our synagogues are, of course, free to adopt their own positions on these issues.