Open Letter to Maryland's Senators

Dear Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski,

I hope this letter, together with many others, will spur you to more vocal and vigorous opposition to President Bush's war policy. I was proud to be a Marylander when you voted against the first war resolution. As our President brings us perilously close to the abyss, more must be done. Specifically, I urge you to introduce a resolution in the Senate this week opposing unilateral military action by the United States in Iraq and pointing out that terrorism unleashed by going to war poses a greater threat to our security than the war itself.

Many other Democrats and I have been disappointed by the feeble Democratic response to our President's go-it-alone war policy, particularly when a large percentage of Americans have expressed their opposition to it. Democrats have little to lose and much to gain by strenuous opposition to the President's war policy. Consider the following scenarios.

  1. President Bush pulls back at the last moment, declaring that Iraq is no longer an imminent threat. He will claim that the mobilization of American forces (not UN resolution 1441 or the inspectors) forced Saddam to back down. This will boost the President in opinion polls and increase his chance of reelection in 2004. Although the President would never concede that opposition by many Democrats in Congress caused him to pull back, the Democrats can legitimately maintain they helped change his mind. Right now they could claim little credit.

  2. President Bush goes to war without the sanction of the Security Council. Unless the war is bloodless, which seems doubtful, many lives will be lost. Opposition when Americans are under fire will be more difficult but many who oppose the war now are unlikely to close ranks behind the President if he leads us into it. Still, it would be better to speak out now.

  3. The President procrastinates. A resolution now will increase the likelihood of this happening, giving the inspectors more time while maintaining the pressure on Saddam to disarm.

Since the days of Senator Joe McCarthy, the Democrats have a history of caving in to charges of being "soft" on threats to the United States.. Although it would have been natural for Democrats to have taken the lead in recognizing China, they were so frightened of being labeled pro-communist, that it was Richard Nixon who did so. The Republicans have defined patriotism in their terms and seized its shield. True patriotism is not demanding greater homeland security, as some Democrats have. It is defending the rights reserved to the people in the First Amendment and of recognizing that the best way to make the world safe for democracy (including ours) is through respecting other nations' right to self-determination.

Your acting to act now will reduce the chances of war and enhance the stature of the Democratic Party.


Neil A. Holtzman, M.D.
Baltimore, MD

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This story was published on March 11, 2003.