Leading Americans Ask Military to Refuse to Attack Iran

  • davidswanson's picture
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Country music legend Willie Nelson, literary icon Gore Vidal, Gold Star Mother Cindy Sheehan, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, author and radio host Thom Hartmann, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi Steven Jacobs, and dozens of other prominent Americans have signed a letter asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all U.S. military personnel to refuse orders to launch an aggressive war on Iran.

The letter has been posted as a petition for others to sign at http://www.dontattackiran.org

The text of the letter follows:

ATTENTION: Joint Chiefs of Staff and all U.S. Military Personnel:

Do not attack Iran.
Any preemptive U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal.
Any preemptive U.S. attack on Iran would be criminal.

We, the citizens of the United States, respectfully urge you, courageous men and women of our military, to refuse any order to preemptively attack Iran, a nation that represents no serious or immediate threat to the United States. To attack Iran, a sovereign nation of 70-million people, would be a crime of the highest magnitude.

Legal basis for our Request – Do not attack Iran:

The Nuremberg Principles, which are part of US law, provide that all military personnel have the obligation not to obey illegal orders. The Army Field Manual 27-10, sec. 609 and UCMJ, art. 92, incorporate this principle. Article 92 says: "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the law of the United States …"

Any provision of an international treaty ratified by the United States becomes the law of the United States. The United States is a party and signatory to the United Nations Charter, of which Article II, Section 4 states, "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…" As Iran has not attacked the United States, and as the U.S. is a party and signatory to the Charter, any attack on Iran by the U.S. would be illegal under not only international law but under the U.S. Constitution which recognizes our treaties as the Supreme Law of the Land. When you joined the military, you took an oath to defend our Constitution.

Following the orders of your government or superior does not relieve you from responsibility under international law. Under the Principles of International Law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, complicity in the commission of war crime is a crime under international law.


The Bush Administration's charges against Iran have not been proven. Neither the development of nuclear weapons, nor providing assistance to Iraq would, if proven, constitute justification for an illegal war.

An attack on Iran might prompt the formidable Iranian military to attack U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. Thousands of our soldiers might be killed or captured as prisoners of war. A U.S. attack against Iranian nuclear facilities could also mean the deaths, from radiation poisoning, of tens of thousands of innocent Iranian civilians. The people of Iran have little control over their government, yet would suffer tremendously should the U.S. attack. Bombing raids would amount to collective punishment, a violation of the Geneva Convention, and would surely sow the seeds of hatred for generations to come. Children make up a quarter of Iran's population.

Above all, we ask you to look at the record of our actions in Iraq, which U.S. intelligence admits is “a cause celebre for jihadists” – a situation that did not exist before we attacked. We must face the fact that our rash use of military solutions has created more enemies, and made American families less safe. Diplomacy, not war, is the answer.

Know the Risks Involved in Refusing an Illegal Order or Signing This Statement:

We knowingly and willingly make this plea, aware of the risk that, in violation of our First Amendment rights, we could be charged under remaining sections of the unconstitutional Espionage Act or other unconstitutional statute, and that we could be fined, imprisoned, or barred from government employment.

We make this plea, also aware that you have no easy options. If you obey an illegal order to participate in an aggressive attack on Iran, you could potentially be charged with war crimes. If you heed our call and disobey an illegal order you could be falsely charged with crimes including treason. You could be falsely court martialed. You could be imprisoned. (To talk to a lawyer or to learn more about possible consequences, contact The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Courage to Resist, Center on Conscience and War, Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild 415-566-3732, or the GI Rights Hotline at 877-447-4487.) **

Final request:

Our leaders often say that military force should be a last resort. We beg you to make that policy a reality, and refuse illegal orders to attack Iran. We promise to support you for protecting the American public and innocent civilians abroad.

Our future, the future of our children and their children, rests in your hands.

You know the horrors of war. You can stop the next one.


Daniel Ellsberg, Thom Hartmann, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Cynthia McKinney, Willie Nelson, Cindy Sheehan, Norman Solomon, Elizabeth de la Vega, Gore Vidal, Ann Wright,
James Abourezk, former U.S. Senator, (D) South Dakota
Stacy Bannerman, Author, "When the War Came Home", Military Families Speak Out Charter Board member
John Bonifaz, constitutional attorney and author of "Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush."
Amy Branham, Gold Star Mother of
Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith, US Army Reserves, Nov. 1981-Feb. 2004
Blase Bonpane, Ph.d, Director OFFICE OF THE AMERICAS
David Clennon, Actor/activist
Tim Carpenter, Executive Director, Progressive Democrats of America
Daniel Ellsberg, author of "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."
David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Candidate
Jeff Cohen, author/media critic
Elizabeth de la Vega, former federal prosecutor and author of U.S. v. George W. Bush
Karen Dolan, Director, Cities for Progress/Cities for Peace
Anne Feeney, activist/folksinger or Local 1000, AFM
Mike Ferner, Navy corpsman; Secretary, Veterans for Peace
Bob Fertik, President Democrats.com
Laura Flanders, Radio Host on Air America
Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Lila Garrett, KPFK Host of “Connect the Dots”
Liberty Godshall, writer, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council
Hon. Jackie Goldberg, California Assembly Member (AD 45), retired.
Kevin Alexander Gray, writer, and organizer with the Harriet Tubman Freedom House Project
Representative Betty Hall, Hillsborough District 5, New Hampshire General Court
David L. Harris, MD
Tom Hayden
Thom Hartmann, author and Air America radio host
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Ursulines of Tildonk for Justice and Peace
Jenny Heinz , member of CodePink, member of Granny Peace Brigade Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Los Angeles
Michael Jay, Steering Committee, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles
Charles Jenks, co-founder and editor of traprockpeace.org
Justice Through Music
Antonia Juhasz, author, The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time
Jerry Kass, playwright and professor at Columbia University
Dr, Nazir Khaja ,Chairman, Islamic Information Service, Los Angeles, CA.
Mimi Kennedy, National Chair, Progressive Democrats of America
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun and Chair, the Network of Spiritual Progressives
Summer Lipford, Gold Star Mother,NC 28677
David Lindorff, Author, The Case for Impeachment
Alice Lynn, Delegate, California Democratic Party (41st AD)
Ben Manski, Executive Director, Liberty Tree
Ray McGovern, Army infantry/intelligence officer, 1962-64; CIA analyst 1964-90.
Cynthia Mckinney, former Congresswoman
Barbara Mills-Bria, Be The Change-USA
Bill Moyer, Executive Director, Backbone Campaign
Willie Nelson, Entertainer, Peace Activist Annie Nelson, Sustainable Biodiesel/Peace Activist
Honorable Eric Oemig – Washington State Senator
Geov Parrish, Executive Director Peace Action of Washington
Jacob Park, Founder, A28.
Brad Parker, Officer of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party
Bill Perry, Director, Delaware Valley Veterans For America
Gareth Porter, investigative journalist and historian
Marcus Raskin, member of National Security Council Staff under President Kennedy
Dorothy Reik, President, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI Agent and former Chief Division Counsel of Minneapolis Division of the FBI
Bill Scheurer, Editor, PeaceMajority Report
Randi Scheurer, IL-Dist. 8, Congressional Candidate
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace
Alice Slater, Abolition 2000 New York
Norman Solomon, Author and syndicated columnist
David Swanson, Afterdowningstreet.org
John Stauber, Co-author, "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq"
Jonathan Tasini, PDA NY
Ethel Tobach, Ph. D., member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Tina Richards CEO Grassroots Americaredith, Gold Star Mother, Proud Mom of Lt Ken Ballard- KIA 5.30.04
Gore Vidal, Author
Marcy Winograd, President, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles
Ann Wright, US Army Colonel (Retired) and US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.
Kevin Zeese on behalf of Voters for Peace and Democracy Rising
Velvet Revolution

** These resources are publicly available, and our offering them does not indicate that these organizations support this petition.

The letter has been posted as a petition for others to sign at http://www.dontattackiran.org


Don't Attack Iran

  • waltcherry's picture
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An attack on Iran would enrage the entire Muslim world and result in a worldwide American bloodbath.  No American would be safe outside the US.  Attacks within the USA would erupt.  With or without a military response, I fear there would be massive reprisals. 

David, you are doing this again...

I strongly suggest that you and the signatories on this petition voluntarily enlist in the Army Of The United States, go through training, and then go to Iraq where you can demonstrate exactly what you want done. You can also demonstrate what happens when troops attempt this sort of action.

Bush currently has the power to declare anyone doing this an Unlawful Combatant , a matter which is outside the UCMJ. Unlawful Combatant status would get the parties involved transported to a detention center perhaps within the borders of the US or in another country--there to be held indefinitely.

The statement that this group would 'support' troops doing this is pretty meaningless.

Not one of you Ivory Tower peaceniks are willing to enlist and then carry this effort out yourselves.

A mind once expanded can never return to its original dimensions.

Anne Hathaway: 1556-1623

The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.

Any other "grey" areas where the U.S. Military should rule?

  • Jim's picture
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Regardless if you believe the legal arguments, we do have a civilization to govern. Making a direct appeal to the U.S. Military, to DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES what course of action they will take, opens Pandora's box.

One less INFINITE constraint on how we effect change may not be the blessing some wish.


Scott Ritter's new article on Iran

  • Chris Horton's picture
    Chris Horton
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I signed this petition, knowing that it was a dangeroud act, but knowing that I would feel deeply ashamed of myself for a long time if I did not. I have no idea whether this is a futile act of self-immolation or if it is an appeal to people some of whom might listen.

Our main job however remains appealing to the people, to our elected representatives and to our various organizations to refuse to swallow the Bush Administration's lies and fabrications about Iran and to demand that this war not be launched.

I highly recommend Scott Ritter's new article on making this a priority:

"Our Most Important Mission: Prevent War with Iran" by Scott Ritter"



This war will dwarf the war in Iraq in ferocity, insanity and danger. It will eclipse all other issues, and transform the political landscape here and world-wide. The danger that Bush will launch it is very high. It is possibly stoppable, but only if we can change the national conversation about Iran. I urge you all to distribute this article widely and talk it up.