24 January 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500


Ambassador John Negroponte
Richard Cheney, Vice-President
Dr. Condoleeza Rice, National Security Adviser
Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Presidential Envoy, Ambassador at Large Free Iraqis
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Charlotte Beers, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
William Burns, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, State Department
Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs
Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Bishop Wilton Gregory, President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches
Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III, Episcopal Church, USA


Dear President Bush,

A simple, practical and principled solution has been overlooked in the Iraq crisis, which minimizes risks of all kinds. Present policies run the risk of recreating the problems of Afghanistan on a larger scale.

The main issues in the Iraq crisis have been obscured. Few have problems with the goal of democratic regime change, but even fewer agree that war is the correct way to achieve it. Yet there is a way to align goals and means, to create democracy via democratic means. We call this Preemptive Democracy, a clear principled option that has not yet been considered and offers an option separate from diplomacy or war.

War with little international support is the worst-case scenario (but is what the U.S. is planning for). From geopolitical risk, the weighing down of the U.S. and world economy, to terrorism, the loss of U.S. reputation and the setting of a precedent that others may use as pretext, we must do everything to avoid war. Even if it is a short war, winning the peace is even more crucial. This means quickly transferring power to a civilian and democratic government.

The U.S., because it now has only one policy, i.e. following the U.N. track, is painted into a corner. It has adopted the U.N. goal of disarmament, and forgotten the original goal of enabling democracy in Iraq, and the strategic imperative of the spread of representative self-government in the entire region. The manner in which the U.S. acts today harms the goal of democratic transition, since in this field, perceptions count.

Conservatives see the inspections as elaborate theatre. Belated recognition that under the U.N. terms, Saddam could avoid his commitments, has led the U.S. down the path of ever more tenuous statements, which harm U.S. credibility and objectively maximize the risk that the U.S. will go to war with few allies, with all the unintended consequences this may have.

The entire world, including Britain, says that more time is needed for inspections. Many believe that the administration is moving the goalposts. This does not serve U.S. interests and wastes political capital when there is an easy way to let the U.N. continue its work while still reaching U.S. goals.

Most Americans want to see you exhaust all possible peaceful solutions, and are not convinced this is being done. You have stated your preference for a peaceful solution and that war is not inevitable. The real issue and problem, recognized by many conservatives, is that the U.S. fell into an insidious U.N. trap, and no credible Plan B has been developed.

This trap has several fatal consequences:

  • It gives the U.N. – which has no mandate for democracy and where dictatorships are as well regarded as democracies, huge and undue leverage on U.S. policy.
  • It makes the administration look insincere when it insists so strongly on Saddam respecting the U.N. and makes it easy to accuse the U.S. of double standards and of using the U.N. when convenient and rejecting it when not.
  • It forces the administration to conflate two totally separate issues, disarmament and regime change, which are legally different. This variance is one cause of global critique of U.S. plans as duplicitous, since an invasion to disarm Saddam has no legal right to depose him as well.
  • It forces the administration to use huge amounts of political capital just to rectify the initial decision, instead of investing this capital in a clean democratic process for Iraq, in solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem etc.
  • It leads the administration to backtrack on its previous moral clarity and declare that instead of a “clean” democracy that could become a beacon of hope for the region, it would welcome a lesser, presumably more cooperative dictator, as long as disarmament is achieved. This turnaround and betrayal of the Iraqi people completes the ideological “takeover” of the U.N. mindset over U.S. policy, puts the U.S. on the wrong side of History, and contradicts the policy expressed in the National Security Strategy of the United States. It also endangers the immediate and long-term security of Israel, whose interests are best served by a solution that simultaneously avoids war, creates a true democracy in Iraq and promotes a democratic domino effect in the region.

The solution to get out of this conundrum exists. It is simple, common-sensical, in accordance with fundamental American principles as expressed by the Founders, and it is the most logical implementation of your stated goals that Iraq becomes democratic. It is in accordance with the policy Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others recommended in a letter to President Clinton in 1998.

The answer is to immediately, not after a war, create an independent and credible Transitional Democratic Government for Iraq.

This would not be a normal government in exile, as it would be based in Northern Iraq. The key words are “independent and credible”. The old idea of a government in exile promoted by the Pentagon was rightly rejected by the State Department, as it would not have been perceived as independent from the U.S (and the power of such a government derives from its public credibility around the world).

The solution was not to reject the entire concept, but to find a way that the new government would be trusted. This is not difficult. We suggest the following plan and call the process “Preemptive Democracy” for communication purposes. This name has broad-based appeal (for instance, former Ambassadors Kirkpatrick and Gardner both said they liked the name), and consists in a two-step strategy to replace Saddam with a democratic government.

Step one: foster the creation of an independent and credible Transitional Democratic Government (based in Northern Iraq) via the following process:

1. a constitutional convention to discuss outstanding issues and make a formal transitional constitution and government,

2. with broadly representative participation, e.g. all the existing opposition groups, plus representatives of the Iraqi Diaspora

3. with complete open and transparent access to the world’s media (Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC, TF1 etc.)

Step two: deciding on a permanent constitution by a second Constitutional Assembly chosen by free and fair elections in Iraq (after Saddam falls).

Support for the Transitional Democratic Government should be at the price of a formal pledge to keep Iraq free, democratic and unified, and to hold free and fair elections. The live birth of this new government on global TV would set the bar for transparency and democracy so high that Saddam could not touch it, and would take away much of the excuse for retaliation.

The only possible downside is to create a precedent that the State Department may object to. But precedent for precedent, better to create the precedent of Preemptive Democracy than Preemptive War. And under State Dept. policies, the historical creation of several governments would not have been “allowed”, including the drafting of the U.S. constitution, which as constitutional scholars know, was controversial and at times extra-legal.

How could Saddam Hussein fall? The existence of an alternative more legitimate government will delegitimize him and ratchet up the political and psychological pressure on Saddam. The U.S. should recognize the new government and encourage others to do so. Given the public birth of this government, global public opinion is likely to acquiesce.

The existence of this government will create a focus for opposition to Saddam and provide numerous benefits:

- it dramatically increases the probability that Saddam will fall without war;

- if war becomes necessary, it transforms a “preemptive” war into a “normal” war which creates no uneasy precedent, as military intervention should be conditional on the new government expressly requesting help;

- if war takes place anyway, it reduces the risks and duration of a military occupation and provides for a faster and easier handover to a civilian government (which is Mr. Rumsfeld’s stated position);

- it creates a positive precedent for the region and facilitates a democratic domino effect;

- it minimizes global geopolitical risk, terrorism risk etc.

- it best protects the short and long-term security of Israel, Jordan, Kuwait..

- it rebuilds U.S. diplomatic capital, regains the trust of global public opinion and facilitates U.S. public diplomacy.

- It helps the U.N. as well as it relieves the U.N. from tasks it cannot fulfill.

Apart from the inherent advantages for the U.S. of supporting Preemptive Democracy, there are domestic political advantages as well. While there is no downside to this strategy externally, there is a potential domestic downside for whomever does not support it. It is in the interest of your party and your legacy that you adopt this policy first. This concept is slowly gaining credence and could at any moment reach critical mass.

M. President, present plans maximize risks of all kinds: political, financial, economic and of course to national security. Your duty of care to the American people compels you to look at all options. The option of Preemptive Democracy minimizes all risks and best serves U.S. and global interests. My discussions with the Iraqi opposition and with governments (U.K., France, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey etc.), and the U.N. itself, lead me to believe there will be overwhelming support to implement this.


Troy Davis , President/CEO

World Citizen Foundation