Open Letter to Members of the U.S. Congress


Richard Falk | Global Justice in the 21st Century – TRANSCEND Media Service

8 Jan 2020 – This is a Letter to Members of Congress with an initial group of signatories; there are many more that have been gathered but not listed here. The letter was drafted by myself in collaboration with Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg. If you wish to add your signature, please send your name and affiliation to Vida Samiian, who helped compose the original text, and now with the logistics of the initiative. If you agree with the argument, please do join us by adding your name. Current partial list of signatories below.

The Letter was composed prior to the Iranian missile attacks on two American military bases in Iraq and before Trump made his formal statement the following day, January 8th.  Although his statement can is being read in many ways, including the suggestion that Trump’s intention was to step back from the brink of a devastating war. I listened to Trump from my own perspective and with an attempt to hear his words as if I were an Iranian living in Iran. I found the statement belligerent, and formulated in an imperialist/hegemonic language, avoiding a diplomatic sequel, and instead resuming the ‘maximum pressure’ approach involving threats and further intensified sanctions and other coercive moves that will bring additional suffering to the Iranian people. Perhaps, the only hopeful element was the suggestion that Trump would seek greater NATO involvement coupled with the assertion of American energy independence. This may possibly have been a geopolitical prelude to partial disengagement in the region by the United States, but more likely was telling European countries that they should bear a greater part of the economic burden of upholding Western interests In the region since they remain dependent on Middle Eastern energy to meet their needs, while the United States no longer does. In any event, the Trump moves would undoubtedly be viewed as provocative, unacceptable, and aggressive by Iranians.

Among the most distasteful aspects of Trump’s speech was his castigation of Barack Obama’s laudable attempt to negotiate a tension-reducing agreement with Iran on its nuclear program that had the support of France, UK, as well as China, Russia, and Germany. To deride such a major breakthrough for a better future for the region, while perpetuating a war-mongering approach underscores why it continues to be so urgent for Congress to act.

A new twist to the drama arises from the crash of a Ukrainian Air jet near the Tehran Airport resulting in the deaths of all 176 passengers who were visiting Iran as well as the crew, apparently the result of an Iranian surface-to-air missile attack, almost certainly a tragic mistake suggestive of the miscalculations in situations of high tension that can be the spark that starts a conflagration we call ‘war.’ It underscore the plea of the Open Letter to observe international law, rely on restorative and dialogic diplomacy, involve the UN, and ensure in the U.S. setting that Congress is involved as constitutionally prescribed at every stage of any decision to have recourse to international force.


 January 7, 2019

To Members of Congress:

The unlawful and provocative assassination of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, has already given rise to an escalating spiral of lethal events. The greatest risks are to stumble escalating into a devastating war in the Middle East with grave consequences for the peoples of Iran and Iraq and likely across the region. Such a war would have disastrous effects for this country, for the region and the world. It is certain to do further harm to the reputation of the United States, which already is perceived in much of the world as an irresponsible and criminal political actor in the region, using military force in ways that have made already difficult situations catastrophic by taking various dangerous military, economic and quasi-diplomatic initiatives misleadingly presented as “maximum pressure.”

It is imperative for the well-being of our country, and indeed the world, that the Congress of the United States fulfill its most solemn constitutional responsibility, and impose effective restraints on the war-making actions of this impeached president. This is a moment when partisan politics should be put aside, not only for the sake of national interests but for the benefit of humanity – -we should realize that these unilateral actions by the United States have put the entire world at risk. It is also a moment when Republicans as well as Democrats must stand up for a sane foreign policy, and for diplomacy and peace instead of aggression and war, and fulfill their duties as Members of Congress.

The Iranian people have endured decades of economic warfare and covert forms of intervention by the US and its allies. Since the revolution of 1979 in Iran and the end of a mutually beneficial relationship between the US and Iran’s autocratic leader, the Shah, the US has imposed numerous sanctions on Iran under various guises, threatened it with war and inflicted pain and suffering on its people. What is desperately needed with respect to Iran is not any further recourse to coercive diplomacy based on escalating threats, crippling sanctions, and tit-for-tat military actions. What is urgently needed is an immediate shift to restorative diplomacy based on mutual respect for international and domestic law, with the objective of peace, stability, and cooperation.

From all that we now know, General Soleimani had come to Iraq without stealth on a commercial plane.  He came to Iraq on a diplomatic peacemaking mission at the invitation of the Baghdad Government, and with a meeting scheduled on the following day with the Prime Minister that was part of an ongoing effort to seek a lessening of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In reaction to major violations of its sovereignty, the Iraqi Parliament has voted to expel U.S. troops from their country. In place of what seemed a promising regional initiative the assassination of General Soleimani has resulted in an intensification of conflict, further massive suffering, and the likelihood of dangerous escalation.

We call on Congress to act with urgency to stem this slide toward war and regional chaos.

We urge you to consider imposing ironclad restraints on the authority of the President to make any further use of international force without a clear and definite authorization by the U.S. Congress, which itself should respect the relevant prohibitions of international law and the provisions and procedures of the UN Charter.

Respectfully yours,

Richard Falk – Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University. Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies

Noam Chomsky – Laureate Professor of Linguistics, Agnese Nelms Haury Chair University of Arizona

Daniel Ellsberg – Former Official of State & Defense Department Whistleblower, Pentagon Papers

Medea Benjamin – Founder, Code Pink Author

Peter Kuznitz – Professor of History Director, Institute of Nuclear Studies American University

Biljana Vankovska – Professor University of Skopje, Macedonia

Bogdan Bogdanov – Professor University of Skopje, Macedonia

Phyllis Bennis – Institute for Policy Studies and Jewish Voice for Peace Board Member

Professor Hilal Elver – Research Fellow, University of California-Santa Barbara

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi – Director and Senior Scholar Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies San Francisco State University

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl – Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law UCLA School of Law

Olga Abella – Emeritus Professor of English Eastern Illinois University

Suzanne Adely – National Lawyers Guild International Association of Democratic Lawyers

Walid Afifi – Professor of Communication University of California Santa Barbara

Kevin B. Anderson – University of California, Santa Barbara

Mohammad Azadpur – Professor of Philosophy San Francisco State University

Dr. Hatem Bazian – UC Berkeley and Zaytuna College

Vincent Stanley – Author, Poet

Eileen Boris – Hull Professor and Distinguished Professor Department of Feminist Studies Professor of History, Black Studies and Global Studies University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Jaap C. Bos – Professor of Psychology Utrecht University

Marian and Leslie Bravery – Palestinian Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa, New Zealand

Carole H. Browner – Distinguished Research Professor Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies Center for Culture and Health

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior University of California, Los Angeles

Edmund Burke III – Professor Emeritus of History University of California, Santa Cruz

Karen Brodkin – Professor Emerita of Anthropology University of California, Los Angeles

Masoud Chamasemani – Actor and TV Producer

Swati Chattopadhyay – University of California, Santa Barbara

Maivan Clech Lam – Professor Emerita City University of New York Graduate Center

Carla Coco – University of California, Santa Barbara

Pauline M. Coffman – Oak Park, IL

Eve Darian-Smith

Diana G. Darab, Ph.D. – Health Research for Action University of California, Berkeley

Natalie Z. Davis – Professor Emeritus Princeton University

James Deutsch MD, PhD, FRCPC – Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto

Julie Diamond – Center for Worker Education, CCNY New York

Sasan Fayazmanesh – Professor Emeritus of Economics California State University, Fresno

Nina Farnia – Past President National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

Gary Fields – Professor of Communication University of California, San Diego

Shepard Forman – Founding Director Center for International Cooperation New York University

Manzar Foroohar – Professor Emerita History and Latin American Studies Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Margaret Ferguson – Distinguished Professor of English, Emerita University of California, Davis

Maxine Fookson – Board member of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Western Executive Committee of American Friends Service Committee

Aranye Fradenburg Joy – Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature University of California, Santa Barbara

Nancy Gallagher – Professor Emerita of History University of California, Santa Barbara

Jolien Geerlings – Utrecht University The Netherlands

Jila Ghomeshi – Professor and Department Head Department of Linguistics University of Manitoba

Magda Gilewicz – Professor of English California State University, Fresno

Avery F. Gordon – Professor of Sociology University of California, Santa Barbara

Visiting Professor, School of Law Birkbeck University of London

William Hastings – Assoc Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Fordham University

Maryam Shayegan Hastings – Emerita Professor of Mathematics Fordham University

Jeremy R. Hammond – Independent journalist Editor of Foreign Policy Journal Author of Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

David Hillstrom – Author

Frederik S. Heffermehl – Oslo Lawyer/author Nobel Peace Prize Watch

Ivan Huber – Professor Emeritus of Biology Fairleigh Dickinson University

Professor George Hunsinger – Princeton Theological Seminary

Suad Joseph – University of California, Davis

Marcela Jurado

Prya Kapoor – Portland State University

David Kinsella – Portland State University

David Klein – Professor of Mathematics California State University, Northridge

Dennis Kortheuer – Department of History, Emeritus California State University, Long Beach

Richard K. Larson – Professor of Linguistics Stony Brook University

Mark LeVine – University of California, Irvine

Richard Lew – Independent Contractor

David Lloyd – Distinguished Professor of English University of California, Riverside

Dr. Brooke Lober – Scholar-in-Residence, Gender and Women’s Studies University of California, Berkeley

Paul M Lubeck – Johns Hopkins University, SAIS

Afshin Matin-Asgari – Professor of Middle East History California State University, Los Angeles

Blanca Misse – Department of Modern Languages and Literatures San Francisco State University

Kathleen Moore – Professor of Religious Studies UC Santa Barbara

Patricia Morton – University of California, Riverside

Jamal R. Nassar – Professor of Political Science and Dean Emeritus California State University, San Bernardino

Srkja Pavlovic – Department of History and Classics University of Alberta

Ismail Poonawala – Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Islamic Studies University of California, Los Angeles

Angela Price – Fresno Center for Nonviolence

Prof Balakrishnan Rajagopal – Law and Urban Planning Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Priscilla Read – Chicago

Craig Reinarman – Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Legal Studies University of California, Santa Cruz

Rush Rehm – Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies and Classics Artistic Director, Stanford Repertory Theater Stanford University

Stephen Roddy – Professor of Chinese Studies San Francisco State University

Lisa Rofel – Professor Emeritus of Anthropology Co-Director, Center for Emerging Worlds University of California Santa Cruz Co-Director, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Cesar “che” Rodriguez, Ph.D – Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Studies San Francisco State University

Muhammad Sahimi – Professor of Chemical Engineering University of Southern California

Carole Saltz – Director (retired) Teachers College Press

Vida Samiian – Researcher, University of California, Los Angeles Professor of Linguistics and Dean Emerita California State University, Fresno

Eugene Schulman – Independent dissident

Leyli Shayegan – Retired Assistant Director Teachers College Press

Carole Snee – Retired Director of ESL California State University, Fresno

Mark Lewis Taylor – Maxwell M. Professor of Theology and Culture Princeton Theological Seminary

Baki Tezcan – University of California, Davis

Devra Weber – Emerita Professor of History University of California, Riverside

Thomas G. Weiss – Distinguished Fellow, Global Governance. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Presidential Professor of Political Science The CUNY Graduate Center

Mark Winterrowd

John Whitbeck – International Law Expert

Antonio C. S. Rosa, M.A. – Editor TRANSCEND Media Service


Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, an international relations scholar, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, Distinguished Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies, UCSB, author, co-author or editor of 60 books, and a speaker and activist on world affairs. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to two three-year terms as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and associated with the local campus of the University of California, and for several years chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His most recent book is On Nuclear Weapons, Denuclearization, Demilitarization, and Disarmament (2019).

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