Many Americans would be surprised to learn that among the most important constituencies backing the Bush administration’s disastrous agenda in the Middle East and promoting anti-Arab policies has been the one million-strong American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT leadership has gone so far as to make a series of public statements and push through resolutions with demonstrably inaccurate assertions in its defense of administration policy. A key constituent union of the AFL-CIO, the AFT – which also represents a significant number of health care and other public service workers – gives over $5 million in contributions to congressional candidates each election cycle.
In January 2003, as anti-war activists were scrambling to prevent a U.S. invasion of Iraq war by challenging the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq having reconstituted its chemical and biological weapons capability, offensive delivery system, and nuclear weapons program, the AFT’s executive council decided to weigh in on the debate.
The AFT executive council issued a public statement claiming that Iraq at that time posed “a unique threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East” and “to the national security interests of the United States.” This decision to parrot the Bush administration’s rhetoric regarding Iraq’s alleged military capabilities flew in the face of substantial evidence gathered from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN Special Commission on Iraq, and the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission. In addition, testimony by former UN arms inspectors, articles in scholarly journals by arms control experts, reports by investigative journalists, and analyses by independent research institutes available at that time cast serious doubts on such allegations.