Conservatives Question Gulf War II

Philadelphia City Paper

January 14, 2003

Edward Hamm does not like George Bush’s war mongering, not one bit.

Attacking Iraq at this junction is not just, Hamm says. War is not inevitable, he argues, and now is the time to stop it.

Ed Hamm is a wise man when it comes to U.S. involvement in world affairs. But what really makes him worth listening to is that he’s no pointy-headed liberal.

Edward H. Hamm is a retired real estate investor and oil man. He’s a card-carrying Republican who’s given more than half a million dollars to GOP campaign coffers, including $1,000 to elect George Bush. Hamm gives so much money to the party that he goes by the title of Republican Regent.

Angered that the subject of his political largess is acting so belligerently, Republican Regent Hamm says he wants Bush to knock it off or he wants a refund. And he’s not shy about his displeasure.

On Monday, Hamm paid $170,000 for a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal — titled “A Republican Dissent on Iraq” — exhorting Bush to back down. The ad is signed by more than two dozen people with Republican ties nationwide, including two from Philadelphia — John Haas, the retired chairman of the board at Rohm & Haas, and Peter Benoliel, chairman of the executive committee of Quaker Chemical Corporation.

Poor George. First it was the North Koreans. Now his own party is giving him grief.

So upset is Republican Regent Hamm that, to deliver his message to the Republican president, he not only opened up his wallet — the one that has funneled so much to the GOP — but he teamed up with the pointy heads.

Hamm’s original draft of the ad was massaged by the Avenging Angels, a “progressive” advertising and communications firm whose founder, Gene Case, began his career working with Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 re-election campaign.

According to, an environmentalist website, Case founded the $500-million advertising agency and assisted organizations like The Nation magazine, National Council of Churches, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and TrueMajority, a grassroots education and advocacy project founded by ultra-liberal ice cream magnate Ben Cohen.

The ad Hamm paid for, which is an open letter to George Bush, states that while “We supported the Gulf War. We accept the logic of a just war. [Y]our war on Iraq does not pass the test. It is not a just war. The candidate we supported in 2000 promised a more humble nation in our dealings with the world. We gave him our votes and our campaign contributions. That candidate was you. We feel betrayed. We want our money back. We want our country back.”

The ad goes on to question how many “young American lives will be lost in this dubious war” and how many “innocent Iraqis will be killed and maimed and made homeless.”

And, raising an issue it seems no one in the Bush administration has really considered, the ad states that “out of war may rise an Iraqi regime every bit as brutish as the present one. What will you do then?”

Calling Bush’s odds of success “infinitesimal,” Hamm and the other ad signers tell the president that he “cannot keep proclaiming peace while preparing for war.”

It is a very good point to make at a time when thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines are heading toward the Gulf.

What do the Philadelphia signers think about the President’s incessant pounding of the war drums?

Peter Benoliel, like Hamm, could not be reached for comment. John Haas is happy to talk about why he signed Hamm’s ad.

“I am not against war, just against us going in by ourselves,” says Haas, who was a Republican until switching allegiances earlier this year to vote for Ed Rendell in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. “A unilateral approach to this problem is the wrong way to go. It is a mistake for us to go in ourselves and create more problems than we solve. It will infuriate the world community, the Muslim community and create more terrorists. If you go in with the backing of the Security Council, you are all right.”

Haas, whose father helped found Rohm & Haas, says that disagreeing with President Bush is nothing new for him.

“I did not vote for Bush,” he says. “I have been a lifelong Republican, but I was not able to go along with his politics.”

Publicly, the White House says it is not blinking at Hamm, Haas or Benoliel.

“I don’t want to comment specifically about those individuals,” says White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. “The White House is not paying any attention to [the ad]. The president’s first priority is to protect the American people.”

As for Hamm’s criticisms, Stanzel says, “The use of military force is America’s last option. The president has indicated if force is necessary to keep peace, America will act deliberately, America will act decisively and America will prevail.”

Bush is “working with the international community,” Stanzel says. “This is something that he takes very seriously as president and there is still no evidence that Iraq has changed [its] approach from concealment to compliance.”

There is, however, no evidence yet that it hasn’t.

Hamm is right. Until the shooting starts, there is still time to avoid killing. Please, Mr. President, forget the pointy heads if you wish. Just heed the call of one of your party’s heaviest hitters.

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