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Executive Word -- Executives Say 'No' To Iraq War

AkPharma CEO Kligerman says evidence doesn't justify military action.

Alan E. Kligerman Founder & CEO AkPharma Inc. Pleasantville, N.J. Age: 72 Education: Cornell University, studied the dairy industry. Career Highlights: 1962: Founded the SugarLo Co. 1974: Started the business that in 1977 become Lactaid Inc. 1987: Shared the Institute of Food Technologist's (IFT) Industrial Achievement Award for developing Lactaid. 1991: Founded AkPharma Inc. Interests: Active in philanthropy and public policy. Studies literature and science at Oxford and Cambridge, England. Reads extensively, gardens and plays a little baroque music on piano, recorder and a left-handed-strung cello. Family: Wife, Donna, five children and six grandchildren.

Since October 2002 an organization called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (BLSP) has run ads in the national media condemning the Bush Administration's drive to launch a war in Iraq. The group, whose members include 500 current or former CEOs of such companies as Bell Industries, Eastman Kodak Co. and Hasbro Inc., formed in 1996 with a goal of diverting 15% of the U.S. defense budget to programs that benefit children. One of the group's most vocal opponents of the war, Alan E. Kligerman, CEO of AkPharma, maker of food products and dietary supplements, spoke to IndustryWeek in early February to explain why he thinks the "rush to war" is wrong. IW: In addition to supporting BLSP advertisements that oppose war in Iraq, you've funded an ad in The Press, Atlantic City, N.J. Why are you so vocal with your opposition? Kligerman: I feel very strongly about the position I stand for. Before [I joined the BLSP] I belonged to BENS, Business Executives for National Security. I joined that during the Vietnam War [when] I was financing ads, with others, in the New York Times: 'Mr. President get us out of Vietnam.' So, I'm no newcomer to this. I believe in a U.S. that has the qualities within it that its press releases say it does . . . freedom of speech, good education, where we don't let our people starve. Where we have a government with a heart. This is a very incomplete list. These situations are all being eroded. IW: What is your main objection to the war? Kligerman: We have financed terrorist activities all over the world through our School for the Americas in Fort Benning [Ga.]. We're responsible for enormous amounts of misery and terrorism. We showed them how to do it. We have supported and put in place and further supported dictators. So, our record regarding governments that are repressive toward their people -- that are hated by their people -- is abysmal. So all this talk about how bad Hussein is -- all of which is true, no doubt -- it cuts no ice with me. This is not the reason we're doing this. IW: Why do you think the Bush Administration is pushing for war if not to rid the U.S. of a national security threat? Kligerman: To me the reason we're doing this is we want that oil. [And] it kind of takes the conversation away from somebody (what was his name?) whose people attacked the World Trade towers who, we haven't caught, and can't catch, and has been in that area. While we were full of rhetoric in the beginning, there's nothing now. They don't even mention him. IW: So you aren't convinced by their argument that Saddam is a ruthless dictator who is hiding, and perhaps still building, weapons of mass destruction? Kligerman: I don't say the photographs are wrong. I am not going to be in the position of defending Saddam Hussein, or Iraq, or any of that. I loathe him. This man is no good. But whether that justifies the overt action on our part to go in and invade that country . . . We have tolerated all kinds of dictators worse than Saddam. IW: What about the Bush Administration's arguments linking Hussein with terrorists and claim that, if left alone, Hussein will terrorize, or support people who will terrorize our country? Kligerman: There is simply inadequate evidence that there is enough terrorism coming out of Iraq to justify what we're doing. They're lying. They're diverting us from the main thing. It's a red herring. Except this red herring happens to have oil. E-mail nominations for Executive Word to Editor-in-Chief Patricia Panchak at [email protected].
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