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Should We Go to War: Contemplations over Iraq

Imagine you are a citizen of Iraq. You and your family are starving, and many people you know are sick and cannot get the supplies they need to get better. You watch as your neighbor is invited to a presidential palace for saying wonderful things about his leader, sentiments that you cannot bring yourself to echo. You know, instinctively, that things would be better without Saddam Hussein.

You write about your concerns, wondering if Saddam will ever allow you and your family access to the stockpiles of food and supplies that are kept under strict guard, never seeing the light of day, or if you will ever be allowed to go on your Hajj, a religious pilgrimage mandated by your faith. Somehow, the document you write disappears from your desk, and you wait in fear, wondering who is reading it.

Soon you receive a video in the mail, a video of your daughter being raped by soldiers and then tortured by government doctors. Your daughter is branded, tied to a ceiling fan, and given electric shock through a large metallic dildo. The video seems to chronicle days worth of torture that end in your child's death. After you watch this you receive a phonecall warning you not to speak out against your government again, because your other daughter is being detained.

This is what life is like for the majority of people in Iraq, according to a wide range of sources [1, 4, 9, 12].

Those who have seen the scars left behind by the people who managed to escape, and those who have heard the stories of guards and defectors who left the country, all know one thing: the Iraqi regime is evil. There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein does not care about humanitarian concerns; the evidence to this is startling. A soccer player beaten so badly that he could never play soccer again because of a bad season, a political prisoner forced to watch his entire family of twelve decapitated in front of him, a man whose tongue was amputated because he denied an offer to work for an Iraqi political newspaper, people who are billed for the cost of torture and execution of family members, ten-year-old children who die of heat stroke while being forced at gunpoint to train at Saddam Cubs [1], the 4 million Kurds brutally attacked by their own government (including the 5,000 citizens killed by chemical attack in Halabja) [2, 3], an additional 15,000 people killed by chemical attack in Iran, U.N. documentation of over 16,000 missing persons in 1999 [1], and the ecological disaster that followed the burning and spilling of Kuwait oil [5] all point to the same conclusion: the regime must go, for the good of humanity. The U.N. said so itself, in UNSCR 688, which condemns Iraq for its repressive activities towards its own citizens, "the consequences of which threaten international peace and security."

The modern debate over Iraq, however, seems to skim over this point. The modern debate is full of questions of weaponry, terrorism, and world opinion, questions that are crucially important but fail to address the humanitarian problem. However, in order to convince you that regime change in Iraq is necessary, not only because of the humanitarian state within the country but also because of a mountain of other considerations and evidence, I shall entertain these questions.

Let me start with the question of weaponry. There aren't many people in the public light, aside from Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz, who are actually trying to argue that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction. We've known about these weapons for a long time, and the proof to their existence has piled up, not only in U.N. databases, the testimonies of defectors and escapees [12], stolen Iraqi documents, and UNSCOM reports [15, 16], but also in the mass graves of Kurdish citizens who were gassed in Northern Iraq and Iranian cities that stand today as chemically saturated ghost towns. The history of Iraq does not allow any logical person to conclude that we should simply believe Saddam when he states that he has destroyed all the chemical and biological weapons he had or that he is not actively pursuing nuclear capabilities.

Therefore, putting that aside, I shall address a certain school of thought that claims that the proliferation of these weapons within the borders of Iraq is not a problem at all, because of the concept of deterrence. It's an appealing idea: do nothing, and everything will be okay. It's not hard to imagine that Iraq will reach the same conclusion that the U.S.S.R. reached during the Cold War, that the possibility of mutually assured destruction is too great to ever use a WMD. And it is true that, during the Gulf War, the threat given to Saddam from President Bush through James Baker and Tariq Aziz seems to have held some weight. Iraq did not use any chemical or biological weapons in the war, and many seem to think that this is proof positive that Hussein will not use WMDs against America or its allies unless he believes his back is against the wall. [7]

However, the threat given to Hussein at the beginning of the Gulf War was not just about chemical weapons; it was three-fold. The written deterrence did suggest that biological or chemical weapons would lead to "severest consequences," but it also suggested the same consequences for terrorist strikes sent by Iraq to America or Israel, strikes that were both sent and thwarted. Even more interesting is the third threat, calling for Saddam not to destroy the Kuwaiti oil fields. Hussein ordered the burning and dumping of these fields, causing one of the biggest ecological catastrophes to date (dwarfing the Exxon Valdez spill), and we failed to react. [5, 8]

From this, in addition to our failure to react to the gassing of his own citizens, Saddam Hussein has learned that we don't always follow through with our threats, and he is capable of making the arguably accurate conclusion that WMDs will deter us far more than they will deter him. He has admitted, for example, that his biggest mistake in invading Kuwait was not the invasion itself, but in his timing. If he had waited until a nuclear bomb had been developed, the U.S. wouldn't have retaliated.

Saddam Hussein knows that real power resides in these weapons, and he will do anything to get his hands on that power. If he is allowed to develop a nuclear arsenal, his regime will blackmail and terrorize, spreading its influence and its evil across the entire Middle East and climaxing in a brutal holy war over Israel. From this perspective, it is not a matter of whether or not we should go to war, but a question of when we will go and how we go about doing it. Given the choice of dealing with Iraq before it has nuclear weapons or after, I think any rational human being would choose the former.

The second question that is raised deals with terrorism. Some people argue that a strike against Iraq has nothing to do with the U.S.-lead war on terror. Under certain semantics, these people could philosophically be right, but, when looked at broadly, one can see that this is the very heart of the war on terror. Terrorism is a huge threat, and one that we have been battling in the deserts of Afghanistan, but it is nothing compared to the threat of terrorism when combined with weapons of mass destruction. While your ordinary suicide bomber couldnít hope to get his hands on a biological agent or a nuclear bomb, an organized terror group, pleading with a nation like Iraq, could. Islamic terrorism has the same enemy as Iraq, and the two, if coupled, could conceivably bring it down.

This is a war on two fronts, a war against terrorists themselves and a war against the proliferation of WMDs. Even if Saddam proves not to be suicidal enough to use a chemical weapon on his enemies abroad again, nobody can argue that an Islamic extremist isnít ready to sacrifice himself in order to kill millions of Americans. We all learned very dramatically that the old standard that prevented the explosion of the Cold War no longer applies; violent suicide has now become a viable option to our enemies. We are taking the war to terrorists, but it is a war we will ultimately lose if we donít stop them from getting their hands on weapons that we refuse to use. There is no country on the planet that poses a bigger threat to non-proliferation than Iraq, which is why Iraq is the next inevitable target in this struggle.

Besides, Iraq does fall into the list of countries that are in violation of the Bush Doctrine. While a connection to Al Qaeda is flimsy without the evidence that our government claims to have, it is a widely known fact that Iraq has harbored and supported terrorism, not only organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, but also organizations that strike within the borders of Iraq. He has also provided haven for several terrorist leaders, including Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas. In addition to that, if you define terrorism as an attack on a civilian population for political gain, then Saddam Hussein, for his treatment of Kurds in the north and his treatment of the citizens of both Iran and Kuwait, is a terrorist. [9, 12, 13]

On the final issue, that of world opinion, I am in agreement with much of the naysayer's argument. World opinion is important when you are trying to do something militarily against another nation. Not only do you need to maintain political allies, but you also require international help and support in order to make the war logistically plausible.

Where I disagree with the naysayers, though, is on the issue of whether or not we have enough international support for a war with Iraq. I believe that we do. The U.N. had carte blanche in 1998 to invade, and it came really close to happening, until the U.S. pulled out. And, now, we have a unanimous agreement from the U.N. that calls for action if Iraq does anything to constitute material breech. The shooting down of Predators in the no-fly zone, the missing tagged weapons from previous inspections, and the blatant omissions in Iraq's weapons declaration all constitute material breech. If we wanted to, we could invade Iraq right now (barring military build-up considerations) and we would have the support of the U.N. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, the naysayers continue to warn against unilateral action.

Since when is calling for international support, getting an international mandate, and sending in a team of international inspectors unilateral?

Let me make it abundantly clear what we are facing. Saddam Hussein, a student of Stalin and Nebuchanezzar, a brutal warlord who uses fear, murder, and torture to achieve political security, is doing everything he can to get his finger on the button. Can we allow him to get to that point? Can we hope, against everything we know, that he is not crazy enough to push it? His calculation is simple: absolute power or death. If he doesn't think we will let him have absolute power, he will push that button, and he will reduce America and Israel, if not the entire planet, to a wasteland. Hussein is poised to become the next Adolph Hitler, and we can only imagine in our worst nightmares what Hitler would have been like had he had weapons of mass destruction.

So now all I'm left with is the cold calculation at the heart of all warfare: will the number of lives saved by this proposed incursion outweigh the number of lives lost? Considering the hundreds of thousands of suffering citizens within Iraq (suffering because of restrictions placed upon them by the regime, not the U.N. [4]) in addition to the potential loss of millions if Iraq develops a nuclear weapon and begins invading its neighbors or arming mutual enemies to the U.S., I can say with a firm stance that, even if half a million people die in a current war with Iraq, including innocent civilians in Israel or America, the price is a bargain compared to the price of inaction.

Yes, we should invade Iraq. The sooner, the better.


LINKS/SOURCES:
(these are not the sum total of my research on this subject)

1. Saddam Hussein's Repression of the Iraqi People
2. Anfal: The Kurdish Genocide in Iraq
3. Lesson of Iraq's Mass Murder
4. Myths and Facts about Iraq
5. Iraq War: Environmental Fears
6. CNN Cold War - Historical Documents: Mutual Deterrence
7. Give Deterrence a Chance (pdf)
8. Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred
9. President Bush's Oct. 8, 2002 Speech
10. Saddam's War Plan
11. Saddam's Plan to Defeat U.S.
12. Saddam's Bombmaker
13. Next Stop, Iraq
14. NATO: Moral obligation to U.S.
15. UNSCOM's Comprehensive Review of Iraq's Military Capabilities (1998)
16. UNSCOM's Chart of WMD capabilities in Iraq (1998)

-e. magill, 12/30/2002
Copyright ©2002 e. magill. All rights reserved.