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Bush Fails to Make Case for War
17 September 2002
You call that a case?
I know I'm a war skeptic but, honestly -- you call that a case? Listen, I don't think anyone with a functioning brain in America is going to defend Saddam Hussein or deny that he's a power-hungry dictator whose cruelty ranks right up there with the most notorious bad guys of the 20th century.
This is a guy who used chemical weapons in his war against Iran and most infamously in March 1988 when he gassed the Kurds.
Of course, what ought to tone down the self-righteousness coming out of Washington, D.C., these days is the fact that, according to our own Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, under the administrations of Reagan and Bush No. 41, we sold Iraq anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism.
And we didn't stop when word got out about the gassing of the Kurds in the town of Halabja that claimed the lives of 5,000. Nope. We sold them this stuff right up until March 1992. That's March 1992 -- a year after the Gulf War was over.
As chairman of the Senate committee that investigated these sales, Donald Riegle said: "U.N. inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and (established) that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs."
Riegle further revealed that between January 1985 and August 1990, the "executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that's a devastating record," he said.
Such revelations, one might think, would have Americans demanding U.S.-based defense corporations stop dealing arms to thugs around the world. Instead, war hawks ignore their own culpability and then, using a reverse war-on-drugs rationale, assign all blame to the user and none to the dealer.
As a student of non-violent political theory and practice, I applaud authentic attempts to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. But let's be real here. You mean to tell me that the longtime cause of the peace movement has become the driving force of Bush's "war on terrorism"?
As for the "threat" Iraq poses, Tufts history professor Gary Leupp points out: "Saddam's missiles can't come close to the U.S. They can reach Moscow, but the Russians aren't concerned; they're signing a $40 billion economic and trade cooperation package with Iraq. Iraq's missiles can reach Sicily, but the Europeans aren't concerned; they firmly oppose U.S. war plans."
Iraq's neighbors, including U.S. friends Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, even Kuwait, say they don't feel threatened by Iraq and also oppose a war.
And recently, Moshe Ya'alon, Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, told Ha'aretz: "In the long term, the threat of Iraq or Hezbollah doesn't make me lose sleep." That Ya'alon is sleeping well might have something to do with the fact that Israel is a nuclear power, which brings me to my next point.
The U.N. resolution calling for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction disarmament also calls for the Middle East to be a nuclear-free zone, which means Israel is in violation of the very resolution that we claim Iraq is violating and is the basis for going after Saddam.
But let's say we get Saddam. Even putting aside the staggering cost and difficulty of establishing a democracy in Iraq, my question is: Why would a "democratically elected" leader be less likely to pursue a nuke program?
Can't you imagine, as professor Leupp does, that even a democratically elected leader might think: "Israel has nukes. Russia, to our north, has nukes. So does China, Pakistan and India. Our unfriendly neighbor in Iran has a nuclear program. Don't I owe it to my people to acquire them for our defense? Is it satanic for technically advanced nations to want to follow in the footsteps of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- or merely normal?"
And as international relations scholar Scott Burchill points out, "Iraq had chemical and biological weapons during the Gulf War in 1991 and chose not to use them. Why would Saddam Hussein be more inclined to use them now knowing the horrendous consequences (as they were explained to him by Brent Scowcroft in 1991), unless his very personal survival was at stake and he had nothing left to lose?
"It is true that Saddam Hussein has used these weapons before . . . (but) having used them before, is he more likely to use them again? This is presumed, implied and sometimes stated in Western capitals, but the logic of the argument would suggest that the U.S. is likely to use nuclear weapons because it is the only state to have previously dropped them upon civilians. Is this credible?"
No, it's not credible. And neither is the case that we should allow a group of privileged politicians to send other people's children to die in a war against Iraq.