Starting a war with Iraq would be one of the biggest and costliest mistakes in the history of the United States of America.
By most estimates, hundreds of thousands of people, or more, will be killed – Americans, Iraqis and people from the few other nations who choose to participate. It will cost astronomical amounts of our tax money, at a time when we can least afford it. It will endanger our lives at home by further inciting terrorists. And it won’t solve anything.
This is because as far as Iraq and America are concerned, there’s really nothing to solve. While Saddam Hussein may be violating the letter of the post-Gulf War agreements, the intent of those agreements was to keep the peace. The peace has been kept. An uneasy peace is better than no peace at all.
Whatever weapons Hussein has, he’s been sitting on them for 12 years. This is because he’s not a radical Islamic fundamentalist, and he’s not a lunatic.
Insanity is not known for its patience.
Saddam Hussein is a tinhorn dictator out for his own rear end, period. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, was told just this before he voted against last fall’s congressional resolution authorizing war against Iraq. And it wasn’t liberal congresspeople or European peaceniks who told him, it was U.S. generals and intelligence officials he had asked about the subject.
Inslee was also told Hussein had chemical weapons during the Gulf War and did not use them. Why? Because he knows we would have obliterated him, wiped him off the map. He knew it then and he knows it now. He cannot hope to compete with us when it comes to firepower.
Chemical and biological weapons leave identifying marks. Hussein knows that we’d know where they came from. Besides, all terrorists really need is a Ryder truck and a load of fertilizer, or a white van and a high-powered rifle.
So let’s blow them away first, you might say. Nuke the Middle East. After all, that would be the ultimate pre-emptive strike. But this wouldn’t get the terrorists who live in other countries, including our own – which brings us back to the Ryder truck.
So lock them all up, you say. But that would truly be the final victory for the terrorists, for they would have ruined the freedom that makes our country great.
So what can we do about terrorism? That really is the primary issue here, though Bush didn’t mention it a lot in his first months of railing against Iraq – which leaves open the possibility that the real issues for him are oil, drawing attention away from the economy and from the fact we have yet to capture Osama bin Laden.
Oil. Our pigheaded refusal to shift our society away from dependence on it, and toward more sustainable forms of energy, is a huge part of the terrorist issue. Another huge part is Israel. About the first part, something can easily, if not quickly, be done. The second part is much trickier. But a firm declaration of intent to reach a resolution that’s fair to everyone regarding Israel – and then following through on it – would at least show that we’re serious about peace. Our support from others in the world for whatever action we take at that point would strengthen, and the hardcore terrorists would be alone in their contempt.
As for dictators such as Hussein and those in North Korea, they’re all over the world. Amnesty International counted human rights violations in 152 countries in 2001. Some of them have nuclear weapons. As odious as such tyrants are, and as big and powerful as we are, we’re never going to get rid of them all. They, like Hussein, know they can’t beat us one on one – their goal is more likely to use nuclear weapons for leverage and bargaining power, if not legitimate self defense. The nuclear, biological and chemical warfare monster was let out of its cage years ago and there’s no capturing or killing it. The days when we can be the control freaks of the world are over.
Our efforts to set up a stable, friendly regime in Afghanistan have broken down amidst the warring factions of the area. Why should we believe Iraq would be any different? How long would we have to stay?
Pakistan has an unstable government that is friendly to us, and has nuclear weapons. Could the regime survive the anger in the streets that would follow another major attack on the region? Would we have to take over Pakistan, too, to keep terrorists from getting their hands on those weapons? Where does it end?
The situation throughout the world is unstable enough without somebody starting a major war that would have no definite end in sight. And that’s what we’d be doing – going from a nation known for finishing wars to one that starts them.
It would then be us who’s on trial in the world court. In assault cases, the guilty party is not the one who provokes or cajoles, it’s the one who throws the first punch.
Bill Sheets is editor of the Edmonds edition of the Enterprise.