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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

September 1, 2002

The Debate over Iraq

The major topic of debate among the TV talking heads and pontificating pundits is a possible U.S. war against Iraq. I normally deplore such frenzies, but this time itís justified. Waging war is the most serious function of government Ė it must never be undertaken lightly or without proper debate, reflection, study, and thought.

Thatís what is going on now. President Dubya has started this by making regime change the goal for Iraq. Saddam Hussein must go. Anything less Ė weapons inspections, containment, sanctions Ė is inadequate in the face of the threat Hussein represents.

But how does Hussein threaten America? According to President Dubya and other so-called hawks in his administration like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfield, Hussein:

  • Possesses chemical and biological weapons
  • Is working toward acquiring nuclear weapons
  • Has already used poison gas against his own people and Iran
  • Maintains grand designs on conquering the Saudi oil fields
  • Funds families of Palestinian suicide bombers
  • Attempted to assassinate former President Papa Bush
  • Has violated just about every tenet of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War
  • Harbors al-Queda terrorists and terrorist training camps
  • May have played some role in the September 11 attack

A friendly, pro-Western government that guarantees freedom to Iraqis would undermine other Arab governments that suppress their people. It would also break up OPEC by controlling the Iraqi oil fields, the second larges in the country. Freedom and prosperity, and low oil prices, would finally arrive in the Middle East.

Thatís quite a list. Assuming all these charges are true (and some are debatable), do they warrant a war to overthrow Hussein?

So-called doves dispute several of those charges and contend:

  • War against Iraq is too risky Ė the drawbacks outweigh the benefits
  • An attack would inflame the Middle East, enrage the ďArab streetĒ and cause more America-hatred among the Arab nations
  • It would anger other countries, virtually none of whom support a war
  • An attack would force Hussein to attack Israel and use his chemical and biological weapons against U.S. troops
  • Finally, wiping out Hussein would force the U.S. to occupy Iraq for decades to support a pro-Western democratic government, which would be a constant target of terrorists

Doves also question the morality of an Iraq attack. Hussein, they claim, has never attacked America and represents no threat to American interests. Heís attacked no other country since he got spanked in the Gulf War. Such a war would be a naked act of aggression. Besides, President Dubya must have war declared by Congress to make it legal. But, in the end, overthrowing Hussein is not worth dead American soldiers.

So thatís the debate, as I see it. Despite the serious subject matter, there have been moments of silliness. For example, doves and critics of the administration (often one and the same, but not always) said for weeks that President Dubya must make his case for regime change to the American people. So, this past week, Cheney has given two strong speeches outlining President Dubyaís case, and several talking heads suggested the administration was trying to stifle debate! They were ignoring the opposite point of view! Thatís not only silly, but incoherent, which implies that several pundits are using this opportunity to jab Dubya.

Others have slyly pointed out that many of these so-called hawks have never served in the military. So what? Clinton never served, in fact dodged the draft, but these same pundits never criticized Clinton for it. In fact, many of these same doves were silent when Clinton sent troops to Haiti and Bosnia.

So, there is a bit of partisanship involved here. But thatís to be expected, and thereís nothing wrong with it. In fact, the debate thatís occurring now is healthy. It shows Americaís greatness. How many governments in the world would tolerate something similar? Not many, and especially not in Iraq. As Americans, we should always remember what makes our country unique.

So whatís my take on this? Do I think we should invade Iraq? My answer would be a very cautious and uneasy yes. I understand the dovesí arguments and agree with many of them Ė any war is a risk and carries unforeseen consequences. But I believe the risk of doing nothing outweighs the risks of war. What happens when Hussein goes nuclear? The doves say he wouldnít dare use them, because he doesnít want to die. But he could use them without risking his own worthless skin. Letís look at some possible scenarios.

  • Hussein announces heís got nukes and the means to bomb America. He then invades Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, vowing to nuke Washington or New York if America intervenes. What does America do?
  • Hussein announces he has a nuclear weapon in a major city in the United States, smuggled in by Iraqi operatives, and if America doesnít do as he wishes, heíll set it off. Admittedly, this is a bit far-fetched, but still possible. What does America do?
  • Hussein gets the bomb but says nothing. Instead, he sells it to al-Queda or another terrorist group and they detonate it, taking full credit. In that case, the U.S. wouldnít know how the terrorists got the bomb. Hussein stays safe.

In essence, the dovesí arguments boil down to this: We should wait until Iraq acquires a nuke and murders millions of Americas before we take him out. The hawks, in essence, say that we shouldnít wait for millions of Americans to die, so letís take him out now before Hussein has a chance to do just that.

Look, Iím no warmonger. War sucks. People die. Innocents die. Itís risky and could backfire. But sometimes, the alternative is worse.

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