The United States should go to war with Iraq. I sincerely believe this to be true.
A great deal has been stated in Everything 2 about how inane and ridiculous it is that we are preparing to invade Iraq. Protests have been held in major cities. Celebrities have begun working the talk show circuits to voice their dissent. Political leaders around the globe have declared that they will not support an invasion.
This write up is my silly waste of time, my pointless contribution to drama. It is long, I’m afraid, but it is filled with my honest beliefs. Perhaps you should prepare yourself – go get a refreshing beverage before you read, and ultimately vote.
1. The war on terrorism is really just a continuation of the war on totalitarianism.
Only history may guide us. We have learned much about war over the years. We have learned, through Vietnam, that Americans will not support a long, painful war fought under shifting and limited objectives. We have learned, from the war in Somalia, that the American people will not support peacekeeping operations in resource-poor countries. We have learned, through the tragedies of Bosnia-Herzegovina, that the UN cannot be counted on to respond in a timely manner, even against genocide. We have learned, through the Cold War, that taking a tough stance works. Most of all, we have learned, from numerous observations, that totalitarianism is the greatest threat against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
You may debate these beliefs. That is your right – inherent in your existence and fully supported by the free societies of the world. But these are the common beliefs of the American legislators and executors. They are the basis upon which deadly decisions are made. What else do they have to go on, except for lessons learned from the past? What better advice is there than history?
“The prevalence of the ethnic factor in today's internal warfare no doubt contributes to the appalling phenomenon of "total war" with ethnic cleansing as an extreme expression. Its ingredients have become commonplace; an indiscriminate targeting of civilian populations, the appearance of non-state actors of a warlord-type, the hi-jacking of humanitarian aid in conflict areas and the frightening spread of small weapons in many regions of the world. Out of the more than 10 million casualties in internal conflicts around the world since 1990, the major part have been civilians (Eliasson, 1).”
We also believe in pursuing peaceful solutions. I know that sounds laughable to many, what with the human tendency to remember the dramatic. It’s hard to remember the failed peace talks in Paris or the Camp David Accords when the images of the first Gulf War are so much more compelling. But is it honestly believed by so many people that American and British leaders will rush into unnecessary war? Is it honestly believed by so many citizens of the world that all our governments actions are based solely on ulterior motives?
I don’t see much bluff, subterfuge, or reason for ulterior motive in this instance. America has been very forthcoming in providing reasons why we are sending troops to the Middle East. Likewise, coalition leaders have been very specific in stating how war can be avoided.
If American leaders were only seeking revenge or oil, or secretly felt that war is of greater importance than peaceful negotiation, then it would not be Iraq that need fear invasion – it would be Saudi Arabia. George W. Bush could find all the circumstantial evidence needed in allegations that the Saudi royal family met with Osama bin Laden and provided over $300 million to support al-Qaeda, (Adelman, 2), or certainly in the fact that fifteen of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabian (CNN, 1). But the Saudi Royal family has no reason to fear war for the simple reason that hope for peaceful negotiation exists.
“All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take (Gandhi, 2).”
2. The war on Iraq directly supports the war on terrorism.
Where, exactly, can terrorists be found? Many would say to look in the Philippines (Abu-Sayyaff), Afghanistan (al-Qaeda), or Lebanon (Hezbollah). But this is where you find the end result of terrorist action – the poor and deprived people of the world who have been raised to believe a suicide bomber is a martyr, and becoming a martyr is the greatest human achievement. The terrorists are fed, clothed, trained and encouraged by totalitarian leaders.
Killing the terrorists themselves solves nothing, yet terrorism practically extinguishes the possibility of peace, and therefore must be reduced if not fully eliminated. Just as we fight fire by removing the fuel, we also fight terrorism by removing the support structure it depends on. Unfortunately for us all, terrorism has found a safe harbor in the Middle East.
“The General Assembly…Urgently calls for international cooperation to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism, and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting, or harboring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of such acts will be held accountable (United Nations, 1).”
3. Saddam Hussein supports terrorism.
Certainly the suffering of many people would be lessened by Saddam Hussein’s removal from power. As he has chosen not to seek exile, what option is there other than war? Any recent concessions on the part of Iraq are not founded on a fear of UN arms inspectors; they come from a fear of the massive military buildup on Iraq’s borders. We have given the peace process a chance, for over a decade. Saddam has not.
“Just as Kofi Annan says, diplomacy may need to be backed up by force. Inspections may need to be backed up by pressure. (Blix, 1)”
Some seem unwilling to believe that Iraq supports terrorism in any way, which baffles me. Certainly there are many Everything 2 readers out there who remember Abu Nidal, who was recently killed after years of hiding in Baghdad. For those of you too young to know who Abu Nidal is, his name was synonymous with terrorism, before being upstaged by Osama bin Laden. I leave you to read up on his activities if you care to know what type of person is welcome under Saddam’s rule.
In a remarkable attempt to seek the friendship and support promised to America after September 11, Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the UN and showed satellite photographs of terrorist training camps in Iraq. Audiotapes were played of Iraqi soldiers as they discussed how to hide chemical weapons from UN inspectors. In the secret world of intelligence, it is always possible that the most damning evidence might never be presented to the public, simply to preserve our most valuable intelligence gathering methods.
There is also Abu Musab Zarqawi, who Colin Powell identified as a former al-Qaeda affiliate and chemical weapons specialist, and who once planned the assassination of a US diplomat in Jordan. He is now suspected of helping Ansar al-Islam, another terrorist organization dedicated to the genocide of Iraqi Kurds, based in Northern Iraq (CFR, 1).
4. Invading Iraq is the smartest move we can make to combat terrorism.
If this is, in fact, a “war on terrorism”, then what better tactical and logistical advantage could possibly be gained other than an Iraqi invasion? Take a moment to bring up a map of the Middle East (Lonely Planet works well, see http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/loc-mea.htm for a clean, convenient reference), and see where Iraq fits in the whole picture. Iran, one of the three “Axis of Evil” nations, would find itself stuck in a vise between an occupied Afghanistan and an occupied Iraq. Syria, which is also a major supporter of terrorism, would likewise find itself caught between an occupied Iraq and a democratic Turkey. Most important of all, an occupation of Iraq would cut the flow of funds and equipment through Iran, to Iraq, then Syria, into Lebanon, to finally explode in the discos and cafes of Israel. If the West Bank is where terrorists are found, then Iraq is where the terrorist supply network is found, and war is all about logistics.
Terrorism is enacted by the poor and suffering, who are duped into killing themselves by totalitarian leaders. It is those same totalitarian leaders who keep their source of martyrs poor. Again and again, Saddam has refused to use aid money to feed his own people. In March, 2000, the Iraqi government refused a UN Security Council proposal to provide over $49.4 million in aid to Iraqi pilgrims destined for Mecca. Instead, Iraq insisted the money be put directly into its central bank for them to spend at their own discretion (AP, 2).
5. Invading Iraq might improve stability in the region.
Many fear that a US presence in the Middle East would destabilize the region. Undoubtedly, our presence would be inflammatory, and a clearly defined exit strategy, and clearly defined milestones that must be achieved before we abandon Iraq, will most likely be as necessary as sound invasion plans.
But history has shown that ignoring a problem does not make it go away, and instability is already a problem in the Middle East that has been ignored for too long. An Iraqi invasion geared toward the removal of Saddam Hussein, followed by an effort to put aid where it belongs – in the bellies of starving Iraqi children – might go further than any previous effort to stabilize the Middle East. Perhaps ending the 30 years of tyranny that the Iraqi people have suffered under will allow peace to take root in the region, where currently so many are dying.
Of course, it might also end terribly. The removal of Saddam Hussein might lead to a more corrupt and insidious replacement – perhaps a zealot even more determined to eliminate the perceived threat of Zionism, or even more dedicated to supporting terrorism. Perhaps a long occupation of Iraq will occur, which will heighten tensions. Perhaps many people will be killed. Perhaps we will lose. Perhaps we will descend into World War III. Perhaps Saddam will go out in a final fit of destruction, launching chemical weapons warheads against coalition troops and into the heart of Israel. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
“Saddam Hussein’s use of mustard and nerve gas against the Kurds in 1988 was one of the 20th century’s most horrible atrocities; 5,000 men, women and children died (Powell, 4).”
It is hard to imagine a more terrible leader than Saddam Hussein though. We have heard the words so many times that they have lost their meaning, but Saddam has used chemical weapons against his own people. Saddam has torture chambers in the basements of his numerous palaces (La Guardia, 1). His son, Uday, tortures the Iraqi soccer team if they lose a match. Uday is also said to enjoy excesses in rape and murder (Kocher, 1). There actually exists videotape of Saddam ordering the death of politicians who dared speak against him, recorded for posterity, as the politicians are lead from the Iraqi senate to be immediately shot (Nightline).
Nothing is certain in war. This is the main reason why I am opposed to unnecessary war, just as most sane people are. And yet, I persist that this war is necessary, and I believe we should invade Iraq. I contend that the Middle East is already unstable – unstable to the point of terror and madness – and that our actions are necessary to, hope beyond hope, improve the lives of the people of Iraq.
6. Is it the oil that concerns people?
I’m not going to quibble here, not with the E2 crowd (which, for the Internet, is a remarkably rational and well-read group). Certainly oil is a factor. All wars are trade wars, simply because trade allows for defense. Trade allows your military to be well fed and well trained. Trade allows for wealth.
“If we go to war it’s not about oil…But after Saddam, it becomes all about oil (Grier, 2).”
But it is ridiculous to suggest that oil is our only motivation in this upcoming Gulf War. If all we cared about was oil, we would save ourselves the incredible costs of war, and the associated market downturns, to simply lift sanctions and trade oil with Iraq.
However, however, however. At least there exists the remote potential that we might recoup some of our expenses, and our expenses shall be extreme. It’s a slim chance, and a terrible gamble, considering the budget surplus congress argued about only 3 years ago is long gone and replaced with a terrifying 300 billion dollar trade deficit (Carney, 1). At least the potential for coalition occupation of Iraq gives us a legitimate bargaining tool to hold against Saudi Arabia for their support of terrorism, and show them they may no longer play both sides of the coin against each another.
If blood for oil is your major sticking point, you have a legitimate gripe. But perhaps the issue is far more complicated, and others are more deserving of your scorn than simply George Bush. Perhaps we, the common citizenry of the world, have ourselves to blame on this one. We are the ones willing to watch Africa melt under the pressures of genocidal tribal warlords and AIDS, because they have no oil to inspire us to action.
It is sadly true. A videotape of American pilots forced into confession in the first Gulf War enraged Americans. Video of a marines corpse being dragged through Mogadishu terrified us, and ended all efforts to stop genocide in Africa. Osama saw this as further proof of our weakness, which, combined with his success in withstanding Russian troops, inspired him to attack America directly. Yet more lessons learned from history.
7. Is it the rhetoric that concerns people?
“After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.” – 27 September 2002
"You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” – 6 November 2001
"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” - 20 September 2001
“Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success.” – 21 September 2001
“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” – 29 January 2002
The world loves a sound bite. It allows very complicated issues to be boiled down into simple concepts, often incorrect, but easy to process and use as a reference. No doubt, a great portion of the world rejects the notion that they must either be “with us or against us”. No doubt we resent having our patriotism questioned. No doubt we dread hearing a president warn us of a lengthy campaign, and dramatic strikes visible on TV.
But it is unfortunate, and in my opinion unfair, to judge the entire issue according to words spoken weeks after September 11. Everything 2 enjoys an international audience, so I will take a moment to state what every American knows as fact – the destruction of the World Trade Center fucked us up. All of us. Our soldiers and our intelligence agents, our policemen and our firemen, our housewives and our Wall Street investors…and our president and his speechwriters, all of us, were fucked up. If our words sounded frantic, then trust me when I say that wasn’t the half of it.
It might be that those words are wrong. Certainly, if it were possible, George would pull them back. The damage done from saying such things has far exceeded any advantage gained.
But, it might just be that those words are right. In the fight against terror, you might actually be either with us or against us. Can there be any halfway point? This might turn into a “lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” It might turn out that, yes, Iran, Iraq and North Korea comprise an axis of evil. Evil might be more than simply an ill-conceived Texas notion.
This is the rhetoric of war. This is what the drums and rattling sabers sound like. This is how you prepare a shocked, bewildered nation, accustomed to peace, for the horrors of bloodshed.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills (Churchill).”
These are not the words any of us enjoy hearing. Pity to us all, who should live in such times. But we do live in such times. There is no avoiding it. We are here, and mistakes of the past are back to haunt us. Totalitarian leaders do not respond well to the word please.
8. Is it the certain death of Iraqi civilians that concerns people?
It concerns us all. Certainly, many will die, and the television cameras will be there to show it all. Women, children, and the elderly will fall victim, along with thousands and thousands of Iraqi combatants.
But it isn’t Britain, or the United States, or Canada or France, who decided to put weapons in mosques to keep them from being destroyed. George Bush and Tony Blair are not surrounding themselves with human shields, and I would like to think they never would.
If it is the simple hatred of war and murder that offends so many, then God bless them. I mean that with all my heart. Please, people of the world, Make Love, Not War. Make love so often that you fill your home with beautiful babies, and raise those babies to be kind to one another, and fill future generations with rational minded, sympathetic peace seeking souls. I’ve certainly tried. I have done all I can to teach my children that life is a valuable commodity, and that we should be judged according to our acts, not our nationality.
At the same time, I have been a member of the United States Air Force for over seventeen years now. I volunteered; knowing full well that times like these would surface. I was raised during the Cold War, and grew up honestly believing that tomorrow may never come, and Mutually Assured Destruction was the folly of our times.
If you fear for your soldiers, thanks, but stop worrying. Nobody is forcing us. We are not weak. We are not maniacs anxious to murder, but are instead bound by the Laws of Armed Conflict (LoAC). We don’t believe our leaders will throw our lives away, just so commuters can get gas for under a dollar a gallon. Most of all, we believe our cause is just, and we don’t see our efforts as pointless and stupid.
March for peace, if you feel it is the right thing to do. Speak out. Take action. Decide to do something about it (not much different from when I decided to do something about it, seventeen years ago). I respect your passion and willingness to speak your mind. I’ll fight to preserve that right, if I must.
9. Why now?
Yes. Why now? Why, oh why have we waited so long? Are there any among us who remember a time of peace in the Middle East? Are there any among us who didn’t predict that the twenty-first century would be riddled with acts of terrorism?
The UN arms inspectors would be thrown out of Iraq within weeks if not for the threat of war. This is a lesson from history.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, the man with the multimedia presentations describing the urgent need for war, was a primary advocate of not fighting the first Gulf War, and pressed to end the fighting before Saddam was removed from power (Freund, 1). He now regrets that decision. Many of us do.
Should have, could have, would have. These are our lessons. This is also our history, from which we have learned, and upon which we base our actions. We’re doing the best we can here. Have faith.
For an update on pelsmith's beliefs, see July 3, 2004.
N.B. These references were selected on the basis that they offer unique perspectives, while still stating basic facts.
Adelman, K., (2002), Saudi Arabia: No Friend of Ours, Fox News, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,72684,00.html
CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), (2002), Does Iraq sponsor terrorism?, Terrorism: Questions and Answers, In cooperation with the MARKLE Foundation, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.terrorismanswers.com/sponsors/iraq.html
Associated Press, (2000), Iraq rejects U.N. proposal for aid to pilgrims, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/03/02/iraq.un.hajj/
Blix, H., (2003), All Eyes on The Inspector, Time Magazine, March 3 edition, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101030303/wblix.html
Carney, J. (2003), Deficits: taboo no more, CNN, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/02/10/timep.deficits.tm/index.html
Churchill, W., (1940), Speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons on 4 June 1940, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.quoteland.com/library/speeches/churchill1.asp
CNN, (2002), $116 trillion lawsuit filed by 9/11 families, CNN Law Center, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/08/15/attacks.suit/
Eliasson, J., (2000), Diplomacy, Conflict Prevention and Psychology, Opening Address by Mr. Jan Eliasson, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, at the XXVII International congress of Psychology, Stockholm, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.utrikes.regeringen.se/inenglish/pressinfo/other_speeches/000725.htm
Freund, M., (2003), An Israeli embassy in Baghdad?, Mid East Truth, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.mideasttruth.com/MF.html
Gandhi, Mahatma, (2001) The Official Mahatma Gandhi eArchive, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, India, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.mahatma.org.in/quotes/quotes.jsp?link=bg&cat=quotes
Grier, P., (2003), Is it all about oil?, quote attributed to Lawrence Goldstein, President of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, Christian Science Monitor, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1016/p01s01-uspo.htm
Kocher, V., (2003), Saddam’s Son Uday: The Crown Prince, Revelations of a Defected Private Secretary, NZZ Online, 27 February 2003, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.nzz.ch/english/background/background1998/background9810/bg981029irak.html
La Guardia, A., (2002), Britain Accused of Providing Saddam Torture Instruments, Daily Telegraph/UK, Common Dreams News Center, December 3, 2002, obtained on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1203-05.htm
Nightline, (2003), video aired on Nightline, ABC News on 19 February 2003
Powell, C., (2003), Presentation by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council open meeting on the situation in Iraq, transcript obtained on 26 February 2003 from Newsweek on the World Wide Web at http://www.msnbc.com/news/869007.asp
United Nations General Assembly, (2001), Condemnation of terrorist attacks in the United States of America, UN General Assembly Resolution 56/1, Retrieved on 26 February 2003 from the World Wide Web at http://www.un.org/documents/ga/docs/56/agresolution.htm