I appreciate sid
's contribution for providing some sadly accurate context for the Iraq issue, but I feel sid
fails to mention the motivations behind many of the U.S. actions he describes and distracts from the central question Mr. Bush was addressing in his speech. While there can be no justification for many atrocities he has described, the culture that allowed them to happen had a purpose. Furthermore, the fact that the U.S. was responsible for many of the intolerable situations present around the world today gives the U.S. an obligation to try to repair them.
The corrupt and murderous regimes supported by the U.S. did not exist in a vacuum. Those leaders sid have listed above, some he hasn't, and of course Osama bin Laden and the mujaheddin were installed, trained, supplied, and defended as part of the Cold War. I would not be so cold and trite to say that the means justify the ends, or that you have to get your hands dirty to play in the big leagues. Nothing can excuse the actions described, but the excited and urgent atmosphere produced by the Communist threat gave rise to excesses that produced these crimes. Fortunately, no one writing here on E2 must choose between living under Ceausescu and Pinochet or Suharto and Mao. The U.S. was put in a difficult situation, whether to make a deal with the devil or watch tyrants take control. Similarly, Saddam Hussein was supported to try to stop Iran's spread of fundamentalism which at the time threatened to take over the entire region, a problem not only for the oil companies, but for anyone who believes in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I find many activists, especially Noam Chomsky would gain credibility if they acknowledged that U.S. policy has not been dictated solely by corporate interests, but at least occasionally by valid moral and legal imperatives.
I believe that ultimately the issue of past support for corrupt regimes is irrelevant to the current debate on Iraq policy. Saddam Hussein is yet another mess that the U.S. is responsible for nurturing and sustaining. This responsibility gives us more of an obligation to resolve the problem, not less. What kind of global citizen would we be if we didn't clean up our own mess? I agree with sid that we should seek to resolve problems without taking human life. This may be possible in some circumstances, if not politically acceptable, through a number of measures including alternative energy (Mideast, Nigeria, Indonesia), drug legalization (Colombia, Burma, Mexico), and technology transfer/financial support (Africa). There are some problems, like the North Korean regime, that may require a military option.
We have recently overthrown a tyrant in Milosevic and tried to do the right thing and failed in Somalia. We should have intervened in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. There are obviously situations where military force is required and justified. Personally, I am not convinced that Iraq is one of these situations and I find the corporate interests very disturbing. But I feel the history of these conflicts should be a non-factor to the choices of foreign policy today. If we are doing something that is right and necessary, why let the past stay our hand? How are we to show the world we have changed if not by doing the right thing?