I'd like to think that I am a loyal American. I believe in everything that this country was based on, such as certain, universal, inalienable rights, the freedom of religion, possession, and life - pursuit of happiness and all that.

That is why I am totally against the current (September, 2002) administration's leaning towards going to war with Iraq.

Iraq poses no real imminent threat
Unlike religiously motivated terrorist organizations, Iraq, or more specifically, Saddam Hussein has nothing to gain from attacking the United States. He's happy being the ruthless dictator of Iraq - the easiest way to stop being the happy dictator of Iraq would be for Saddam to attack the USA. (Religiously motivated terrorist organizations are less logical/selfish and have ideological reasons to attack the USA without fear of death.)

Iraq played less of a role in the September 11th terrorist attack than other countries
Nearly all the terrorists involved in the attacks were Saudi Arabian nationals. Many religiously motivated terrorist organizations are backed by Saudi money. Logically, Saudi Arabia is the next logical target if the White House were looking to take out those that support terrorist attacks against the United States and the rest of the world. Obviously, we are not going to attack Saudi Arabia, but if not, why should we attack Iraq?

Possession of weapons of mass destruction is no casus belli
India has nuclear weapons and delivery systems - as does Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. Citizens of many other nations in have the technological knowledge to build small nuclear devices. If Iraq hasn't developed a nuclear bomb yet, they are behind the rest of the world. I believe Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea are all as likely to use their nuclear arsenals as much as Iraq - especially because they are either nearly at war with each other (Pakistan/India), ruled by a crazy guy (North Korea), or surrounded by nations that may want to invade them (Israel). Similar arguments pertain to chemical and biological weapons. IF any of these nations were to USE these weapons, then I would agree that their capabilities should be nullified using all force necessary - but by their nature these weapons of mass destruction are deterrent threats, in that their greatest utility comes from owning them and not by using them.

Who do you replace Saddam with?
It is unlikely that you could find anybody significantly better for the US or the world to take over as leader of Iraq than Saddam. You couldn't have democratic elections there, as the democratic majority in that part of the world are Islamic fundamentalists and you are likely to have another Taliban-esque government. The best course of action is to silence or marginalize these rogue national leaders until they get older and wiser - see Colonel Khaddafi. It is interesting to note that the most successful party in a recent round of elections in Turkey (one of the most secular countries in that region) was a political party based on Islamic fundamentalism.

Can every other country be wrong?
As the last remaining superpower, the United States has the obligation to lead the free world. This does not mean becoming the world-wide bully. This leads to anger and terrorist attacks against your world. The correct course of action is to combat tyranny and injustices while showing the rest of the world that a democratic form of government is the most stable one. Attacking Iraq would just show every other country that they are not safe, and if they can strike out with some sort of weapon against the United States, they should do so before they get flattened first.

Enough people have died already
Any attack against Iraq will result in the loss of human lives, not only combatants (both US and Iraqi), but also innocent bystanders. Do we need to encourage moderate, non-terrorist Arabs to hate the United States? Does killing Iraqi innocents make the deaths of American innocents on September 11th seem more palatable? Two wrongs do not make a right. Two wrongs, in this case, would result in the loss of thousands of lives.

Would it stop future terrorist attacks?
No. These terrorists are not rational people, and are motivated by their feelings of helplessness and religious fervor to lash out violently at the urging of criminally insane religious fundamentalists. Fear of death at the hands of the US military is not a deterrent to terrorists - it would only hasten their entry into a supposed happy afterlife. And, of course, domestic and non-Arab terrorists would not be at all deterred by an attack on Iraq.

Throughout US history, every war in which the United States was attacked first was seen as a just war, and every war in which the US attacked first was seen as an unjust one. I do not believe you can believe the terrorist, criminal event of September 11th was an act of war by Iraq. I hope more people can adopt a less jingoistic approach to this issue and think through it rationally.

NotFabio's arguments are rational, though I don't agree with most of them. Opinions do not have to match. I don't see why he is dependent on this Hanson character for his beliefs, and I don't think some of his arguments address the points at the beginning of the paragraphs.

I'd like to hit some of the major counterpoints made against fhayashi's well written writeup in the name of rational diplomacy.

Iraq poses no real imminent threat
Saddam Hussein does have a reason to attack the United States. Foremost, we are the only geopolitical entity currently vocal about being interested in attacking Iraq with intent to unseat him. If nothing else, a successful large-scale attack upon the United States would ensure his continued power.

That being said, Hussein has little capability to attack the United States in a classic, toe-to-toe war. Ergo, Hussein's only option is asymmetrical warfare if he were to decide to attack the United States. The flaw in fhayashi's thinking lies in that asymmetrical warfare assets are largely invisible to the target. For example, before the strikes in 2001, most Americans did not know who Osama bin Laden was. He did not appear to be a threat to the general public, and despite his operations in Sudan (the Embassy Bombings for example) he managed to evade media attention. We must not make the mistake of assuming that because Hussein does not have a vaunted weapon or unit like he had in the Republican Guard that lands on the front page of the Times or Post that he does not have potent strike capability. Does the burden of proof lie upon us? Certainly, and that is why the Secretary of Defense should not be so evasive during his press conferences. However, if Secretary Rumsfeld decided to show our proof, he could quote that captured documents and POWs from the Gulf War indicated that Iraq had trained teams of chemical and biological warfare specialists. (1) Although UN inspectors claim that this capability might have been removed, can they prove that it has? Simply not observing something does not mean it does not exist. The prudent assumption is that the weapons and crews still exist.

Iraq played less of a role in the September 11th terrorist attack than other countries
Perhaps Saudi Arabia is the logical next target because of both their financial and philosophical support towards terrorists. Yet it should be noted that the Middle East's populace was recently surveyed by Gallup to believe that Arab terrorists were not responsible for the attack on 11 September, 2001 (61%). 72% of Kuwaitis hate the United States. (2)

The fact of the matter is that the entire region should be considered the next target. With the exception of Israel, we really don't have that many friends in the nations' leadership over there. It appears that many Middle Easterners would either gladly participate in our destruction, or at least turn their heads and condone the attacks. As Victor Davis Hanson remarked,

America learned that "moderate" Arab countries are as dangerous as hostile Islamic nations. After September 11, being a Saudi, Egyptian, or Kuwaiti means nothing special to an American — at least not proof of being any more friendly or hostile than having Libyan, Syrian, or Lebanese citizenship. Indeed, our entire postwar policy of propping up autocracies on the triad of their anticommunism, oil, and arms purchases — like NATO — belongs to a pre-9/11 age of Soviet aggrandizement and petroleum monopolies. Now we learn that broadcasting state-sponsored hatred of Israel and the United States is just as deadly to our interests as scud missiles — and as likely to come from friends as enemies. Worst-case scenarios like Iran and Afghanistan offer more long-term hope than "stable regimes" like the Saudis; governments that hate us have populations that like us — and vice versa; the Saudi royal family, whom 5,000 American troops protect, and the Mubarak autocracy, which has snagged billions of American dollars, are as afraid of democratic reformers as they are Islamic fundamentalists. And with good reason: Islamic governments in Iran and under the Taliban were as hated by the masses as Arab secular reformers in exile in the West are praised and championed.

Perhaps we should strike Saudi Arabia next. I don't discredit that thought. However, I refuse to believe that Iraq is completely innocent and unwarranting of a strike. Whether he has attacked our interests directly or not, Hussein has conspired in genocide, violated terms of international agreements (3) , and supported international terrorism, at least in word, if not action then certainly through his inaction. Either you are with us, or you are against us. The Middle East is against us. Why are we pretending like liberal democracies still exist there, and why are we protecting them?

Possession of weapons of mass destruction is no casus belli
No, it's not. But as mentioned in fhayashi's writeup, if a nation were to threaten its neighbors with those weapons with the sole intent of dragging the two nations into a drawn out war, that is casus belli. Iraq has done precisely that. (4) Furthermore, the Director: Central Intelligence has testified before Congress that

"We believe that Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical R&D associated with its nuclear program... Although we were already concerned about a reconstituted nuclear weapons program, our concerns increased in September 2000 when Saddam publicly exhorted his "Nuclear Mujahidin" to "defeat the enemy."... Iraq continues to pursue development of SRBM systems that are not prohibited by the United Nations and may be expanding to longer-range systems...The solid-propellant missile development program may now be receiving a higher priority, and development of the Ababil-100 SRBM – two such airframes and TELs were paraded on 31 December—and possibly longer range systems may be moving ahead rapidly." (5)

Who do you replace Saddam with?
What do you mean 'with whom do we replace Saddam'? We don't do any replacing. That's not our duty, decision or even privilege. The idea is that we allow them to create a liberal republic with their own constitution or equivalent document and distributed power. The Iraqis are ready for just such a government. Did you see the massive number of defections during the Gulf War? People who are afraid surrender. People who are impressed and envious defect. Hanson writes

"Our own elites whine that we have dumbed everything down to the lowest common denominator. Maybe, but the world's billions have responded by voting with their feet, pocketbook, and remote control for almost everything American. It is precisely this media and consumer tidal wave, when coupled with the omnipotence of the American military, that has an ambivalent effect on most in the world — one that plays out on the personal level absurdly as a mixture of desire for all things American and yet shame for that very craving."

Enough people have died already Iraq has no hope of prevailing in a straight fight, and after Desert Storm the Iraqis probably realize that. Their best and most likely strategy will be to try to create the political conditions that would lead the Bush administration to think twice about an attack. And one way to do that is to make us believe that we are going to face a Mesopotamian Stalingrad." said Kenneth M. Pollack, the director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former C.I.A. analyst of the Iraqi military. (6) If anyone is guilty of making this a conflict that endangers civilians and large numbers of soldiers on both sides, it is the military leadership of Iraq. Considering the United States forces possess superior armor, infantry and amphibious capabilities as well as unit size strength, plus near complete air domination, it is highly in the United States' favor to have this be a wide-open, high-intensity, high-tempo war. Unfortunately, history indicates that wars where the United States had tried to make "clean" or less socially offensive tended to be uglier, more costly missions (i.e. the Vietnam War). In contrast, missions where the military was given free rein tended to be lower in casulties (i.e. William Tecumseh Sherman and his Civil War campaign, Afghanistan or the Gulf War). This is a lesson reflected in the Greek history during the Siege of Lesbos or the Peloponnesian War contrasted to the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Salamis. We see the same lesson in the British history with the American Revolution and World War I (both of which were costly and unglorious) versus their finest hour when the tempo of war was high under the German Blitzkreig. Ergo, it would be in favor for Hussein to attempt to write the script for Blackhawk Down 2. Hanson finally concludes that

"Contrary to what the European and Arab nations profess, the United States has no innate desire to fight Iraqis — and especially no wish to lose a single one of its precious youth in Saddam's godforsaken regime 8,000 miles away, fighting a madman that in 2002 does not immediately threaten the security of the United States. Instead we are now weighing the risk of American lives and the expense of billions of dollars in a time of recession for the evil that he has done and the greater evil that he will most certainly do." (7)

(6)26 August, 2002 New York Times. "Iraq Said to Plan Tangling the U.S. in Street Fighting" Michael R. Gordon

While there are perhaps many rational reasons why the United States should not go to war against the Iraq, let me give you some humanitarian ones. It strikes me as frightening that in all this talk of war, and unseating Saddam we forget that the ones who will be affected the worst are the Iraqi citizens. And I find it hard to accept the argument that we are bombing them to bring them democracy.

There will be an estimated 1-2 million refugees generated as a result of the bombing. Turkey has already closed its border. It is believed that Iran will do the same. The UNHCR admits that it is ill prepared to deal with such a refugee crisis. Moreover, it is believed that once the war breaks out the UN will have to withdraw most of its 300 personnel working in the region. This will have catastrophic effects for the Iraqi people. A oft cited suggestion is to create a 'safe haven' within the war zone for the refugees. Such a concept has been tried twice- in Srebrenica and in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds- both times with disastrous consequences. It is merely a ploy by European nations fearful of an influx of refugees to attempt to convert a mass of refugees into what are called the 'internally displaced people'. For the the IDPs, as they are commonly known, there is no international mandate for the UNHCR to look after them. Moreover, since they remain within the conflict zone, chances of persecution or being caught in the crossfire are that much higher.

Nearly 16 million Iraqis out of a population of 22 million are dependent on the World Food Programme. But once the war starts, if the pattern is anywhere similar to the bombing during the Gulf War and the recent bombing in Afghanistan, then road, rail and other transport facilities will be badly hit. This in turn means that the food distribution network, fragile at best, will collapse completely. Already Iraq's population is devastatingly malnourished and we could have a famine of epidemic proportions on our hands.

Water purification and sanitation facilities once used to be Iraq's pride and joy. 95% of the urban population and 75% of the rural population was assured of clean drinking water. But the sanctions following the Gulf War have meant that nearly 70% of the purification plants do not work anymore and new parts cannot be imported. Moreover, nearly half a million tonne of sewage is deposited into Iraq's rivers daily. If there are strikes against water and electricity installations, it will mean that the water supply will be infected with raw sewage and disease and epidemic will ensue.

The UNICEF figures for the plight of Iraqi children are shocking. One in ten Iraqi children die before their fifth birthday (131 out of every 1000 live births). Iraq has suffered a faster increase in the rate of child mortality than any other country in the world (160 per cent in the decade to 2000). Seven out of ten infant deaths result from diarrhoea or acute respiratory infection linked to polluted water or malnutrition. All of these statistics will only get worse once the bombing starts and vital installations are hit.

Saddam is no angel. He has gassed his own citizens, and has been responsible for a brutal and repressive regime. But this war is not just about Saddam, it's also about the people he has oppressed. And it's my belief that we will create greater resentment among the Iraqi people if we bomb them, if we kill their children, if we make their already miserable lives that much harder. It might only increase support for Saddam rather than creating a grass roots movement to topple him.

Finally, I feel that we are so used to the jargon of war, that we blithely speak of Cruise missiles, cluster bombs and 'surgical air strikes' without a thought for what they mean. We forget that these are not part of some fancy computer game that President George Bush will play in his spare time, these are real live weapons that will wreak havoc on innocent civilians. Whatever the political justifications for war, we must consider its humanitarian implications before any action is taken. If indeed war does break out, it is my appeal to all noders, to set aside political differences and to do their bit to help the Iraqi people recover from a decade of bombing, repression and sanctions. We owe it to them.

The information for this WU has been taken from the MSF, Oxfam and Save the Children UK website as well as from various UN reports. If you want to know more about the Internally Displaced and the politics surrounding them, please see my node on Internally displaced persons

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