My dis-ease does not arise from a favorable view of Iraq. I am not unaware of the criminal behavior of Saddam Hussein. It comes, rather, from my great love for America and the ideals that I associate with this nation. So I have to state that none of the arguments being put forth today to hype this war are compelling.
Those arguments, as rehearsed daily in our newspapers, TV talk shows, magazines and radio are as follows:
1. Iraq harbors terrorists. But so do Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is also a fact that Germany, Great Britain and the United States have been home to terrorists groups.
2. Saddam has murdered his own people. While murdering one's own citizens is tragic, it is not unknown in history. Pakistan, our ally against the Taliban, has done so to its Hindu citizens. Russia has done it in Chechnya, China has done it in Tiananmen Square, Germany has done it against the Jews, and in the United States, this tactic has been used against Native and African-Americans.
3. Saddam has chemical and biological weapons and is seeking a nuclear capability. But many nations of the world, including the United States, have chemical and biological weapons. Russia, Great Britain, Pakistan, India, France, and China all have atomic weapons and North Korea is said to be near that breakthrough, while Iran has missiles on the assembly line.
4. Saddam is evil. But so are or were Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Idi Amin in Uganda, Ceaucescu in Romania, Milosovic in Yugloslavia and Pinochet in Chile.
What is the real source of this visceral hatred of Iraq that has created this eagerness for war? I wish I had a clear answer. But all I can do is speculate. Ask yourselves, 'could any one of these possibilities be factors in that combustible mix that is fueling our nation's passion to go to war?' Dismiss them all if you wish, but allow them to be raised.
Are we motivated by the frustration of our unfinished and apparently unwon war against terrorism? This nation was attacked brutally on September 11th. Despite a massive military effort to defang the terrorists, more than a year has passed and not even Afghanistan can be said to be secure or stable. Neither Osama bin Laden nor the former head of the Taliban Government has been captured or confirmed as dead. Most of the hunted Al Qaeda operatives, central to the devastation of September 11, simply disappeared into the mountains of Afghanistan. They continue to engage in hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, in which a building is blown up here and a bus there.
Is it possible, that compared to these secretive and elusive terrorists, Iraq represents a visible enemy that we could crush militarily? Would that ease our haunting sense that the terrorists do not fight in a way that we understand? A successful conventional war might repair the damage our psyches have sustained at the hands of the terrorists.
Are there political reasons for this war talk? This has been suggested by foreign leaders and recently by Vermont's Senator James Jeffords, a registered Independent. It is a fearful possibility. Yet there are some political realities that cannot be denied. The economy is in a shambles. The stock market is at a five-year low. Fortunes and retirement accounts across America have been lost. It really doesn't matter what caused this economic depression, since the party in power inevitably gets blamed for it.
A powerful motive exists for shifting the political debate from domestic maladies to a foreign threat. People rally around the commander-in-chief in a time of peril. The payoff is the control of both houses of Congress. No political party is above trying to set the debate for its own political gain. Of course that will be angrily denied--and impugning the patriotism of those who pose this issue is the classic defense.
Does the defeat of Iraq serve America's interests by making Middle Eastern oil available to our oil-thirsty Western world? Iraq has huge oil reserves. If Saddam were defeated, a friendly government in Baghdad that owed its allegiance to our military might, would surely be cooperative. Never again would America be held hostage to Middle Eastern oil. Democracy, once installed in Iraq, so this argument goes, might then have a ripple effect all over that region. Is there at least a germ of truth in this possibility?