By Damon Krane
Monday, September 30, 2002
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
“Now, I can walk into any old bar and find a fight without looking too hard, but I never killed someone I don’t know just ’cause someone told me to.”
– Camper Van Beethoven
For the record, I don’t consider myself a pacifist. But that’s beside the point, anyway. The key issue here isn’t whether or not you’re a pacifist, or how you wear your hair, the amount of tie-dye in your closet, whether or not you showered today, or how many times you’ve seen Ekoostik Hookah play live. It’s about whether or not the reigning administration has made a good enough case for you to be all right with it slaughtering thousands of people in your name. That’s a pretty good reason to spend a little time reviewing that case, don’t you think?
It goes like this: Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, with a history of violating international law, who has used Weapons of Mass Destruction “even against his own people.“ There is good reason to think that he may possess WMD now, thereby posing a threat to neighboring nations and the United States. Therefore, for the sake of the people of lraq, neighboring nations, America, and indeed the entire civilized world that finds itself on the opposite side from Saddam h a global War Against Terrorism, the United States must — unilaterally, if necessary — wage an all out war of “pre-emptive self-defense” against Iraq in order to remove Saddam from power.
First of all, various US administrations have supported dictatorships and governments with horrible human rights records, including Saddam Hussein when he was gassing Kurdish Iraqis in the 1980s, and after the United States had knowledge of it. Saddam also stands in violation of international law for the invasion of Kuwait and the violation of UN Security Resolutions — as does US ally Israel for invasions of Syria and Lebanon. Israel would stand in violation of scores more resolutions had the US not unilaterally vetoed nearly 30 of them.
That Saddam is far from unique doesn’t make him any less horrible, of course. You may still feel that these are good enough reasons to wage a war against Iraq. But they’re clearly not the Bush Administration’s reasons. And that’s important to keep in mind, since Bush and company are the one’s who’d be calling the shots — although a safe distance from the actual line of fire, of course.
If Iraq poses a threat to its neighbors, they don’t seem very concerned by it, since they’re not the ones calling for war (with the unsurprising exception of Israel, that is). Indeed, even if Iraq possesses WMD (and there is no credible evidence that it does), that would not automatically make it any more of a threat to neighboring countries than Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other middle eastern nation-states that do possess WMD.
The real question is whether or not Iraq poses a threat to Americans. In Bush’s argument, that ultimately depends on whether Iraq possesses WMD and the capability to use them against the US. Even if this were true, it wouldn’t necessarily make Iraq any more of a threat than dozens of other countries — but let’s just stick the the administration’s argument. The fact is numerous people involved in the inspection process state it is highly unlikely that Iraq possesses WMD or the capability to produce them, much less the capability to use them against the US. Notable among these sources is Gulf War veteran, former marine and one-time head of UN weapons inspections in Iraq, Scott Ritter. Of course, the best way to find out is for sure is for UN weapons inspectors to obtain unconditional access to the country, which Iraq has recently granted them.
Nevertheless, Bush is still determined to go to war — a threat which prevents inspections from occurring and which, if followed through on, might just destroy the most crucial evidence before a case has even been made. That should make us more than a little suspicious. What’s more, the U.S. government has long obstructed the inspection process — by using UN inspections under Richard Butler’s direction as a cover to spy on lraq (New York Times _/7/99); by declaring that sanctions would remain in place even if Iraq fully complied with inspections; and most recently, by declaring the intention to wage an all out war against Iraq to overthrow its government despite Iraq agreeing to grant inspection teams unconditional access.
Granted, even former weapons inspector Ritter admits “we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty, only ’90 to 95 percent verified disarmament.” Thus, there is still a chance that Iraq possesses WMD. As Secretary of State Rumsfeld puts it “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” But the only way to ascertain, with 100 percent certainty that another country or person doesn’t pose a threat to you is to wipe that person or country off the face of the earth. Anyone with half a brain should realize that this is a rationale for the mutual annihilation of all humanity, not a policy of “better safe than sorry.”
Of course, in the absence of a good case for war, maybe we should just have faith that our unelected president possesses the superior wisdom to do what’s best for us and the world. It’s possible, right?