Why we shouldn't go to war with Iraq
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With the publication of a report in last week's New York Times about the Bush administration's plans for the invasion of Iraq, it seems that war with that country is fairly certain. Previous rhetoric from the president or one or another of his surrogates could always be explained as some kind of politically driven chest-thumping, but it's hard to see the political advantage of the kind of secret and detailed war plan the Times disclosed.

The details in fact sound pretty ferocious. "The document envisions tens of thousands of marines and soldiers probably invading from Kuwait. Hundreds of warplanes based in as many as eight countries, possibly including Turkey and Qatar, would unleash a huge air assault against thousands of targets, including airfields, roadways and fiber-optics communications sites." The Times' description makes it sound like the biggest war flick since The Sands of Iwo Jima. Indeed, it sounds bigger and far more violent than anything the United States has carried out since at least the "liberation" of Kuwait (i.e., the restoration of the despotic emirate that the Iraqi armed conquest had toppled) and perhaps since well before that. What the document discloses is not a  "police action," and not a "rescue mission"; this is full-scale war.

Since the American Republic has now evolved to the point that the executive branch can plan to wage full-scale war in secret, without seeking the consent of the Congress or the American people, it might be well to ask just two questions about what the war plan contemplates: (1) Why should the United States wage war against Iraq? and (2) What will happen if we do?

As to the first, I can offer no compelling reason. Saddam Hussein is not a nice man, almost as brutal as the rulers of Communist China or several other despotisms with which we are pleased to do business profitably, but neither his brutality to other Iraqis nor even to others in the Middle East necessarily justify going to war against him.

The fact is that Hussein has done absolutely nothing to the United States or its interests. He has "weapons of mass destruction," mainly poison gas that he has deployed against the Kurds of his own state, but he has never even suggested using them aggressively against the United States. There is no reason whatsoever to suspect that he had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks; claims that the terrorist ringleader met secretly with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Europe turned out to be false. He has done nothing to help the Taliban regime, and his own secularist orientation is radically alien to the Islamic fundamentalism that drives both the Taliban and the terrorism of Al Qaeda.

The United States, in short, has no good reason to go to war with Iraq, let alone carry out the kind of devastation that the war plan proposes.

But what will happen if we do go to war, especially at this level? In the first place, we will eventually win the conflict—Hussein might put up a strong fight, as he has vowed to do, but he can't resist American military power indefinitely.

But we will not win the war, which is different from the immediate conflict with Iraq. The war is not against Iraq, and everyone knows that. The war will be with Islam and the Arabic world—all of it. We will no longer be fighting a small band of terrorists led by an eccentric fanatic but will be telling every Islamic state in the world that if we disapprove of your form of government, your religious and social customs and your foreign policy toward Israel, we are prepared to devastate you. Whatever support or sympathy we still enjoy in the Arabic world will vanish—which is precisely why Israel and its apologists in this country are so eager that we go to war.

It's doubtful that anything like a Western "democracy" will emerge from what remains of Iraq after we get through with it. It's likely the Kurds of northern Iraq will demand their own state, and that demand will precipitate more demands for independence from the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Shi'ites in southern Iraq may league with those of neighboring Iran to rip the country apart. What will eventually come out of the rubble we leave behind (make no mistake: Americans will leave it behind) may be far more dangerous, far more anti-American and anti-Western, than Saddam Hussein ever was.

But don't expect such considerations to stop the forthcoming crusade against Iraq. This is no longer the American Republic, my friends, but the New World Order, and it follows its own logic and interests regardless of what Americans want, what Congress has authorized, or what our national interests demand.


July 11, 2002

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