Monday, February 03, 2003

Why We Should Fight Iraq

As we stand on the eve of war, I suppose I should set forth the reasons for war. Until now, it has been (or could be, that is) a full-time job responding to particular arguments against different objections to war. I think the case for war has been made in many ways, but I haven't set them out in one place.

So here goes.

The justification for war against Saddam's Iraq rests on three main pillars: his sheer wretched despotism; his record of aggression; and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And then there are the final multiplying factors. One is based on the idea that the bottom line value of all the above parts is greater than merely their sum. The other is the multiple based on the wealth that Saddam has to carry out his risky schemes.

Starting with his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, the Iran-Iraq War prompted Iraq's quest for weapons of mass destruction on an urgent basis. Saddam's need to find means to overcome Iranian numerical advantages on the battlefield and their frightening willingness to die led Saddam to pursue any weapon to kill Iranians. They electrified water barriers and in time, used chemical weapons. Saddam's use of poison gas in that war against Iranians and against Kurds is well-known. The Iraqis would boast of killing Iranians like insects and few observers of the war doubted Iraq would have used atomic weapons if Saddam had them. After his defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in violation of agreements he made to end the war, Saddam continued to pursue chemical, biological, and nuclear arms. He has violated restrictions on missiles and has tested drones to spray chemicals or biological weapons. He has thwarted inspections designed to verify his compliance. He has cultivated allies to successfully undermine the sanctions that partially blunt his drive for nukes and bugs. He has repeatedly lied, stating he had ended all programs, only to have defectors reveal previously unknown programs. He has failed to account for known weapons and ingredients for weapons of mass destruction, implausibly arguing that he destroyed them in secret or-at least once recently-claiming that they were all destroyed in our 1998 air attacks! This single-minded devotion to obtaining such weapons is frightening. Or it should be. Worry about the state that wants 1,000 nukes. Fear the state that wants only one.

His record of aggression is impressive. Specifically, his first major act after seizing control of the government was to invade Iran in 1980. It is easy to ignore this given the odious nature of the Islamic regime that took power in Iran and held American hostage for more than 400 days, but Saddam's invasion had nothing to do with defending America or the Arab world from the tender mercies of the Iranian mullahs. Yes, Saddam did worry that Iranian incitement might prompt his own people to revolt, but in the end it was a land grab aimed at capturing oil-rich Iranian Khuzestan; a grab for dominance in the Gulf to replace the Shah's Iran; a grab for leadership in the Arab world, forfeited by Egypt for its peace deal with Israel; and a shot at dominating the nonaligned movement, with a victory paraded at the conference that Baghdad was scheduled to host in 1982. He survived the war yet did not demobilize after the war with Iran was over. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, of course, was a blatant land grab. He carted off the wealth of that state like an old-fashioned bank job. Saddam's willingness to kill civilians is clearly shown both in 1991 when he sent SCUD missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia; but also in the 1980s during the war with Iran when Iraqi missiles and planes bombed civilian areas for the sole purpose of terrorizing civilians. Saddam's proxy war against Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon during the 1980s contributed to the sorry state of that country. In 1993, he tried to assassinate former President Bush. He massed troops on the border of Kuwait in 1994, apparently threatening another invasion. In 1996, we again had subtle indications he would invade. In 1996, he also attacked the Kurds. In 1999, he advised the Serbs on tactics to resist our air campaign. He has harbored terrorists. He has trained terrorists in aircraft hijacking techniques. He has paid suicide bombers' families in Israel. And there are indications that he is aiding al Qaeda remnants to set up a base in Kurdish areas of Iraq. The Iraqis have continued to issue threats against Kuwait, saying they "deserved" Iraq's invasion in 1990.

Saddam's enthusiasm for brutal oppression is horrifying. He has tortured and terrorized his population as demonstrated by Amnesty International in sickening detail. Rape, torture, murder, and fear are the tools he uses to keep his people in line. He has forced parents to send their children to para-military training to indoctrinate the children to die for him. And Saddam, though he has pauperized his own people who were once a bright hope in the Arab world, has not been content to brutalize his own people. Saddam's Iraq is still releasing prisoners from the Iran-Iraq war which ended in 1988 and has not accounted for hundreds of Kuwaitis and others seized in 1990. His brutality as an occupier was apparently so appealing that he had to bring some innocents back to Iraq to continue the horror. Indeed, Saddam may still be holding one of our pilots originally thought killed in the Persian Gulf War. His 1988 campaign against the Kurds after the war with Iran ended was brutal beyond description with mass casualties inflicted on the Kurds to terrorize them into submission. He has pursued weapons of mass destruction at the price of continued sanctions with no thought to the harm he has caused his people. Indeed, their suffering is a blessing to him that he parades to any fool who will listen and believe Saddam. Yet Saddam and his loyal minions suffer not a whit. Palaces Saddam has aplenty while his people suffer.

Tying it all together, and multiplying the effects of his depravity are the combination of all of them. Some say why attack a brutal dictator when there are other dictators, failing to note the extreme nature of Saddam's depravity. Some say why attack a nuclear aspirant when others want or have them, ignoring that Saddam has used whatever he has gotten and without conceding that someone so evil should probably not have such weapons. There really is a difference between the French having nukes and Saddam's Iraq having them. Some say he is no threat to us or our allies-at least not the greatest threat--or that we can contain him, ignoring that he has initiated two wars for glory and oil already, and has tried to exploit any weakness we might show to attack us, his own people, or his neighbors. The critics forget his ambitions for creating an Arab empire under his rule and bringing down the West that stands in the way of his path to personal glory. And those who object on these grounds fail to explain, even if they can find another state arguably worse (and if they do, Saddam's Iraq gives number one a run for the money), why one state can manage to at least place in the trifecta of brutality, aggression, and hunger for the worst weapons that exist. Nor do they account for the great wealth that allows him to pursue his dark visions of glory even in the face of sanctions.

His success in oppression allow him to mobilize available resources for his nuclear ambitions. His acquisition of nuclear weapons would increase his ability to successfully attack or blackmail his neighbors. His success in bullying his region and deterring us from helping our friends would reinforce his brutal rule at home, drying up hope in Iraq that Saddam might be defeated. Truly, Saddam cannot give up any of his evil and hope to live-or hope to build the foundation of a new empire.

The basic answer for why we must destroy Saddam Hussein's regime is that the ambitions of Saddam Hussein to dominate his region, the Arab world, and glorify his reign of terror are too dangerous to let stand. Normally, for some run-of-the-mill dictatorship, this type of megalomania is mildly annoying. But Saddam's Iraq has wealth and an educated slave labor force to make those dreams a concrete threat to us. His ruthlessness and willingness to kill to stay in power are not comforting signs for what he might do if he achieved his dreams. And if anybody thinks that Saddam does not dream of September 11s of his own making but on a scale that is unimaginable to us, they are fooling themselves. Saddam truly is that evil and hoping he is not is a risk that we should not take.

Take the bastard down soon. On to Baghdad.

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