The Case Against War with Iraq

America is going to war. The decision has already been made, by a handful of arrogant elitists who will not be deterred.

The UN? Bush has already said that the US will proceed with or without a UN resolution. Bush has been repeating his mantra “act or become irrelevant.” Bush has already made the UN irrelevant.

The US Congress? They are falling all over each other in their rush to establish patriotic credentials before the elections. Hey, what’s a few body bags when re-election is at stake?

This war will be waged without compelling motive, at incalculable cost, and will seriously undermine rather than enhance US security. Does anybody care?

1. Justification: One would expect that invading a sovereign country to overthrow its government should require clear and compelling evidence of a threat to national security. We have been inundated with innuendo, rehashed allegations, and, at times, downright falsehoods, yet no evidence that Iraq poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States has surfaced. If such evidence exists – as in the Cuba missile crisis in the early sixties – surely the Bush administration would not be shy about sharing it with the world. In fact, Bush tried to change the justification for war from the fact that Iraq “may” possess weapons of mass destruction to that fact that Iraq has flouted UN resolutions. If this were true justification for war, then why does the US continue to support Israel, which does possess weapons of mass destruction and has been flouting UN resolutions for thirty-five years? Is “may” a compelling reason for war?

2. Security: The administration has tried to convince us that the war on Iraq is part of the war on terrorism, and that removing Saddam Hussein from power will make us safer. I beg to differ. Al Qaida has attacked us; Iraq has not. The focus on Iraq has distracted our attention from Al Qaida, a true threat. Perhaps this is part of the Bush strategy, since his foray into Afghanistan has utterly failed to achieve his original goal — to eliminate the leadership of Al Qaida. When was the last time you heard Osama mentioned by the administration?

All indications are that war with Iraq will actually decrease our security. The Arab states in the region – particularly our totalitarian allies – are petrified of the destabilizing effects that war with Iraq will have on their countries. Anyone familiar with the tactics of terror understands that the goal of the terrorist is to “heighten the contradictions” – to provoke an indiscriminate overreaction that radicalizes moderates and drives them towards the terrorist’s camp. The invasion of Iraq will not reduce terrorism, it will increase it. Osama and his cronies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

3. International Relations: In the post-World War II era, the United States has been a leader in constructing an interlocking system of institutions and treaties to safeguard the world from the type of might-makes-right policies of Hitler and his allies. Now that system is being swept away by a handful of US politicians who seem to find “the law” – both international and domestic – to be a mere nuisance in the pursuit of their policies. The most fundamental principle of our nation has always been that “the law” applies equally to all, rich and poor, strong and weak. Our government has told the world: “the law” applies to others but not to us. Is this who we really are as a nation?

We are currently the mightiest nation on earth; it will not always be so. World history is littered with the carcasses of “great powers” whose demise was swift and sure when their arrogance for power exceeded their ability to exercise it. What will be in store for us when the next great power decides to emulate the US, and exercises might-makes-right policies against us?

4. Cost: Remember when we were debating how to spend the surplus? In the blink of an eye, it’s gone. Where will the money come from to fund this grand adventure? From education, from social security, from healthcare, from domestic infrastructure, from environment. Is this really a price we’re willing to pay?

We are already in an economic downturn. War in the Middle East always causes a significant increase in the price of oil. As war hysteria increases, the stock market goes down further. Some are trying to convince us that war is good for business; the evidence suggests otherwise.

Most important is the human cost. Have you noticed that the loudest voices trying to convince us that this war will be quick and neat are those who never served in the military? I don’t claim that my service as an infantry lieutenant in Vietnam gives me any special insight into war, but I did learn two things. The first is that no war ever goes according to plan. The most likely scenario is that Iraq’s troops will retreat into the cities. The resulting loss of life – both among US troops and innocent Iraqi civilians — from this urban warfare will be horrific.

The second thing I learned from Vietnam is that soldiers are required to do their jobs when politicians fail to do theirs. We always reward our politicians for starting wars; it is what makes it so appealing to them. Start a war, and people forget about the failure of our intelligence agencies, the failure in Afghanistan, the failure of our economy, the infringement of our civil liberties, the totalitarian arrogance of our president, the corporate greed scandals and the administration’s role in them. Isn’t it time we punished our politicians for starting wars?

No, it will not be so. America is going to war. And it will be our children who will reap the grim fruits of our folly.

PETER P. MAHONEY is a Vietnam veteran who lives in Warren, Vermont. He can be reached at: pmahoney@iscvt.org


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