Millions of people around the world last weekend demonstrated against a war on Iraq.
There was no mistaking the message: No war.
But, particularly with the airwaves and op-ed pages dominated by war-mongers who mock and mischaracterize the burgeoning peace movement, there remains a need to continually reiterate the common-sense reasons to oppose a war. Here are a dozen:
1. Iraq is no threat to the United States.
With one of the weakest militaries in the region, Iraq is surely no threat to the world’s lone superpower. There is no evidence it has or is close to having a nuclear capacity. There is no evidence that it has the means to launch a chemical and biological attack against the United States, if in fact it has such weaponry. There is no evidence of any Iraqi connection to al-Qaeda.
2. Iraq is deterrable.
Even if it had the means to threaten the United States, Iraq would be deterred by the certainty of an overwhelming military response in event of any attack on the United States. That Iraq is deterrable is shown by its decision not to use chemical or biological weapons (CBW) against the United States or Israel in the Gulf War.
3. Iraq’s only conceivable threat to the United States is in event of war.
“Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States,” wrote CIA Director George Tenet in an October 2002 letter to Congress. “Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.”
4. Other terrorist risks rise in event of war.
A U.S. attack and subsequent occupation of Iraq will provide new inspiration — and new recruitment fodder — for al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, and will stimulate a long-term increased risk of terrorism, either on U.S. soil or against U.S. citizens overseas.
5. U.S. soldiers are vulnerable to chemical or biological attack in a war.
Although there is little reason to doubt the U.S. military will triumph relatively quickly in event of a war, U.S. soldiers face non-negligible risk of casualty. House-to-house fighting in Baghdad would be perilous.
If Bush administration accusations that Saddam maintains a CBW capacity are true, and if its claims of intelligence showing Iraqi plans to use CBW in event of war are both non-fabricated and accurate, then U.S. soldiers are at major risk. Last Sunday, 60 Minutes reported that army investigations show between 60 and 90 percent of its CBW protective gear malfunction. A Pentagon spokesperson actually suggested that holes in gas masks could easily be covered by duct tape.
6. Inspections can work.
To whatever extent Iraq maintains weapons of mass destruction, it is clear that the previous inspections process succeeded in destroying the overwhelming proportion. Iraqi intransigence notwithstanding, inspectors are now making progress. Despite the histrionics of the administration, past experience suggests the inspection process can work and finish the job.
7. Common sense says: Err on the side of non-violence.
Since Iraq poses no imminent threat to the United States nor any of its neighbors, it makes sense to continue to give inspections a chance. War can always be resorted to later. But once a war is commenced, the opportunity to achieve legitimate objectives without violence are lost. In addition to the obvious costs, the use of violence tends to beget more violence, spurring a highly unpredictable cycle.
8. The doctrine of preventative war is a threat to international law and humanity.
Conceding there is no imminent threat to the United States, the administration has sought to justify the war under a doctrine of preemptive, or preventative, action. But if it were legitimate to start a war because of what another country might do sometime in the future, then there would be very little legal or moral constraint on war-making. This proposition is dangerous and immoral.
9. Reject empire.
Many of the leading proponents of a war are motivated by desire to demonstrate U.S. military might, and commence an era when U.S. military power is exercised more routinely to satisfy the whims of elite U.S. factions. Many proponents now overtly defend the idea of U.S. imperialism, justified on the grounds that the United States — apparently unique among all previous aspirants to imperial authority — is motivated by promotion of democracy and human rights. But all empires have proffered such self-serving rationalizations to legitimize narrow self-interest. The present case is no different. Imperialism is fundamentally incompatible with democracy.
10. Revenge is not a legitimate motive for war.
There seems little doubt that part of the Bush administration motivation for war is the desire to “get” Saddam, since he refused to go away after the Gulf War and allegedly targeted the president’s father. Saddam is an awful and brutal dictator, and an assassination attempt, if there was one, is a heinous act. But revenge should be no basis for war.
11. There are better solutions to our energy problems.
It overstates the case to say a war with Iraq would be a war for oil. There are too many other contributing factors to the rush to war. At the same time, it is not credible to claim designs on Iraqi oil are not part of calculus. And it is hard to see the United States caring much about Iraq if the country did not sit on the world’s second largest oil reserves. But it is past time for the United States (and the rest of the world) to move beyond oil and carbon-based sources of energy. Existing efficiency technologies and renewable energy sources, if deployed, could dramatically reduce reliance on conventional energy sources; and modest investments in renewables could soon move us away from an oil-based economy.
12. Iraqi lives are at stake.
Unless a war brings immediate abdication by Saddam, military action is sure to cause massive casualties among Iraqi conscripts and especially among Iraqi civilians. Solidarity with the Iraqi people — not their brutal government, but the people — requires opposition to a war almost certain to cause them enormous suffering.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.)