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COLUMN

An Unwanted War

Kris Schnee

At the urging of President Bush, the Senate is probably about to join the House of Representatives in giving Bush authority to make a huge mistake in our names. Congress is expected to grant Bush broad authority to wage war against Iraq in the name of the War on Terrorism if he deems it necessary. What Bush is asking is unreasonable, because he and his supporters have presented no compelling reason to fight and there are plenty of reasons not to.

Bush wants a war because Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear). So? Other countries have them, and while Hussein would probably like to use them on America, there’s no strong case before the public that Hussein is actually planning to do so. The White House may have secret intelligence information to that effect, but as long as that information is secret we can’t take even the President’s word for it.

Another of the pro-war arguments was that Hussein refused to submit to United Nations weapons inspections. Now he’s agreed. Presumably that means he’s hidden the laboratories better than before, so the inspectors need authority to scour Iraq and force their way past the obstructions Hussein will place while the United Nations is making its plans. The solution to getting a ruthless inspection team into Iraq lies in pressing the debate in New York, not in Washington. Should inspections fail, the United Nations then has cause for a global police action against Iraq, and the United States will not have to go alone.

The fact that Hussein is a thug doesn’t justify an American attack on him. While it’s a long-term American goal to promote democracy worldwide, crusading against every oppressive government in the world is a bad idea unless we plan to strike North Korea, Cuba, China, and so on. In fact, one of our main allies in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, a monarchy ruled by Muslim law (Sharia). Fifteen of the seventeen September 11 hijackers were Saudi subjects. Yet instead of declaring war on this dangerous fundamentalist dictatorship, we’re allied with it because we like oil. Bush hopes for the king’s help in ousting another dictator, but there’s no great moral difference between our friend and foe.

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) gave a defense of the war resolution on Thursday, explaining that Iraq will benefit from being bombed into oblivion, “And the upside potential of our acting and helping allow the Iraqi people their freedom to be able to move forward with a democracy is significant upside potential within that region for liberty and freedom to expand throughout that area.” Our “acting and helping” actually means killing soldiers, killing civilians (remember Bosnia?), destroying the country’s infrastructure, and overthrowing its government. Brownback wants to destroy the village in order to save it, a poor justification for war.

Bush isn’t alone in craving the right to strike first. Once America leads the way, China will have an excuse to “pre-emptively” conquer Taiwan, North Korea will protect itself from South Korea by invasion, and so on. Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) in Thursday’s debates pointed out that a presidential license to strike first would expand the already excessive power that generations of presidents have taken from Congress’ Constitutionally granted authority to declare war. The war resolution not only lets Bush (and by precedent, his successors) invade anywhere he pleases without provocation; it also makes our country an aggressor.

It’s hard to stay still and wait for someone to attack our country before lashing out. The wait is taxing for ordinary people, and must be worse for our leaders with the responsibility they bear. Senator Brownback claimed that “doing something and acting now” is better than the “nothing” of debate and international cooperation. Certainly the action will make the politicians look good, and this is an election season, but that fact makes it even more important not to rush into battle. Election concerns can muddle Congress’ judgment and plunge the country into unnecessary, unwanted war.

We have the power to destroy Iraq if we decide to use brute force, but do we want our country to lead the world by example? We have weapons of mass destruction, we’re planning an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, we refuse to submit to inspections of our country’s bio labs and to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court -- what sort of example is that? We would make of ourselves a rogue nation in the eyes of the rest of the world. Crush Iraq and ignore the rest of the world, and we tell everyone who resents America that the only way left to lodge a complaint is to blow something up. For the sake of our own national defense, the best option is to oppose war with Iraq, work with the rest of the world to force Iraq open, and respond to foreign violence with law and order.