[Last update: 14 August 2002]

There are No Compelling Reasons to Invade Iraq

by Gene Bergman

There are many reasons to oppose an invasion of Iraq, but the bottom line is that it's wrong.

Our government has no right to choose who leads sovereign nations. Or to impose that choice militarily. We have not been appointed the cops of the world. The world is not our empire.

"Practical" reasons against an invasion are clear. Many will die. The environment will be poisoned. It will cost $80 billion before "stabilization": $16 billion for the estimated 75,000 troops needed to secure Iraq for a year.

Thee reasons are used to support an invasion. Each is faulty:

"Saddam's a bloody dictator." Using this logic, we'd be constantly invading. Often we'd set our sights on ourselves and allies. Our government actively supported murderous regimes, in el Salvador and East Timor during the last 20 years alone. There is a legitimate debate over "humanitarian intervention" but it provides no cover now. Justice for Kurds and Iraqis won't come through the devastation of war. An anti-apartheid like campaign is one alternative.

"Saddam threatens the region." The threat is not current: deterrence and containment have worked. His neighbors know war is a bad option. Kuwait's defense minister recently said, "Kuwait does not support threats to strike or launch an attack against Iraq" and would only approve a U.S. attack if done under U.N. auspices. Turkey opposes an invasion and rebuffed U.S. official Paul Wolfowitz in mid-July, seeing destabilization in its Kurdish provinces and economic chaos resulting. Jordan realizes a U.S. invasion would unleash a radical Islamic fury, already sizzling at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We'd destroy the region to "save" it.

"Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction." The evidence is speculative. Scott Ritter, seven-year U.S. weapons inspector, notes UNSCOM accounted for an eliminated 90 percent to 95 percent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, with much of the missing material not accounted for due to the ravages of the Gulf War. It's unlikely Saddam manufactured and weaponized chemical, biological and nuclear weapons since inspectors left. Ritter says evidence would exist due to the nature of the materials and processes, in the procurement of production tools and technology, the venting of gasses, and emission of gamma rays. No evidence exists despite massive surveillance.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's spin? "The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence." Vice President Richard Cheney now dismisses the inspectors' return.

Foreign policy must be conducted within international law. Codified through the U.N. Charter, it prohibits use of the international military forces unless for self-defense against an armed attack over an international border or done pursuant to a U.S. Security Council decision. "Regime change" by invasion is illegal.

The "pre-emptive defensive intervention" Bush Doctrine abandons the key legal limit on the use of force between nations. It is a first-strike doctrine "without limits, without accountability to the U.S. or international law, without any dependence on a collective judgment of responsible governments and without any convincing demonstration of practical necessity," says law professor Richard Falk. It encourages lawlessness, making us all less safe.

It is an imperial doctrine, what former Sen. William Fulbright called the "arrogance of power." "Despite the modern issues of terrorism and 'weapons of mass destruction,' writes Slate's Michael Kinsey, "there is an old-fashioned quality our confrontation with Iraq. It is about an imperial power demanding acquiescence from a rogue state." Bush acts like Palpatine in Star Wars.

George Washington, in his Farewell Address, warned against indulging in "habitual hatred" of nations and policies based on that hatred. Calling it "self-inflicted slavery," he counsels against adopting "through passion what reason would reject" because peace and liberty are sacrificed. George Bush and Congress would do well to heed George Washington's advice.

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Gene Bergman is a board member of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington, its media committee chairman and an editor of its publication, The Peace & Justice News.


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