U.S. has not "won the war" against Saddam
Hussein by any stretch of the imagination
July 30, 2003
It has now been three months since President Bush proclaimed "victory" in
Iraq. Far from being a brilliant victory for America, however, the present
situation in Iraq has turned into a guerilla war which the U.S., as yet, is
Moreover, the White House has been utterly stripped
of credibility. Not only did it fail to foresee the quagmire into
which an occupation of Iraq
would drag the United States, but it has been shown to have been duplicitous
and untrustworthy concerning the rationale for taking America to war in the
The U.S. has not "won the war" against Saddam Hussein by any stretch
of the imagination. Despite the recent claims of officials such as Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that U.S. troops in Iraq are not facing "guerilla" resistance,
it is clear that the Iraqi military, or at the very least significant elements
of the Iraqi military, have continued to fight.
Aware of the immense technological
superiority of the U.S. military, these Iraqi troops put up little conventional
resistance, choosing to wage their battle mainly through guerilla warfare.
That strategy often makes a great deal of sense for a weaker force, as the
Viet Cong proved in Vietnam.
To claim that
the U.S. has defeated Saddam Hussein
in battle would be like claiming that the Union would have won
the American Civil
War in 1865 even if Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and virtually all other
Confederate leaders failed to surrender, and if Confederate troops
used guerilla operations
to attack Union soldiers on a daily basis after the Confederate armies and
navy "surrendered." The
idea simply defies logic.
The justifications for the war are just as weak
as the proclamations of victory. There was no moral justification
for going to war against Iraq. The White House
had no hard evidence that Saddam possessed "weapons of mass destruction" which
endangered America. No such weapons have as yet been found.
Many political leaders,
inside and outside the Bush administration, nevertheless argue that the
White House will be vindicated if "weapons of mass destruction" are eventually
found in Iraq. In this view, all dispute surrounding the wisdom and morality
of the war will vanish if such weapons are discovered, and President Bush
will be hailed as a national hero.
This argument, however, ignores the most basic and
logical principles concerning whether an action such as war is
justified. Moral justification for an action
is based on what is known at the time, rather than what can be seen in
retrospect. If a police officer believes a person is threatening
his or her life with
a gun, the officer has the right to shoot that person.
Imagine that the
is subsequently found to have been carrying a toy gun. It turns out that
officer was never in danger. The officer, however, remains justified
in shooting the person, because they had reason to believe their
was in danger at
the time of the shooting.
This principle of judging a decision based on what is known at the time,
rather than what is known with hindsight, works both ways.
A person cannot
for making a decision unsupported by the facts before them by information
appearing after the fact that supports their actions. It is obvious that
the White House
had no clear evidence that Saddam possessed weapons which represented
a threat to the United States when the U.S. went to war. Even if
eventually found in Iraq, therefore, President Bush's decision to go
to war will remain
Other rationales which have been offered for the
war against Iraq are equally weak. One of the most ludicrous defenses
for this war has been that the
Iraqi people and the world are "better off" with Saddam Hussein dead.
idea has been advanced by, among others, Arizona Senator John McCain
during a recent appearance McCain made on the MSNBC show "Hardball." The
argument, however, totally ignores the issue of national sovereignty.
Nations are political
and territorial units which must, under international law, be respected.
The U.S. does not have a right to invade another nation to make
the world "better
off" if American security is not in clear danger. Furthermore,
it is not even clear that Iraqis and the world will be better off
because of the war.
cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely. What will happen then? Iraqis
are far from prepared to govern their country in a unified manner
a national level. It
seems probable that pro-Hussein elements of the Iraqi military
will return to power when the U.S. leaves. In addition to bringing
back to Iraq,
they may well torture and execute Iraqis perceived as having
been friendly toward America. Furthermore, although his two eldest
sons have been killed, Saddam Hussein remains at large as of this
President Bush and his administration need to be
held accountable for their actions. If Americans cannot trust their
intelligence services, and cannot trust their
President to be truthful about threats America faces, the national security
of the United States is gravely compromised. America will then
stand much weaker
in its struggle against Osama bin Laden, al-Queda, and any other enemy it will
face in the future.
Lee Howard Hodges, B.A. M.A. Historical Studies, University of
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