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Opinion

Immoral superiority
U.S. has not "won the war" against Saddam Hussein by any stretch of the imagination

July 30, 2003
The Iranian

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 losing.

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 first place.

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 person shot is subsequently found to have been carrying a toy gun. It turns out that the officer was never in danger. The officer, however, remains justified in shooting the person, because they had reason to believe their life 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 be exonerated 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 such weapons are eventually found in Iraq, therefore, President Bush's decision to go to war will remain unjustified.

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.

That 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.

America cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely. What will happen then? Iraqis are far from prepared to govern their country in a unified manner on 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 a dictatorship 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 writing.

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.

Author

Lee Howard Hodges, B.A. M.A. Historical Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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