|Breeding new terrorists
Where does U.S. self-defense cease and aggression begin?
By Lee Howard Hodges
October 18, 2002
A U.S. invasion of Iraq would be a terrible mistake. The Bush administration
has utterly failed to present a convincing case that Saddam Hussein is any more dangerous
now than he was five years ago. In fact, a CIA report recently released concludes
that Saddam is actually less dangerous than at any time since the Gulf War eleven
There is no conclusive evidence Saddam is any closer to successfully developing "weapons
of mass destruction" (including nuclear weapons) than he has ever been. Virtually
every national leader in the world, with the exception of Britain's Tony Blair, disagrees
with President Bush that Saddam poses a "clear and present danger" to the
rest of the world.
In reality, many nations clearly feel far more threatened by the prospect of a U.S.
invasion of Iraq than by Saddam himself. The Middle East, in particular, stands
to suffer great harm from such an invasion. As is well known, Iraq is a polyglot
nation composed mainly of Kurds in the north, Sunni Muslims in the center, and Shi'a
Muslims in the south.
Furthermore, within each of these groups there are rival factions. If the U.S. removes
Saddam from power, Iraq could break up into a series of weak states similar to what
occurred a decade ago in the former Yugoslavia. This situation would have the potential
to destabilize the entire Middle East -- providing a fertile breeding ground for
the emergence of new terrorists, and the strengthening of old ones like Osama bin
Laden and al-Queda.
Perhaps the biggest potential losers of all are the Kurds. The Kurds have every reason
to hate Saddam Hussein -- in the 1980s, Hussein killed more than 100,000 of them.
Today, however, the Kurds are better off than they have been at any time in recent
For decades, they have sought to achieve "Kurdistan," a nation of their
own. The Kurds now have a de facto Kurdistan. They have achieved considerable prosperity,
including an extensive Internet network. They would face the possibility of utter
devastation if America invaded Iraq and provoked Saddam's wrath -- just as they did
in the aftermath of the Gulf War, when the first President Bush encouraged the Kurds
to revolt against Saddam and then betrayed them by failing to provide military support,
thus letting Saddam pursue and massacre them.
The Bush administration has failed to establish that the U.S., and with it the rest
of the world, would be any safer with Saddam removed from power. The example of Afghanistan
is highly instructive in this respect. Following September 11th, the U.S. invaded
Afghanistan in the hopes of overthrowing the Taliban regime there as well as eliminating
Osama bin Laden and al-Queda.
One year later, although the Taliban has been overthrown, bin Laden and most of the
leadership of al-Queda, the very people who planned the attacks of 9/11, remain at
large. In fact, several months ago a U.S. government report concluded that the war
in Afghanistan did not significantly reduce the terrorist threat to the United
Any U.S. military force invading Iraq would face formidable logistical challenges
in locating so-called "weapons of mass destruction." In the chaos of the
fighting, these weapons could be smuggled out of the country. They would then be
infinitely more difficult to trace -- and more dangerous. Perhaps they would end
up in the hands of al-Queda. The idea of al-Queda having access to a weapon such
as smallpox is simply terrifying.
The U.S. also needs to think about what an invasion of Iraq would do to the standing
of America around the world -- particularly in the Middle East. There is little
doubt that the very anti-Americanism that Osama bin Laden exploits would be greatly
strengthened if the U.S. were to attack Iraq. President Bush may put forth elegant,
holier than thou rhetoric like "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists"
or "America will fight terrorists wherever they are," yet most of the world
Most of the world realizes that the U.S. has supported people who have been terrorists
themselves, and that Saddam was actually an ally of the U.S. during Iraq's
eight-year war against Iran. Indeed, the U.S. actually provided "weapons
of mass destruction" to Saddam during this period -- even after he massacred
civilian Kurds. It was only after Saddam invaded Kuwait that the U.S. turned against
him and began calling him "evil" and "Hitler revisited."
The U.S. governments' opposition to Saddam was not,
therefore, based on moral revulsion. Rather, it was based on the fear that Saddam
had now become a threat to the U.S. oil supply. The people of the Middle East have
never forgotten all of this. Therefore, if the U.S. invades Iraq, it will not be
seen by the people of the region as "liberating" Iraqis by removing a cruel
dictator from power. Rather, the U.S. will be seen as callously and cynically acting
in its own selfish strategic interests without regard for the lives of the people
Not long ago, Brent Scowcroft wrote an article in the New York Times in which
he stated that a U.S. invasion of Iraq could result in an "Armageddon"
for the Middle East. It would be the height of irresponsibility and idiocy for President
Bush to risk this prospect in order to "defend" against a threat which
it is not even clear exists. Furthermore, if the danger to the United States is unclear,
then where does self-defense cease and aggression begin?