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Breeding new terrorists
Where does U.S. self-defense cease and aggression begin?

By Lee Howard Hodges
October 18, 2002
The Iranian

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 years ago.

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 memory.

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 States.

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 knows better.

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 of Iraq.

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?

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