Despite President Bush’s repeated efforts to justify war with Iraq, it is clear that most of the world remains unconvinced. Why is this so? The reason is simple. Bush has simply failed to make a compelling case for military action. He has never made a coherent, logical argument for his position. Instead, he and his advisers have relied on arguments in which conclusions have preceded reasoning.
The Bush administration claims that Iraq is in “material breach” of UN resolution 1441, which calls for the country to disclose any chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs it is pursuing, and to surrender whatever so-called “weapons of mass destruction” it already has. The problem is that according to the reasoning employed by the Bush administration, Iraq has no chance to exonerate itself from the charge of violating resolution 1441
According to the White House, if the UN weapons inspectors find hidden weapons, the issue is settled. If they don’t find such weapons, it still means that Saddam Hussein has them — he is simply hiding them. Bush’s arguments concerning this issue show that, far from seeking peace, he is determined to go to war even if his accusations against Iraq are unsupported by the evidence.
Even if it is true that Saddam is violating resolution 1441, how does it logically follow that he represents a clear threat to the United States? The former Soviet Union repeatedly violated international agreements concerning limitations on the development of biological and nuclear weapons, yet never had a desire to employ them against America in spite of being America’s adversary.
By straining to link Saddam with Osama bin Laden, the Bush administration has severely weakened its credibility. All of the evidence offered connecting Saddam to al-Queda, including that provided by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his recent UN presentation, has been pitifully weak.
Powell mentioned, for example, an al-Queda operative whom he said had been operating in Baghdad with Saddam’s knowledge. Convincing evidence for a direct link to Saddam, however, was woefully lacking. Meanwhile, the White House has consistently ignored strong evidence that members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, a U.S. “ally,” have not only harbored members of al-Queda in their midst, but have given money to bin Laden himself.
Contrary to the claims of the Bush administration, Saddam Hussein is not a madman. He is a completely logical and rational, if ruthless, leader. Moreover, he is a survivor. He wants to remain alive. He demonstrated this during the 1991 Gulf War by prudently withdrawing his armies from Kuwait when faced with imminent disaster at the hands of the U.S. and its allies.
Why, then, would Saddam provide weapons to a group such as al-Queda? He knows that the Bush administration is desperately trying to establish a link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. If the U.S. were to discover any such link, the response would be swift and devastating.
If the U.S. attacks Iraq, on the other hand, Saddam will have a strong motive to use whatever weapons he has, and to give them to groups such as al-Queda. It is important to recognize the strong possibility that the U.S. will fail to kill or capture Saddam in the event of an invasion, and that he will evade detection in a similar fashion as Osama bin Laden has.
Since Saddam will know that the U.S. is attempting to overthrow and kill him regardless of what he does, what reason will he have not to make his possible demise as costly in American lives as he can? A recent CIA report concludes that the U.S. will be less, not more, secure in the event of an attack on Iraq.
The very nature of the current debate concerning war with Iraq is very troubling. War is being treated, inside and outside the administration, as a casual option rather than as a last resort. Colin Powell recently appeared on an episode of NBC’s TV show Meet the Press. Tim Russert, the host of the show, asked Powell about a comment Bob Woodward quoted the secretary of state as making in Woodward’s new book, Bush at War. According to Woodward, Powell told Bush that an invasion of Iraq could make the Middle East far less stable than it currently is.
On Meet the Press, Powell acknowledged making the comment. He then said, however, that an attack on Iraq could also make the Middle East much more stable. This type of reasoning is clearly spurious and unacceptable. War is not a game. War is brutal and horrific. Most of those who will be killed if war breaks out between the U.S. and Iraq are innocent civilians. It is unacceptable to go to war unless there are clearly no other reasonable options but to do so.
President Bush has a moral obligation to look at the facts. Iraq poses no clear threat to the United States. Even if Iraq did pose such a threat, it is far from clear that the danger would be reduced through military action. There is no justification for the United States to go to war.