As this is written, we are on the verge of war with Iraq. Unlike wars fought in the past by this great country, this war has more pre-emptive purposes than obviously defensive ones. But, this is a new time, and the geo-political picture is radically different than that of the twentieth century. There are those who do not believe that this war is necessary, for many reasons. And there are valid reasons for opposing war. But I believe that this is one conflict that must be fought. I do not say this as a warmonger, or as one looking at it as revenge for 9/11. In fact, because I am in the military, I am one who could find himself fighting it. I also understand, as a student of history, the cost of war and the realities surrounding it.
The best way to make my case is to give my responses to the point’s made by the anti-war movement of today. The first argument that comes to mind is the “blood for oil” rants. This statement is meant to have one believe that the sole reason that the President is going to bring the country to war is for cheap oil, and thus personal financial gain. Where this argument loses steam is when one looks at different ways we can get that oil, all of which are far easier and cheaper than war.
Iraq is number six on the U.S. oil importing countries list. A drop in price on Iraqi oil would not flood the market with a cheap supply. In fact, the number one country we import oil from is Canada! The United States gets approximately 1,900 barrels a day from Canada, compared with 1,500 from Saudi Arabia. This is compared to about 570 barrels a day from Iraq (“U.S. Oil Imports- Top 10 Countries of Origin.” Office of Transportation Technologies. 09 Dec. 2002.) It is also interesting to note that only 4 out of 10 countries that are in the top 10 list of oil exporters are OPEC nations. As President Bush stated in the 2003 State of the Union speech, if the U.S. wanted to get more or cheaper oil from Iraq, than we should move to drop the U.N. sanctions on Iraqi oil exports. That would be much easier, and no lives would be lost. Or would they?
The reason the sanctions are there is to contain Saddam Hussein. Now, why would this country try and contain that poor country? One has heard time and time again about the starving Iraqi children, which are supposedly dying because of the sanctions (Welch, Matt. “The Politics of Dead Children.” Reason Online. March 2002.)
I must point out that it is U.N. Resolution 687, passed in April 1991, which is in place, not U.S. sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions were passed shortly following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In order for the sanctions to be lifted, Iraq must meet several criteria, most of which are aimed at removing Hussein from power along with his Ba’ath political party. Since this has not happened, then one could argue that the sanctions were useless and should be lifted. So why hasn’t this been done? Because of Saddam Hussein’s proven track record of aggression, brutality and murder. To lift sanctions and allow him to grow would allow a known tyrant to amass more power in an unstable region. If the League of Nations knew that Hitler was going to rise up and conquer Europe, would it have been prudent to allow his growth? I believe that with Hussein, with his clear record of gassing civilians and torturing those who oppose him, it is best to be pro-active and prudent rather than to let him loose and hope for the best. And it is interesting to note that while Iraqi children are allegedly starving, President Hussein built 17 new presidential palaces since 1991.
Another argument is that the U.S. supported Hussein and even gave him weapons. This is true. But the geo-politics of the late ’70s and early ’80s are a far cry from those of today. The reason the U.S. supported Hussein was that Iran simply presented a greater threat at the time. One must keep in mind that the Cold War was in full swing, and power balances were fragile at least. A fundamentalist Muslim government run by the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew Iran, once an ally with the United States. The Iranians under the new regime were quick to align themselves with the Soviet Union, and became a threat to the Middle East. Since Iraq was at war with Iran, it made sense at the time to help Iraq, thus keeping Iran occupied with war rather than helping the Soviet Union with its stated goals of global expansion. And to that time, Hussein did not have the history he would soon accumulate with his actions. He used chemical weapons against Iran, and later on the Kurdish people of Northern Iraq, and others, who opposed his totalitarian rule.
Hussein’s brutal control over his people is well documented (“Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001) http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/ : Iraq”, U.S. Department of State, 04 March 2002, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/nea/8257.htm
I am yet to hear anyone in the anti-war crowd refute the reports of the torturing of children and the murder of whole families. The typical statement to this is that it isn’t our business, if it’s addressed at all. But I make this analogy. What if you knew, without question, that your neighbor was abusing his children and beating his wife? Would you do anything about it? Some would call the Police. Some would do nothing. And what if the Police weren’t able, or couldn’t, do anything about it. How long would you let it go on? What if, as time passed, one of the children had its leg broken, or even worse, disappeared. One would hope that by then the Police would of acted, but in this scenario let’s say they don’t. One might consider rounding up as many neighbors as possible and taking action. Not all your neighbors would be willing, and the actions would have to be prudently taken. But is that not a more moral course of action than to sit back, cover your eyes and ears and do nothing? Now, just replace the word “Police” with “U.N.,” and “neighbors” with “countries.” Admittedly, the analogy is crude; but I believe accurate.
And what of the weapons of mass destruction? I hear some in denial; others say that who are we, the United States, to lecture anyone about weapons of mass destruction when we have them ourselves? Plus, we used them on Japan, so how can we have the moral high ground? Well, a look at what was going on in 1945 makes a pretty clear case on why this country used atomic weapons on Japan. A U.S. invasion of the Japanese mainland would have cost far more lives, both American and Japanese, than those lost in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As far as the “we have them too” argument, I’ll attempt to bring that down to the neighborhood level as well.
We all have the right to own guns, as long as we obey the law. Whether we choose to or not is up to us, and whether or not our neighbors have them is up to them. No one really thinks about what your neighbors have, since they are most likely law abiding citizens and possibly your friends. But what if your neighbor is an ex-convict; would one think about it then? Let’s say they did time for assault, rape, or even murder with a gun. Would you want them to have guns in the house next to yours? Your children or spouse would be exposed to them, would you want that as well? One would hope that the neighbor would not be allowed to have the weapons because they have proved they used them against another human being in the past for criminal purposes. Is this an acceptable situation? What if out of your window you see this neighbor has possession of even more destructive weapons, like explosives or grenades? Based on this neighbor’s history, what is acceptable to you? What is acceptable to your neighbors? Draw out possible conclusions of this analogy and the parallels are clear. Simplistically stated, a bullet to the body is equivalent to a nuclear bomb on a nation.
But wars are fought by people, and it is people, both military and civilian, who are killed and injured by war. War is an extremely ugly facet of human civilization. One would like to think that we, as a civilization, have moved past it. One has only to watch the first thirty minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” to get a glimpse of the horrors people face in a conflict. But are all people on this planet really progressed past having to resort to war? September 11th, current aggression by North Korea, and a look at Afghanistan show that regrettably, many people of this world are not beyond savage conflict.
It is my belief that we will most likely never again go to war with advanced, industrialized countries like France, Germany, Russia, Japan, and others despite our philosophical and ideological differences. But regrettably, others have far to go before they reach the level of realizing peace is a better alternative to war. Rarely, countries can have this epiphany without having to suffer war to get there, but except for Switzerland (which has remained relatively neutral since its people were driven into the Alps by Julius Caesar), this is not usually the case. As long as there are powers in the world that use aggression and force before diplomacy and discussion, the civilized world must be prepared to act against them when they become a threat to others.
Pacifism only becomes a useful philosophy when all your enemies are also pacifists. Until that time, war is a reality the world will have to face.
This brings the discussion to the human cost. There are many claims about the targeting of civilian institutions and innocent people themselves, let alone the cost in soldier’s lives. In the history of the world, there is no other country which goes to such extremes to avoid killing civilians. If one is inclined to believe this to be propaganda, there is nothing I can say in an essay that would change ones mind. But, a check of the history books will clearly show that no other nation has fed the civilian population of a country while destroying it’s military. No other country has put so much money into weapons systems and technology to ensure only targets are hit. Why go to all this length when a World War II style fire bombing (Dresden, Tokyo, etc.) would be cheaper and accomplish the same goals? Why, a year and a half after 9/11, with the power to devastate the planet with nuclear weapons, hasn’t the United States simply “vaporized” its opponents? This is where reality doesn’t match the claims that the U.S. arbitrarily or purposely kills innocent people. But accidents do happen, and with Hussein in the practice of using “Human Shields,” innocents will die. But far less then the estimated 1.5 million murdered by Saddam Hussein’s actions since 1991.
So, that is the case for war. But, war is not inevitable. It can be avoided, and I know that it will be, if possible. The future, however, is in the hands of one man, and those who follow him. That man is Saddam Hussein. The “burden of proof” is not on the United States, nor is it up to America to appease others solely for the sake of peace.
But if the worst case happens and a war is declared, then I believe the Unites States is correct in its actions. In the end, history will prove the case better than any editorial.
”’Guy Foster is an adult education student at Leeward Community College.”’