We are on the brink of a war that will undoubtedly be disastrous for the people of Iraq, and likely even more so for the people of the United States. Listening to President Bush’s rhetoric, one has the feeling that it is Hate Week in Orwell’s 1984.
Surely, Saddam Hussein is a dictator who has committed atrocities in the past. Surely, the American people can be aroused to hate Saddam. These are the buttons that are being pushed by Bush and his militant advisors who are eager for war.
As Bush raises shrill charges against Hussein, US troops take up their positions on his orders surrounding Iraq. According to Bush, “Saddam has the motive and the means and the recklessness and the hatred to threaten the American people.”
But exactly what motive could he have? Self-destruction? The desire to see himself and his country destroyed? On the contrary, his motivation seems to be to hold off a war by allowing free access in his country to the United Nations weapons inspectors.
But still Saddam is easy to hate, and the Bush administration is pressing for a war. “The United States,” says Bush, “along with a growing coalition of nations, is resolved to take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime.”
But how exactly is Saddam threatening us? What exactly are we defending against? These are among the questions that go unanswered by the administration and the media as Bush pushes for war.
In fact, the Iraqi regime has been largely disarmed. It will be a fairly easy target for the US military with its crushing might, a far easier target of attack than North Korea.
Sometimes in the flurry of administration invective, it is difficult to remember that it is the United States that has an arsenal of 10,000 nuclear weapons and Iraq that has none, or that it is the US military that is surrounding Iraq and that Iraq has not actually made any threat against the US.
Neither the Bush administration nor the American media has paid much attention to the consequences of a US attack to “disarm” Saddam. They do so at their peril and at the peril of the American people because the consequences will be grave.
The consequences will include the deaths of many innocent Iraqi civilians and young American troops. They will include increased hatred of the US throughout the Arab world, and a corresponding rise in terrorism. They will include the undermining of the international law of war and of the United Nations. The global economy could be sent into a tailspin, and there will potentially be serious adverse effects on the environment.
This war will cause major rifts in the Western alliance. It will provide a precedent to other leaders who want to solve international conflicts by means of preemptive unilateral wars. It will encourage the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in countries likely to be threatened by the US in the future.
In the end, it will be the American people who will pay the heaviest price for Bush’s ill-considered war. We will be the victims of future acts of terrorism and our civil liberties will continue to be diminished as power is concentrated in a dictatorial president.
We should not lose track of the fact that George Bush was not elected. He was selected by a small group of conservative justices on the US Supreme Court. This makes it even more tragic that he is leading our country into a disastrous war.
Nelson Mandela, one of the great moral leaders of our time, recently expressed his sense of the Bush administration’s policies: “It is a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing in Iraq. What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.”
Only the American people can stop this war, and only if they act now in overwhelming numbers.
*David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the co-editor with Richard Falk of The Iraq Crisis and International Law.