Iraq a threat? We should be skeptical
The likely “war on Iraq” is a prominent topic of discussion lately. The media have successfully engaged us in the debate as new “plans of an attack” surface daily against the “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein. Not a day goes by that we aren’t told we’re on the brink of an attack. Recent claims regarding Iraqi civilian casualties have even emerged, complemented at home by legal debates as to whether congressional approval is necessary to strike.
“… Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East … directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail,” our vice president recently proclaimed. To call the administration brilliant in its deliberation of the issue would be an understatement, because, believe it or not, a great policy magic trick is unfolding before our eyes. Just as the state’s propaganda bag full of the “war on terror” and the “axis of evil” seemed depleted, old trash was recycled and the war on Iraq appeared out of thin air.
It would be trite to say Bush’s proposal is troublesome, considering Britain is the only other nation truly behind our backs in this endeavor. But even if we were to leave that aside, along with reports that Saddam has neither the chemical arms nor nuclear arsenal our leaders claim he is capable of using (as reported by the United Nations Special Committee), several errors still remain. The first is the bewildering assertion that the U.S., or any other nation for that matter, has the unilateral authority to directly intervene in another sovereign nation’s domestic affairs. In fact, it’s illegal under the guide of the U.N. charter.
Additionally, the issue presents a historical paradox, because a formal attack against Iraq would be little different from the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people for the past 11 years. And these have yet to oust the regime – consider the sanctions imposed upon Iraq following the Gulf War in 1991, which have left the country devastated. After only four years of the destruction of infrastructure, embargos on medicine and food imports, and widespread malnutrition, 567,000 children had already died. From then until 1998, 4,500 people died monthly – all in all amounting to more destruction than Saddam could ever dream of committing.
Of course, the common justification for these practices is that “they deserve it” – Saddam invaded Kuwait, gassed Kurds, and this is his due punishment. But to conceive of this as “due” is a slight travesty. No one in her right mind would be willing to apologize for Saddam. However, his case is less one-sided than we’ve been taught.
For argument’s sake, we’ll say Iraq does deserve it; but a bit more skepticism is required as we take a step back when observing our relations with Iraq, particularly when wondering why the U.S. was intervening in the Gulf in the first place. Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. showed little concern when other countries were invaded: Iran by Iraq, East Timor by Indonesia – in fact, little happened when Iraq killed Kurds at Halabja in ’88.
It was only liberating Kuwait that necessarily seemed to matter. Maybe because of the oil interests at stake or the boon it proposed for American businesses when rebuilding the nation? One tends to find holes when trying to figure out why America would attack a nation that, during the eight years leading up to the conflict, received $5 billion of our economic aid (not including arms sales) and was a key trading partner. And it was not just an attack, but rather a slaughter, considering the U.S. response to the Gulf War dealt roughly tenfold the damage Iraq originally inflicted on Kuwait.
“This is silly, we can never know the threat Saddam poses because he never lets weapons inspectors in,” many rebuke. Weapons inspectors did enter Iraq in 1994, though, and discovered absolutely nothing – the chemical stockpiles were a myth, and even if Saddam could develop nuclear arsenals, they couldn’t be finished by now anyway.
“Of course not, he hid them,” or so we’ve often heard. But even if Iraq threatens us with “nuclear blackmail,” as Dick Cheney says it will, by the same token I’d hope America would never succumb to the demands of some bigger nation. So why should we ever expect Iraq, which was once technologically advanced and near the top of the Middle East, to do the same? We fought a revolution when we were in such a predicament. Iraq, on the other hand, has yet to indulge in such a backlash.
Is Saddam a threat? Sure. Is his record on terror comparable to the terror committed against him (or rather, the Iraqi people)? That’s questionable. If any decisions are to be made from this debate, though, I hope they don’t augment our past aggressions.
Larry S. McGrath is a 16-year-old Grass Valley resident. He is a junior at Nevada Union High School. Write him in care of Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945, or at
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