Girgenti: War and peace in the Bush administration

R. Colin Fly

Over the last two weeks, the Bush administration has begun backpeddling over a likely war with Iraq, despite receiving congressional approval of a resolution allowing the use of unilateral force. What caused this change in the administration’s stance? There were several factors involved, some of which have been widely reported, and some of which have not.

When North Korea announced that it possessed nuclear weapons, the Bush administration was forced to second guess the Bush doctrine which says that the United States will pre-emptively invade any country developing or possessing weapons of mass destruction that can be used against America or American interests. If Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, it could use them against Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, some of our key allies in the region. North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons, poses a threat to South Korea and Japan, two of our key allies in that region. According to the Bush doctrine, it would be inconsistent to invade Iraq and not invade North Korea. However, any invasion of North Korea for any reason would result in innumerable casualties for both sides. North Korea has a huge, well-equipped military to go along with their nuclear weapons. To attempt an invasion of North Korea would invite the use of nuclear weapons against our allies and ourselves. Though an invasion of Iraq occasions no such risks since nobody believes Iraq has successfully developed nuclear weapons, it would provoke the use of whatever weapons Iraq does have against American soldiers.

Inconsistency of foreign policy is never a good enough reason for America to back down; however, in this case, there are still other factors involved. A recent report by the Pentagon suggests that up to 90 percent of the suits American troops would wear to protect them against biological and chemical weapons are not up to the task. That means that in the event of an invasion, if Saddam Hussein does have biological or chemical weapons, he could use them against American troops to devastating effect. Not only would many soldiers die, but many would also suffer from the long term effects of exposure to these toxins. The President is desperate for any war he engages in to be popular, but poll after poll shows that if many American soldiers die, the majority would turn against him.

In fact, there’s a very real possibility that any invasion of Iraq would fail before it started. The Pentagon recently ran some war games in which an unspecified Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf was invaded by American troops. The idea was to test the viability of an invasion of Iraq without military bases in neighboring countries. The enemy dictator was played by a retired colonel, who successfully prevented the United States from being able to land many troops on the mainland.

He used tactics similar to those used to attack the USS Cole and, more recently, a French oil tanker. That is, he put explosives on civilian watercraft that would be completely indistinguishable from the unarmed craft, and used them to blow holes in the hulls of the transport ships. The result was that the majority of the ships failed to reach the mainland. The exercise was attempted several more times, each time with more rules insisting that the colonel not use certain tactics, and each time the American military lost. Thus, for these logistical reasons, most generals have been opposing any war with Iraq.

There has been one other major factor in Bush’s war as the primary solution to Iraq and that is protest. Americans have been speaking out against war with Iraq for the last few months, writing articles, protesting peacefully and engaging in civil disobedience. In a democratic nation, it is the people who are sovereign, not the president, and he is answerable to us. As long as freedom of speech is guaranteed in this country, then the people will continue to have the power.

While the White House has backpeddled a bit, war is still an option. Now is the time for all those opposed to war to step up and make their voices heard. To ensure that Bush does not engage in a unilateral war, people must write letters to their congresspeople and to their newspapers. People must work to uncover the truth behind Bush’s motives in this war and expose them to the harsh light of day. Only an educated populace can make appropriate decisions, so America must be educated. Action must be stepped up now, not lessened. We must fight war, not wars.