Girgenti: Why attack Iraq?

R. Colin Fly

Lately there’s been quite a bit of debate over whether or not the United States should go to war with Iraq in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power. I admit that I’m a bit confused as to why we should go to war with Iraq. Sure, Saddam’s a pretty nasty character, and the world would be a much better place without him. But is that enough of an excuse to remove him from power? Maybe baby Bush is trying to finish what his father started 10 years ago, but that doesn’t seem all that likely either, since his father consciously decided to end the Persian Gulf war at the border of Kuwait and Iraq. Certainly the devastated Iraqi army could not have prevented American troops from marching all the way through Iraq to the capital to force his overthrow. So I find myself still confused as to why we should invade Iraq, though I am familiar with a number of reasons as to why it really is not worth the effort.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Bush wants to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein is a bad, bad man who does not believe in democracy. In that case, we should also invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, much of Africa, several countries in South and Central America, China, North Korea and Pakistan. All these countries are run by dictators who have, at the very least, denied their peoples true democracy, and at the worst committed some very serious violations of the human rights of their citizenry. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are police states, where the only way to be successful is to be related to the rulers. The current ruler of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, after going through the motions of promoting democracy in his country, recently reneged on his promise to hold free elections for president. But he, like rulers of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is good buddies with Bush Junior, so it’s important to keep him around.

Perhaps the Bush administration has evidence proving that Hussein was involved in some way in the Sept. 11 attacks that cannot be shared with the American people because of a continuing need to “protect national security.”

But wait, Bush promised the other member nations of NATO that he would show their delegates any secret information implicating Hussein shortly after Sept. 11. If he had shared that information with the other members of NATO, the United States would have broad international support for this campaign, instead of having no support whatsoever, outside of Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is rapidly losing popularity at home because of his position on the issue.

All of this leaves out the important fact that during the Persian Gulf War, bin Laden offered to raise an army of mujaheddin to help liberate Kuwait from Hussein, who he viewed as an infidel. It does not sound to me like those two would be all that likely to cooperate on anything, given bin Laden’s very strong belief in Islamic extremism.

Maybe we should just trust the experts on this issue, experts like Scott Ritter, the head of the U.N. weapons inspections team in Iraq before Hussein kicked the inspectors out. Ritter, who would know better than just about anyone else in America, is absolutely certain that he and the weapons inspectors destroyed all of Hussein’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons facilities and stocks. He also points out that it would be next to impossible for Hussein, starting with nothing, to re-develop these weapons without the whole world knowing, through various kinds of emissions that would be detected by satellites, for instance. It is important to keep in mind that Iraq is currently under U.N. sanctions, making it next to impossible for Iraq to import anything that could be used to develop these weapons without the world knowing. Perhaps most importantly, Iraq really does not have any kind of delivery system with which it could use any of these weapons, if it has any, to threaten American interests.

None of this is intended to be a defense of Hussein and his policies. I have no doubt that he is a terrible man and a terrible ruler. But if Hussein is overthrown by the United States, who will replace him? According to an article in Time Magazine, two of his sons are in a position to take his place. Assuming they both survive the overthrow or murder of Hussein, they will fight each other for power, destroying what little is left of Iraq with a bloody civil war. The only way to prevent this terrible consequence would be for Bush to engage in nation-building, something he once insisted he would never do. However, with so many resources engaged in rebuilding Afghanistan, can we really afford to occupy Iraq for the several years it will take to stabilize the country? I, for one, would rather not pay more taxes so that Amy peers can be sent thousands of miles away to kill or be killed in a campaign that really is not necessary.