A Debate about the War in Iraq

(Written in February 2003)

    The three principal arguments brought forward to support the war on Iraq are :

1 )  Eliminating weapons of mass destruction;
2 )  Replacing a detestable regime;
3 )  Reducing the threat of terrorism.

    Before dealing with the first point let's put aside the last two arguments because they appear unconvincing to most of the world for the following reasons :

Replacing a detestable regime.

    Few people would disagree that Saddam Hussein's regime is a terrible burden for the Iraki people. Perhaps the worst atrocity was the chemical attack on the Kurds in 1988. At that time the United States not only supported Iraq (on account of the Iraq / Iran war) but threatened to veto a condemnation of such attacks by the Security Council of the United Nations. A further difficulty with a US-led regime change is the contradiction that the U.S. itself recognized a regime far worse, namely the Khmer Rouge (they exterminated 15-20% of their entire population), and then reprimanded the Vietnamese for invading Cambodia in order to change that regime. If the above argument would be the main reason for war the question arises: If regime change was reprimanded then how can it be justified now, and if it is justified now, where does it end?
Richard Perle, the Chief architect of the war, has said :
    '.... the message to the Syrians, the Iranians, the Yemenis, the Sudanese and others should simply be, 'You're next'.
    At the same time many chronic violators of human rights in the world remain close allies of the U.S., like, for example, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
    Finally: If elections would be held in a future Iraki state, one has to keep in mind that the leader with the largest following is possibly Ayatollah al-Hakim, presently waiting for his call in Iran. He is a leader of the Shiites who constitute over 60% of Irak's population. Is the U.S. ready for yet another Ayatollah - possibly with one who is allied with the first one in Iran? A fundamentalist Islamic Republic is a realistic possibility in postwar Irak.

Postscript - added in Feb. 2006:
Ayatollah al-Hakim was assassinated after his return fromn Iran, but his brother al-Hakim (and his soul mate) has emerged as the leader of the Shia coalition which won the 2006 elections !
Reduction of Al Qaida terrorist threats.

    This argument at first sounds convincing until we remember that Bin Laden and Saddam are at opposite sides within Islam, the first a fundamentalist fanatic promoting a theocratic society, the latter representing one of the more secular Islamic states. (Osama Bin Laden first came to prominence when he offered to fight Saddam Hussein when the latter threatened to invade Saudi Arabia in 1991).
One group with links to Al Qaida, the Islamist Ansar al-Islam in northern Irak, was fighting against Saddam and was supported by Iran, another enemy of the Iraki regime.
Al Qaida's support of Iraq is purely opportunistic, like the 'enemy of my enemy' is my friend, but in the end Al Qaida regards Saddam as a treacherous heretic who ought to be eliminated.

Hamas and Hezbollah, Saddam's favorite groups, certainly threaten Israel but not the U.S., although the action against Iraq ironically might change this position.
The threat against Israel would be better dealt with an active policy for a solution of the Palestinian problem - something that has been put on hold on account of the war.
The principal source of Al Qaida support comes from the thousands of Madrasses established all over the world, financed by Saudi Arabia - ironically another partner of the current US adminstration.

It is likely that the war will fertilize the Middle East for recruitment of future terrorists, therefore increasing instead of reducing such threats.

There remains, however, the first argument which deserves a fundamental debate. It is the threat of so-called weapons of mass destruction not only from Iraq but around the globe. (At the time of this writing (Feb. 25, 2003) the existence of such weapons in Iraq still has to be validated, but for the sake of the argument, let's assume they will eventually be found. If they are not found the argument will have to be discarded).

The issues argued are :
Will the war further or hinder the proliferation of such weapons? Is force unavoidable to eliminate such weapons in at least one country? Are international institutions essential to control such weapons on a global scale, or is the U.S. the only power able to regulate such weapons?

Below is an article by George Kennan, the foremost American expert in international affairs for over sixty years. Kennan was the chief architect of the containment and deterrence policies that shaped America foreign policy during the Cold War. (He was also the author of the Marshall Plan for Europe)

Declaring that Hussein 'is not the only horrible, evil dictator in the world' who might have weapons of mass destruction, Kennan said the United States made a great mistake in backing out of the nuclear test ban agreement. 'If we had stopped testing, the greater part of the nuclear weaponry of all the countries who had signed the test ban treaty would have become inoperable in 20 or 30 years.'

www link :
George Kennan speaks out
The most careful analysis of how to deal with Iraq, written before the war in
Sept.26 of 2002.