Foolish Rationalizations for a Foolish War

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The Bush administration is positively desirous of war with Iraq.

As reported by the Washington Post, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, vice-president Dick Cheney listed the following "justifications for removing Hussein."

Specifically, the proffered "justifications" are:

  1. the Iraqis’ firing on U.S. and British planes in the no-fly zone imposed after the Persian Gulf War;
  2. Hussein’s efforts to assassinate Bush the First in 1993;
  3. the invasions of Iran and Kuwait;
  4. the firing of missiles at Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel;
  5. Hussein’s ranking by the State Department as a sponsor of terrorism for two decades;
  6. Hussein has broken United Nations agreements from 1991 to end his nuclear weapons program, destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and admit U.N. inspectors; and
  7. Iraq has "weapons of mass destruction" and is preparing to use them against the United States and its allies.

These are weak excuses to start a war. First, only reasons (1), (2) and (7) could conceivably be an excuse for an American war on Iraq. Reasons (3) through (6) have nothing to do with the national interests of the United States, and will be addressed first.

The fact that Iraq has previously invaded Iran and Kuwait is not a reason for the United States to make war on Iraq. Iran fought its own war with Iraq, and Bush the First bailed out the Kuwaitis. It would seem that excuse number three, then, is a moot point.

Excuse number four is similarly irrelevant. It is of no concern to the United States whether Iraq fires missiles at Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel. All three are sovereign nations with the ability to defend themselves. There is no compelling reason for American men and women to die for Iran, Saudia Arabia, or Israel.

Excuse number five is likewise silly. Even if the American State Department has ranked Iraq as a sponsor of terrorism for the last twenty years, why is this ranking a justification for war in 2002? If anything, excuse number five reveals Dick Cheney and the other warmongers in the Bush administration for what they are: in search of even the flimsiest excuse to start a bloody and costly war.

Excuse number six is also preposterous. If Iraq has broken agreements with the United Nations, guess whose problem that is: the United Nations. Let the bureaucrats and social workers of the U.N. suit up and parachute into Baghdad. There is no reason for American blood, sweat or treasure to be spent to enforce agreements of the U.N.

Now consider excuses one, two and seven (the only excuses which are remotely plausible). Concerning excuse number one, it is a British problem if Iraq has fired upon British planes. Similarly, concerning excuse number seven, the use of "weapons of mass destruction" on American allies is the concern of such allies, which, again, are sovereign nations with their own defenses.

To further explore excuse number one, where American planes are concerned, it would again seem that the events complained of are remote. Even if the Iraqis were to fire on American planes today, query whether this is sufficient justification for a war. If anything, this would appear only to justify bombing anti-aircraft installations in the name of self-defense. This would appear to be a part of the enforcement of the No-Fly Zones.

Why start a massive ground war when the problem can be remedied by limited bombing? (Aren’t we capable of destroying anti-aircraft installations? One would think, based upon glowing press reports of precision bombing capabilities, that this would be a trifle).

As for excuse number two, how does a 1993 assassination attempt on Bush the First justify a war in 2002? Haven’t the United States waited a bit too long to complain about that event?

In an irony of history, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was actually assassinated. Austria, and its ally Germany, despite making war against Serbia, in part because of the assassination, were not defended by the United States. Instead, the United States made war on Austria-Hungary and Germany. In the process, the foolish Woodrow Wilson helped reshape the map of Europe in a fatal fashion, setting the stage for the Second World War.

It would seem that some assassinations are acceptable to the United States. It would also seem that we learn nothing from history. Recall that World War One was the "war to end all wars" and the war "to make the world safe for democracy." It did not work then, and it will not work now.

The final excuse — the claim that there is "no doubt" that Iraq (a) possesses and (b) is preparing to use "weapons of mass destruction" is also weak.

If there is "no doubt," then the Bush administration must have certain knowledge indeed. If that is truly the case, and if war is certain, why not publish such information for public scrutiny? Why not share this information with the Congress? After all, if there is "no doubt," then the Congress and the tax paying, sending-their-sons-to-die public cannot but help to agree with the Bush administration’s assessment of the need for war.

One must question the claim that there is "no doubt" that Iraq (a) possesses or (b) plans to use "weapons of mass destruction" on the United States. Are these weapons to be launched at the citizens of the 50 states? Or are they to be launched at U.S. military forces in the Persian Gulf? And what are these weapons, specifically?

In addition, until the Iraqis actually act, one cannot "know" that the Iraqis will act in a certain manner; one may only have a very strong belief. For that reason, a pre-emptive attack on Iraq is not morally equivalent to a retaliatory strike (i.e., to self-defense).

The seven excuses for war are even weaker when one considers the cost in human lives, as well as the financial cost to American citizens in the form of taxes. Projections have placed the possible cost of a war on Iraq at $100 billion.

In summary, according to Dick Cheney, American men and women are to die, and American freedom is to be diminished via taxation and repression of dissent, because of: (1) shots fired at military airplanes; (2) a failed assassination attempt nine years ago; and (3) Iraq may have "weapons of mass destruction."

The Bush administration is grasping at straws.

Small wonder that, as reported by Eric Margolis, foreign editor of the Toronto Sun, Gerald Kaufman, the former foreign affairs spokesman of Britain’s Labour Party, had this to say:

Bush, himself the most intellectually backward American president of my political lifetime, is surrounded by advisers whose bellicosity is exceeded only by their political, military and diplomatic illiteracy.

Well said, Mr. Kaufman.

There is no good reason for the United States to make war on Iraq. Such a war is not in the national interests of the United States.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2002 David Dieteman

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