Most people do not realize how many conservatives are against going to war in Iraq. A strong majority of nationally syndicated conservative columnists have come out against this war. Just three of many examples I could give include the following: Charley Reese, a staunch conservative, who was selected a couple of years ago as the favorite columnist of C-Span viewers, wrote that a U.S. attack on Iraq: "is a prescription for the decline and fall of the American empire. Overextension – urged on by a bunch of rabid intellectuals who wouldn’t know one end of a gun from another – has doomed many an empire. Just let the United States try to occupy the Middle East, which will be the practical result of a war against Iraq, and Americans will be bled dry by the costs in both blood and treasure." Paul Craig Roberts, who was one of the highest-ranking Treasury Department officials under President Reagan and now a nationally-syndicated conservative columnist, wrote: "an invasion of Iraq is likely the most thoughtless action in modern history." James Webb, a hero in Vietnam and President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, wrote: "The issue before us is not whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years." It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge deficit spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a very short war followed by a five-year occupation of Iraq would cost the U.S. $272 billion, this on top of an estimated $350 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year. It is a traditional conservative position to be against the U.S. being the policeman of the world. That is exactly what we will be doing if we go to war in Iraq. It is a traditional conservative position to be against world government, because conservatives believe that government is less wasteful and arrogant when it is small and closer to the people. It is a traditional conservative position to be critical of, skeptical about, even opposed to the very wasteful, corrupt United Nations, yet the primary justification for this war, what we hear over and over again, is that Iraq has violated 16 U.N. resolutions. Well, other nations have violated U.N. resolutions, yet we have not threatened war against them. It is a traditional conservative position to believe it is unfair to U.S. taxpayers and our military to put almost the entire burden of enforcing U.N. resolutions on the U.S., yet that is exactly what will happen in a war against Iraq. In fact, it is already happening, because even if Hussein backs down now it will cost us billions of dollars in war preparations and moving so many of our troops, planes, ships, and equipment to the Middle East. It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge foreign aid, which has been almost a complete failure for many years now. Talk about huge foreign aid – Turkey is demanding $26 to $32 billion according to most reports. Israel wants $12 to $15 billion additional aid. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia want additional aid in unspecified amounts. Almost every country that is supporting the U.S. in this war effort wants something in return. The cost of all these requests have not been added in to most of the war cost calculations. All this to fight a bad man who has a total military budget of about $1.4 billion, less than 3/10 of one percent of ours. The White House said Hussein has less than 40% of the weaponry and manpower that he had at the time of the first Gulf War. One analyst estimated only about 20%. His troops surrendered then to camera crews or even in one case to an empty tank. Hussein has been weakened further by years of bombing and economic sanctions and embargos. He is an evil man, but he is no threat to us, and if this war comes about, it will probably be one of the shortest and certainly one of the most lopsided wars in history. Our own CIA put out a report just a few days before our War Resolution vote saying that Hussein was so weak economically and militarily he was really not capable of attacking anyone unless forced into it. He really controls very little outside the city of Baghdad. The Washington Post, two days ago, had a column by Al Kamen which said: "The war in Iraq, likely in the next few weeks, is not expected to last long, given the overwhelming U.S. firepower to be arrayed against the Iraqis. But the trickier job may be in the aftermath, when Washington plans to install an administrator, or viceroy, who would direct postwar reconstruction of the place." Fortune magazine said: "Iraq We win. What then?" "A military victory could turn into a strategic defeat. . . . A prolonged, expensive, American-led occupation . . . could turn U.S. troops into sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists. . . . All of that could have immediate and negative consequences for the global economy." Not only have most conservative columnists come out strongly against this war, but also at least four conservative magazines and two conservative think tanks. One conservative Republican member of the other Body (Sen. Hagel) said last week that the "rush to war in Iraq could backfire" and asked: "We are wrecking coalitions, relationships and alliances so we can get a two-week start on going to war alone?" The Atlantic Monthly magazine said we would spend so much money in Iraq we might as well make it the 51st state. I believe most conservatives would rather that money be spent here instead of 7,000 miles away. It is a traditional conservative position to be in favor of a strong national defense, not one that turns our soldiers into international social workers, and to believe in a noninterventionist foreign policy rather than in globalism or internationalism. We should be friends with all nations, but we will weaken our own nation, maybe irreversibly unless we follow the more humble foreign policy the President advocated in his campaign. Finally, it is very much against every conservative tradition to support preemptive war. Another member of the other Body, the Senator from West Virginia, Senator Byrd, not a conservative but certainly one with great knowledge of and respect for history and tradition said recently: "This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world. This nation is about to embark upon the first test of the revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption – the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future – is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self-defense." The columnist William Raspberry, again not a conservative but one who sometimes takes conservative positions, wrote this week these words: "Why so fast. Because Hussein will stall the same way he’s been stalling for a dozen years. A dozen years, by the way, during which he has attacked no one, gassed no one, launched terror attacks on no one. Tell me its because of American pressure that he has stayed his hand, and I say great. Isn’t that better than a U.S.-launched war guaranteed to engender massive slaughter and spread terrorism?" Throughout these remarks, I have said not one word critical of the President or any of his advisors or anyone on the other side of this issue. I especially have not and will not criticize the fine men and women in our Nation’s armed forces. They are simply following orders and attempting to serve this country in an honorable way. Conservatives are generally not the types who participate in street demonstrations, especially ones led by people who say mean-spirited things about our President. But I do sincerely believe the true conservative position, the traditional conservative position is against this war.
March 6, 2003
Congressman John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.