Maybe it will work.
Pow! Bam! We take out Saddam. Oh you feint hearts! Why not?
Hereís the scenario: Our intelligence is keen and our smart bombs knock out his supposed chemical, biological and nuclear weapon sites. All Iraqi military installations are in flames. His missile launchers are immediately destroyed; not one Scud is launched. And our conscience is assuaged. Accidental civilian deaths are "acceptable," the Pentagon assures us, for this kind of war.
The President goes on television and declares that the "evil one" is dead. The Iraqi army throws down its arms. The Iraqi people are in the street chanting "USA, USA." All over the Middle East people are waving American flags. Everyone loves a winner. Even the Palestinians are celebrating. Didnít the Bush Administration once promise they could have a state?
On the other hand...this could happen:
Saddamís missiles, the few that he has, are trip-wired to go off at the first sign of attack. The first SCUD that lands on Israel, no matter what its payload, causes Israel to launch a massive retaliatory strike. This leads to an uprising all over the Middle East. Our embassies are sacked; oil wells blown up.
Our bombs prove not to be as smart as we thought. What we believed was a military outpost turns out to be the Chinese embassy. We bomb what we claimed was a terrorist training camp only to find out it was an Iraqi wedding celebration. A bomb aimed for a government building hits a hospital next door. We destroy a UN warehouse thinking itís an arms depot; errant bombs also hit a school, an apartment building and a hotel. Hey, this could happen Ė- it already has. And thereís Saddam on Arab TV, very much alive. Weíve not found Osama bin Laden: what makes us think we can draw a bead on the Iraqi dictator?
Enraged by the bombing, inspired by the Arab uprising, and stirred by Sadism's defiance, the Iraqi army chooses to fight. They abandon the desert where they are easy targets and take their stand in Iraqi cities, daring us to attack. Anti-American riots take place all over the world. Now weíre paying for our unilateralism. The Bush Administration refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty and insisted on exempting Americans from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. Except for Britainís Tony Blair, who faces his own parliamentary vote of no-confidence, none of our allies come to our aid. We face a bloody war and an economically-catastrophic rise in the price of oil.
Which scenario is more likely to occur? What odds would Las Vegas bookmakers give on a quick and easy victory in an Iraqi War?
The more the Administration talks about its plans, the more opposition it inspires. Thereís disquiet in the Pentagon, the State Department, among retired generals and even Republican hawks. The critics donít want the Administration to move forward without international support, and they question whether Saddam Hussein has the weapons Bush claims he has.
On August 18, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice wrote in the Washington Post, "...if [Saddam] gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, he will wreak havoc on his own people and the rest of us, because he's `evil.í Note the "if." The truth is out of the bag. The Administration has no proof of its charge. Indeed Scott Ritter, the Marine Corps veteran and self-described Republican who headed the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq, has testified that Saddamís capability to produce weapons of mass destruction has been destroyed and he has not been able to rebuild. Moreover, no weapon that Saddam is alleged to have directly threatens the United States (though his missiles could land on Israel). Saddam is a not a terrorist like Osama bin Laden, hiding in a cave with no national assets. Saddam is not even a religious fundamentalist. Though the Bush Administration is desperate to make the case, there is no evidence of Iraqi-al Qaida ties. The only reason Saddam has to use the weapons he is alleged to have is as a desperate last resort if Iraq was about to be attacked. The Bush Administration is blatantly provoking Saddam to mount a retaliatory, or even a pre-emptive, strike. Such a strike exactly parallels the kind of aggression that we threaten on him.
Political disquiet goes deeper than doubts about Saddamís weapons and terrorist ties, however. An attack on Iraq makes no sense, even from an American corporate/oil/imperialist perspective. Oil companies, especially those operating in the Middle East, want stability. They donít want their wells and pipelines blown up; they donít want an uprising against Arab governments with whom theyíve cut deals. Besides, Americaís oil and gas future lies under the ground in Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union. These countries have relationships with Iraq. We canít afford to offend governments that control our future energy supplies. A war on Iraq not only risk an explosion of violence in the Middle East, but it jeopardizes international cooperation to root out terrorists, and future American investment opportunities for gas and oil supplies.
So whatís this craziness about? Even before September 11, neoconservatives within the Bush Administration were promoting a war with Iraq. Bush apparently bought into their plan, believing he could link Iraq to al Qaeda and bring Canada and Europe in for the ride. Now heís stuck. The only actual rationale for an Iraqi war was recently provided by Richard Perle, a leader of the Administrationís neoconservative hawks. "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism," Perle told the New York Times.
Sound familiar? Thatís the same lame argument used by the Johnson and Nixon Administrations to justify escalating the war in Vietnam. We have to fight to show weíre not chicken. The Bush Administration shows a recklessness and a disregard for history that is as dangerous as it profound. In 1992 Bill Clinton defeated Bushís father by talking about the economy. In order to focus on the message, his campaign coined the term, "itís the economy, stupid." The message for Bush on Iraq is "itís stupidity, stupid." There is no national interest Ė- no political perspective, left or right Ė- that justifies the war the Administration plans.
Marty Jezer writes from Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org