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Bush Should Just Be Honest About This War
Published on Thursday, September 26, 2002 in the Long Island, NY Newsday
Bush Should Just Be Honest About This War
by Sheryl McCarthy

'I don't know what to make of this Iraq thing," a colleague told me the other day.

The woman has reason to be confused. Congress is listening as the Bush administration argues its case for a war on Saddam Hussein. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has released a report claiming that Hussein is capable of launching a deadly attack with 45 minutes notice. A former United Nations weapons inspector tours Iraq and says the country has no major weapons. And a congressman charges that oil, not the fear of Hussein's weapons, is the reason the president wants him out.

Hussein is a bad guy - a power hungry man who's made war on two of his neighbors. But I've heard nothing to convince me that he's a threat to the safety of the United States, or that he would use any weapons he may have against us - and run the risk of being annihilated.

I don't know why he'd give weapons to our enemies, risking being found out and facing the wrath of the United States. Nor can I envision him using them against Israel, thereby risking a war in the Mideast that would drag in the rest of the Arab world, not to mention the United States and Britain.

But I am bothered by what underlies the war talk. First, it bears the unmistakable scent of imperialism. This is a debate between different visions of the United States' role in the world. Do we have the right to overthrow regimes we don't like because they get in the way of our interests? I think not.

The United States has a history of meddling in other countries' affairs, and then leaving them to clean up the mess. For an example of a U.S.-engineered regime change, look at the overthrow of Iran's government (because it dared to nationalize British Petroleum) and the propping up of the shah. His reign brought misery to the Iranians and led to the rise of the ayatollahs, the taking of American hostages and bad relations with Iran until this day.

Second, our real aims are shrouded in hypocrisy. President George W. Bush keeps saying Hussein is evil, that he gassed the Kurds, attacked his neighbors and is developing terrible weapons. But the United States twice betrayed the Kurds and backed Hussein in his war on Iran. This war isn't about keeping terrible weapons from being developed but about who gets to keep them, since the United States, Israel, Britain, Pakistan and India all have nuclear weapons.

Third, the Bush administration has failed to link Saddam Hussein to terrorism against the United States. The roots of the Sept. 11 terrorists weren't in Iraq, but in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries that, bizarrely, are now our allies. But they have been amenable to U.S. control, while Iraq has not.

Fourth, every administration needs a bogeyman, an enemy to gather national support against. When George Bush Sr. was called a wimp, he made war on Iraq and ran his ratings up. When Bill Clinton was facing impeachment hearings, he bombed Iraq, postponing the hearings and giving him a boost. Now George W. Bush, who won a dubious election, looked weak in the days following Sept. 11 and has been unable to get Osama bin Laden, is beating the war drums again.

The Gulf War wasn't about protecting Kuwait's sovereignty, but about securing access to the oil in the region. So is this one. "They keep saying they want a regime change because they want control of the oil fields," Washington state Congressman Jim McDermott said recently.

And while he agrees that Hussein has repeatedly violated the UN's directions to disarm, "that does not give us the right to peremptorily strike a country. Once you go down that road, when does it stop?"

This war is being presented as a war against evil, but the real motives are to protect oil and to protect Israel. The Bush administration should tell the truth: that Hussein's a loose cannon who wants to control the Persian Gulf region - not an evil thing in itself, except that the United States wants control.

Just say that, and see how it flies as a justification for war.

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.


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