2003-02-15, 1:20 a.m.
TEN REASONS TO OPPOSE
A UNILATERAL, PREEMPTIVE WAR AGAINST IRAQ
The government of Iraq does not pose an imminent threat to the U.S. Iraq has no nuclear weapons. The prestigious London International Institute for Strategic Studies just reported that Iraq would require an outside source to supply fissile material for it to produce a nuclear weapon in the near-term. The Iraqi government may have some chemical and biological weapons, but it has hardly any means to deliver these weapons and cannot threaten the survival of any country in the region, let alone the U.S. Thus, there is no compelling reason for a provocative, dangerous, preemptive, unilateral military attack.
A preemptive, unilateral U.S. military strike against Iraq will undermine efforts to bring to justice those who helped carry out the attacks of September 11, 2001 and hinder efforts to reduce acts of international terror. It may, in fact, erode the international cooperation that the U.S. needs in order to bring to justice those who helped carry out the attacks of September 11. No evidence has yet been presented that links Saddam Hussein's regime to al Qaeda. Rather than incapacitating terrorist networks, such a strike will likely inflame anti-U.S. hatred throughout the Arab and Muslim world, stimulating more attacks by extremists.
The U.S. and the UN have not exhausted all alternatives to war. Under mounting international pressure, Iraq has said it will allow the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors. During the first round of weapons inspections in the 1990s, UNSCOM officials destroyed far more Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and production facilities, including almost all of Iraq's nuclear weapons facilities, than were destroyed during all the bombing during the Gulf War. The resumption of rigorous UN weapons inspections-without undue interference from either the Iraqi or U.S. governments--is the essential next step.
Few in the U.S. or around the world support preemptive, unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq. Most support the U.S. working cooperatively and multilaterally through the UN to address the challenges posed by Saddam Hussein.
A preemptive attack against Iraq will set a dangerous precedent which others may follow. The UN Charter forbids member countries from committing acts of aggression or attacking another country except in self-defense. If the U.S. violates this fundamental principle, who else will follow? Will India or Pakistan, two nuclear armed countries on the precipice of war, assert the same right to attack one another preemptively?
War in Iraq risks a humanitarian disaster. A military attack against Iraq will put at risk the lives of tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq and throughout the region, as well as the sons and daughters who are sent to war by the U.S. Likely, it will not be easy for U.S. forces to capture Baghdad, a metropolitan area of several million people. Military targets are scattered throughout civilian areas. Civilian and military casualties would likely be quite high.
There is no guarantee that the next regime in Iraq will be any better than the current one with respect to democracy, human rights, disarmament, or maintaining peaceful relations with its neighbors. First, there is no alternative political leadership that has legitimacy among the diverse groups of Kurds, Shi'ite, Sunni, and other religious and ethnic groups inside Iraq or among the exile community. Second, Saddam's heirs-apparent, to the extent he has any, are as involved as he is in violating the human and political rights of the Iraqi people. Third, looking out from Baghdad, any new leader will see military threats from Iran in the east and Israel in the west, threats they believe they must counter.
A unilateral attack would force the U.S. to bear the full costs of war. To invade Iraq may require 250,000 troops or more. The first war in Iraq (1991) cost $65 billion, most of which was paid by coalition partners. The war to topple Saddam Hussein may cost $100 billion or more. Further, 75,000 troops or more will be needed for follow-on peacekeeping, at a cost of $15-20 billion per year. Additional costs of war and the threat of war are already being paid by people in countries around the world. Crude oil prices have risen sharply, U.S. industrial production declined recently, and the threat of a deepening recession is increasing due to fears of war.
The U.S. has a dismal record on picking allies and installing democracies in other countries. This is especially true if the intervention has been virtually unilateral--witness Iran (1953), Chile (1973), Afghanistan (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Iraq (1980s), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Somalia (1993), and Haiti (1994). The jury remains out on the U.S.-Northern Alliance operation in Afghanistan (2001-2002) that toppled the Taliban. Even the use of non-coercive means to influence regime change has proven uncertain. Four days before June 2002 elections in Bolivia, the U.S. ambassador warned the populace against supporting the Socialist candidate. Popular support for the Socialist increased by 198 percent. And when President Bush recently called on Palestinians to reject Yasser Arafat in the January 2003 elections or face dire economic consequences, Arafat's waning popularity predictably revived.
International pressure can effectively deter Saddam Hussein from acts of military aggression. Deterrence, in the form of a letter from the first President Bush to Saddam Hussein just prior to the 1991 Gulf War, persuaded Saddam that the U.S. would retaliate massively to any use by Iraq of chemical and biological weapons. Today, the government of Iraq knows that one false move will instantly create an armed international coalition determined to forcefully bring an end to the regime. There is much evidence that Hussein is a brutal tyrant and that he was reckless when he invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. However, based on the best evidence available--his actions--he is quite rational and determined to survive, not suicidal.
"Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation." - Martin Luther King, Jr.