Stephen Zunes : Iraq
The exchange between Dr. Stephen Zunes and Mark Lance explores “policy toward Iraq and whether the U.S. should engage in military action to remove Saddam Hussein?” as well as “Iraqi weapons capability, stability in the Middle East, and building an international coalition to take action against Iraq.”
Given what is at stake, one would have thought that the administration would have made a stronger case for going to war than President George W. Bush did on Monday evening.
The weakness of the administration’s position is apparent in its insistence of repeating stories of Iraqi atrocities from more than 10 to 20 years ago, such as its support for international terrorist groups like Abu Nidal and its use of chemical weapons. It was during this period when the United States was quietly supporting the Iraqi regime, covering up reports of its use of chemical weapons and even providing intelligence for Iraqi forces that used such weapons against Iranian troops. Though the 1980s marked the peak of Iraq’s support for terrorist groups, the U.S. government actually dropped Iraq from its list of states sponsoring terrorism because of its own ties to the Iraqi war effort.
With its enormous oil wealth, large agricultural base, and population of over 20 million, Iraq has long been considered one of the most important countries in the Arab world. The site of the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia, Iraq emerged as an amalgam of three Ottoman provinces under a British-imposed monarch in 1921. A nationalist revolution in 1958 led to a series of military-led leftist governments, eventually coalescing under leadership from the Baath Party, a secular Arab nationalist movement.
At the House International Relations Committee markup of H.J. Res. 114, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) put forward an amendment that contained a series of questions he argued the administration must answer in order for Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibility regarding a prospective war, and to gain the confidence of the American people. The address by President George W. Bush on Monday evening failed to provide answers to these critical questions. Representative Brown’s amendment, as did a previous letter to the president from House Armed Services ranking Democrat, Ike Skelton (dated September 4th) asked a number of important questions, and requested specific information on a number of points.
(Editor’s Note: In its effort to justify its planned invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has emphasized the importance of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions. However, in addition to the dozen or so resolutions currently being violated by Iraq, a conservative estimate reveals that there are an additional 88 Security Council resolutions about countries other […]
Despite growing opposition, both at home and abroad, the Bush Administration appears to have begun its concerted final push to convince Congress, the American people and the world of the need to invade Iraq. Such an invasion would constitute an important precedent, being the first test of the new doctrine articulated by President Bush of “pre-emption,” which declares that the United States has the right to invade sovereign countries and overthrow their governments if they are seen as hostile to American interests. At stake is not just the prospect of a devastating war but the very legitimacy of an international system built over the past century that–despite its failings–has created at least some semblance of global order and stability.
The last time–and only time–the United States came before the United Nations to accuse a radical Third World government of threatening the security of the United States through weapons of mass destruction was in October 1962. In the face of a skeptical world and Cuban and Soviet denials, U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson presented dramatic photos clearly showing the construction of nuclear missiles on Cuban soil. While the resulting U.S. military blockade and brinksmanship was not universally supported, there was little question that the United States had the evidence and that the threat was real
Despite growing opposition, the Bush administration is pushing for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Before the public and Congress allow such a dangerous and unprecedented use of American military power, they should seriously consider the following:
The United States still appears determined to move forward with plans to engage in a large-sale military operation against Iraq to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. In the international community, however, serious questions are being raised regarding its legality, its justification, its political implications, and the costs of the war itself. Such an invasion would constitute an important precedent, being the first test of the new doctrine articulated by President George W. Bush of “preemption,” which declares that the United States has the right to invade sovereign countries and overthrow their governments if they are seen as hostile to U.S. interests.
In the months following the September 11 terrorist attacks, there were leaks to the media about alleged evidence of a meeting in Prague between an Iraqi intelligence officer and one of the hijackers of the doomed airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center. Subsequently, however, both the FBI and CIA have declared that no such meeting occurred. It is unlikely that the decidedly secular Baathist regime–which has savagely suppressed Islamists within Iraq–would be able to maintain close links with Bin Laden and his followers. Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, his country’s former intelligence chief, noted how Bin Laden views Saddam Hussein “as an apostate, an infidel or someone who is not worthy of being a fellow Muslim.” Much of the money trail for Al Qaeda comes from U.S. ally Saudi Arabia; none has been traced to Iraq. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi; none were Iraqi. Admitting that there was no evidence of direct links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the best that CIA Director George Tenet could come up with in testimony before Congress was that the “mutual antipathy” the two have for the U.S. “suggests that tactical cooperation between the two is possible.” Most observers consider this to be an extraordinarily weak justification for war.