The president’s error
The president can correct his mistake.
Why did we go to war against Iraq and where are the weapons of mass destruction? The administration used the WMD issue to gain support for the war; but could there have been other valid reasons for removing Saddam? Absolutely!
1) First and foremost, eliminating Saddam was the moral thing to do. The discovery of mass graves, the torture chambers, human rights violations and the past use of WMDs unequivocally underscore this rationale.
2) The president needed to send a message to those who turn a blind eye to terrorism within their borders. A message that America will not idly stand by and allow our citizens to become the targets of terrorism. Removing the Taliban who harbored al Qaeda in Afghanistan was just the first step.
3) The nations of the region had to address their own problems, which are root causes of terrorism. Asking the United Nations to assist in this matter would be akin to asking a jackass to climb a tree. The Arab world was never going to address its complicity in terrorism. Now an American presence is causing Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and others to rethink their positions and begin taking responsibility for their own internal matters that support terrorism.
4) Iraq was a strategic stepping-stone in the much broader war on terror. Because Iraq is centrally located in the region, the U.S. is now strategically positioned to respond more quickly to crises if and when necessary.
5) Strategically speaking, the Baathist regime in Iraq fit the profile because it was a non-theocratic Arab state with a large middle class and therefore thought to pose fewer problems in terms of reconstruction and democratization.
6) Eliminating Saddam reduced the flow of money to Hamas and other terror organizations. In addition, the chances of a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been improved. Regardless of how remote a peace agreement may appear, at least now there’s a possibility for peace. With Saddam in power there was no chance at all.
7) Establishing a regime in Iraq favorable to Western interests reduced the use of oil as a weapon of blackmail against us.
8) The U.S. had to be certain that Saddam never transferred WMDs or WMD technology to terror organizations.
The administration allowed many to believe that WMDs were the only reason for going to war for a number of reasons. Every major intelligence agency in the world, including the French, concurred with this conclusion. According to the U.N., Iraq never accounted for 10,000 liters of anthrax, among other agents. Saddam used WMDs in the past. He also put his regime on the line by not allowing weapons inspectors access to his country – why would anyone do this if they had nothing to hide?
But regardless of the rationale, there’s no question that the WMD issue was hyped. On the other hand, would any sane person want to take a chance on WMDs in the hands of a man who could arguably hand them off to terrorists?
Still there are doubters, and for them I suggest they think about the following statement by Tony Blair on Nov. 15, 1997, five years before the crisis. Considering the time this statement was made, it should be obvious that this is hardly the stuff of conspiracy.
Blairs said: “I have now seen some of the intelligence stuff on this. It really is pretty scary. He is very close to some appalling weapons of mass destruction. I don’t understand why the French and the others don’t understand this. We cannot let him get away with it. The world thinks this is gamesmanship. But it is deadly serious.”
Nonetheless, the failure of the Bush-Blair team to produce weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a big story to some.
While the rationale for the war was mostly noble, the politics of the Security Council offered little opportunity for it to gaining currency in the U.N. The president and Secretary Powell understood this and therefore focused on WMDs instead of making these weapons just one aspect of a much more encompassing situation.
Empirically speaking, finding conclusive evidence of Iraq’s WMDs is not necessary to justify the war. However, if it’s eventually discovered that the WMD evidence was fabricated or even shaded, then America and will have lost the moral high ground, and the administration must be held accountable.
The administration’s mistake was that it did not trust the American people to make sound judgments once all the reasons for war were put on the table. However, it can redress this situation by stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible and then begin bringing democratic reforms to each. This is an immensely more important issue than locating WMDs.
If one looks at a world map, it becomes apparent that if democratization takes hold in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will engender hope to the disenfranchised citizens of Iran (the other regional superpower) and signal their leaders that the people of the region will no longer tolerate oppression, human rights violations and the support of terrorism.
We are witnessing a watershed moment in history. I hope the administration is up to the task.
Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com