On Native Ground
ALTERNATIVES TO A WAR WITH IRAQ
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There were no surprises at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearings on what appears to be an increasingly inevitable war with Iraq.
No one from the Bush administration was in attendance, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The Bush team has yet to make a compelling case on why there is a need to widen the "war on terror" with a preemptive strike on Iraq is needed.
Much as it has tried, the U.S. has been unable to uncover any conclusive links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Iraq played no apparent role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The "weapons of mass destruction" that Iraq supposedly possesses - the main reason that President Bush always gives for the need for a "regime change" in Iraq - apparently don't exist in any readily usable form. And even though Iraq has made overtures to allow the UN weapons inspectors back into the country, the U.S. isn't interested unless it can have completely unfettered access - something that probably isn't going to happen.
Aside from Britain, no other nation in the world supports a U.S. attack on Iraq. Almost no one wants to talk about the political, economic and humanitarian chaos that will almost certainly result from a unilateral, preemptive strike. But the overwhelming economic and military strength of the U.S. has emboldened our leaders into thinking that America can do as it pleases without regard to what other nations think.
The U.S. always talks a good game about freedom and democracy, but our actions often clash with our words. Saudi Arabia is a corrupt and despotic monarchy, but because they provide America with oil, they are considered a valued ally. This, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudi royal family has provided much of the material assistance that makes Islamic fundamentalism such a force in the Middle East and Central Asia.
No U.S. bombs fell on the Saudis and there have been no demands for a "regime change" there. Instead, the bombs fell on Afghanistan and killed more than 5,000 civilians in the process while allowing most of the al-Qaida leadership to escape unscathed. And now, the U.S. is poised to go to war against Iraq - another country with no connection with Sept. 11 - even though there is no justification for doing so.
Saddam Hussein has more than earned his reputation as an evil man, but our citizens have been consistently lied to regarding the capabilities of Iraq and the threat it poses to its neighbors.
Between economic sanctions and the regular attacks by U.S. and British warplanes, Iraq has been effectively contained since the end of first Persian Gulf War. Why is it now suddenly urgent that Hussein be overthrown? Why has diplomacy and international cooperation been abandoned? Why is the Bush administration abandoning the post-World War II consensus against being a "first-strike" nation? And who will ultimately pay the costs - financial as well as human - of this war?
Because these questions are not being answered, tens of thousands of people may die. There isn't much time to start demanding answers. A war against Iraq could start as soon as mid-October.
The U.S. will not lose respect in the eyes of the rest of the world if it reconsiders the insanity of its Iraq war plans. The U.S. would instead be lauded for its restraint. Most nations realized warfare alone will not defeat terrorism. War may be a uncomplicated solution that's politically popular. But it's the wrong solution. Terrorism might be better prevented by doing something about the conditions cause it.
The rest of the world isn't worried about Hussein, and would support a continuance of the UN economic sanctions - especially if they can be modified to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people while denying Hussein access to military technology. A more enlightened sanctions policy would also have the added benefit of support from the Arab nations who have long objected to the harshness of the existing sanctions policy.
Hussein also knows that if he tries anything, Iraq will be attacked. The strategy of deterrence worked to keep the U.S. and the Soviet Union from annihilating each other during the Cold War. It certainly would work against a lesser threat such as Iraq.
We can only hope that the Bush administration has the good sense to reconsider its Iraq plans, but that will only happen when Americans start really taking a look at the havoc a second Gulf War might bring forth and start demanding an alternative course.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).