by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
October 18, 2002
A BLANK CHECK THAT SHOULDN'T BE CASHED
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- About the only good thing you can say about Congress' abrogation of its constitutional duties in giving the Bush administration a blank check for a war with Iraq is that the vote wasn't unanimous.
I am proud that Vermont was the only state whose entire Congressional delegation voted no. It showed that Congressman Bernie Sanders and Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords listened to the wishes of their constituents and voted accordingly. If only the representatives and senators from other 49 states could've done likewise.
Congress was flooded with phone calls, e-mails, faxes and letters. Nearly all came from Americans opposed to a preemptive war on Iraq. They were ignored by every Republican senator except for Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island (rumored to be the next senator to leave the GOP to become an independent, as Jeffords did last year) and all but six GOP members of the House.
It was unrealistic to expect unanimous opposition from the Democrats. All the senators who are considering runs for the presidency in the near future - John Kerry, John Edwards, Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton - all voted for preserving their political ambitions rather than preserving the Constitution. And then there's Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Locked in a tough reelection fight, he could've taken the easy way out and voted for war. Instead, he voted against the resolution and put principle ahead of political expediency.
Unfortunately, there were too few people who had Sen. Wellstone's guts. Congress got stampeded into supporting a war in Iraq much like their counterparts were stampeded four decades earlier when the expansion of the Vietnam War was green-lighted with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. I have no doubt that those who voted for the Bush administration's fervently desired war in Iraq will ultimately regret their decision as much as the congressmen and senators who gave Pres. Lyndon Johnson a blank check in Vietnam later regretted their actions.
The following facts cannot be said often enough. There's no legal or moral justification for a war with Iraq. There's no proof that Saddam Hussein poses a mortal threat to the U.S. or his neighbors. There's no proof that Iraq has nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in deployable condition or that it's able to make them. There's no proof that Iraq has any ties to Osama bin Laden (remember him?) and al-Qaida (after all, Saddam is a secular dictator despised by Islamic fundamentalists). There's no proof that military intervention will stabilize one of the most volatile regions of the world or that "regime change" will come without a heavy loss of life on all sides of the conflict.
This war is being shoved down our throats not because we intend to bestow the blessings of liberty upon Iraq and not to make America safe from terrorism. It is about oil and power.
Iraq has the second-largest untapped reserve of oil in the Middle East, and the global oil industry would love to get its hands on it. One of the reasons that France and Russia - two nations with veto power on the UN Security Council - are balking at American demands for a tough new UN resolution regarding Iraq is that both have billion-dollar contracts with Saddam and are afraid that the Bush administration will cut them out of a postwar oil deal.
There wasn't one word about this in President Bush's much ballyhooed Oct. 7 speech on why we need to attack Iraq. The Bush administration would rather have us believe this war is for the sake of freedom and democracy, rather than making the oil companies rich.
But even more than controlling Middle Eastern oil, this war is about power. An unelected regime has manipulated the fears of Americans since the Sept. 11 attacks to complete the coup d'etat that began two years ago. By keeping the nation in a permanent state of war against an endless list of enemies, every other domestic need gets shoved off to the side.
There are so many unanswered questions. How can Saddam Hussein be a mortal danger to the world, yet be a foe that American military might will easily topple? Can the U.S. afford to alone pay the full cost of upwards of $200 billion to fight Iraq? Can our economy stand the shock of $60 a barrel oil?
Then there is the biggest unanswered question of all. How many Americans are going to die in this war and here at home in the retaliatory violence that is guaranteed to happen if this war takes place. Three recent incidents - the nightclub bombing in Bali, the tanker attack in Yemen and the ambush of Marines during war games in Kuwait - show us that al-Qaida is still on the case and will continue to attack Western interests. A war with Iraq will not change this reality.
Dropping bombs on Baghdad isn't going to make the world safer. Developing an alternative energy strategy to wean the U.S. off Mideast oil, giving the people of the Arab world a say in choosing their own governments, and working toward an equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are all things that would go a long way toward diffusing the anger in the Arab world that Bin Laden and al-Qaida have so skillfully exploited.
Last autumn, Americans hoped for an vigorous assault on al-Qaida that combined political action to reduce the grievances that stoke the fires of terrorism with effective counterterrorism tactics and aggressive police work. Instead, the Bush administration wants to take us into a war against a country that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks, but represents a huge opportunity for many people close to the Bush administration to make a ton of money off the blood of others.
Congress may have caved into President Bush and the UN will likely do the same, but it doesn't mean that the people of this nation - a majority of whom oppose an Iraq war - will do likewise.
President Bush keeps saying that America is speaking with one voice in support of this pending war. But this American stands opposed, and despite all the attempts of the Bush administration and the news media to push dissent to the margins, many other Americans agree that a war with Iraq would be a terrible mistake.
It's not too late to stop this insane rush to war.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).