Wednesday, April 17, 2002

This is a paper I recently wrote for my college Communications course. Enjoy :

The Gulf War, Part Two

Back before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the great

debate raging in Washington was over which political party had lost the

budget surplus. Cable news program hosts were more interested in

Chandra Levy than foreign policy. Mexico’s Vincente Fox was the foreign

leader whose picture was most likely to appear on the pages of USA

Today or the New York Times. Not anymore. Now the great debate, both

on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Main Street, is about what to do with

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator. Though no decision has yet been made

(officially, at least), the answer seems clear : The United States must

destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

The opponents of such an action have many complaints. They say

such a hostile move would fracture the world-wide coalition against terror,

especially with regards to the Arab and Muslim worlds, Russia, and

Europe. They say Saddam has been defanged by a decade of sanctions and

is no longer a threat. They say the potential for massive civilian casualties

is too high. They say Saddam would let loose weapons of mass

destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, and possibly a

radioactive “dirty bomb”, against US-led coalition forces and neighboring

countries. They say eliminating Saddam would either lead to someone

even worse taking over, or create a “power vacuum”, leading to chaos and

turmoil, and possibly strengthening Iraq’s neighbor Iran, which like Iraq is

a charter member of President Bush’s “axis of exil”. However, on each

and every point they are in error.

First of all, the argument that the coalition will break apart if the

US acts decisively in Iraq is the same argument that was made previous to

the war in Afghanistan. (Apparently, anti-war activists are strong

supporters of recycling...) This predicted collapse of the coalition didn’t

happen then, and it won’t happen if the US goes into Iraq either. Our allies

always urge restraint, regardless of the circumstances. If we made it

policy to wait for their full support before taking action, we’d still be

haggling over what measures to take against the Taliban, and the people of

Afghanistan would be living under totalitarianism to this day. If and when

the US decides to strike against Saddam, America's allies will make their usual

objections, but in the end will follow our lead.

Second, the idea that Saddam is no longer a threat to the US or his

neighbors is ludicrous. Saddam has a long history of aggression against his

neighbors, such as the eight-year war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait,

and the unprovoked launching of Scud missiles at Israel. He also has a

long history of attempting to build weapons of mass destruction. He is

thought to have a stockpile of biological weapons, including anthrax, and

is known to have used chemical weapons against both Iran and,

sickeningly, his own people. He kicked United Nations weapons

inspectors out of his country nearly four years ago, in defiance of

international law and the terms of the treaty his government agreed to

abide by at the end of the Gulf War. In those four years, who knows what

hellish weapons his scientists have managed to build? A nuclear weapon

might not be too far off. As President Bush said, time is not on our side.

Third is the issue of civilian casualties. While such deaths are a

tragedy, they are largely avoidable by the use of “smart bombs”. The

majority of the bombs in the US arsenal are now classified as “smart”,

compared to three or four percent during the Gulf War just a decade ago.

Besides, as horrible as even limited “collateral damage” is, it is certainly

preferable to the wholesale slaughter of millions of American civilians that

would take place if Saddam gets his hands on a nuclear weapon. And those

innocent Iraqis who die will have given their lives so that their fellow

countrymen and -women could live free from oppression.

The fourth argument is perhaps the most compelling : Will Saddam

use all his hideous weapons of mass destruction on US troops and/or

neighboring countries if it becomes obvious he is about to lose power?

The answer to that might very well be yes, but this is a lose-lose situation.

If we attack now, he might use chemical, biological, or even radiological

weapons against us, but if we wait, he will most definitely use even more

destructive nuclear weapons against us. Hopefully the civilian populations

of neighboring countries will be issued gas masks and will be vaccinated

against some of the possible diseases Saddam might unleash with his bio-

weapons. US military forces will already have been equiped properly to

deal with such threats. The threat of a radiological “dirty bomb”, however,

is not easily prepared for. According to a recent issue of US News and

World Report, taking an iodine tablet immediately after an attack might

offer some protection from thyroid cancer down the road, and this option

should certainly be explored. Troops will likely carry radiation-detecting

equipment with them in order to be able to immediately identify this

situation, and therefore deal with it as best they can.

Finally, the argument is made that Iraq after Saddam will be in

even worse shape, either run by another brutal dictator, or fractured and

chaotic. A situation in which there is a “power vacuum” could lead to

Iran gaining increased influence in the region. That would not be a good

thing, as Iran is right up there with Iraq in the “axis of evil”. However, the

alternative is to wait, to allow the status quo to continue, and to let the

Iraqi people continue to live in misery. Quite frankly, it is unimaginable

that someone worse than Saddam could be found to take power. By

removing Saddam from power, we can nudge the new leader, whoever he

or she is, towards democracy. Not only is that good for Iraqis, but it would

serve as an example of how other nations in the Arab and Muslim worlds

can be governed by the people, not an elite few.

The coalition against terror will survive. Saddam still poses a threat

to the rest of the world. Civilian casualties will be minimal in any military

campaign. Saddam’s regime is getting closer to acquiring a nuclear device

every day. Democratic reforms can be instituted in Iraq for the benefit of

its citizens and as an example to the world. The answer to the dilemma

facing the nation today is clear : The US should topple Saddam from

power, and do it soon.

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