still not seeing anything close to a full debate, let alone any
signal that anybody in a position to make it stick will demand a
formal congressional declaration of war before the United States
attacks Iraq. But a few skeptics and even opponents of a unilateral
attack are beginning to come out of the woodwork. It will be fascinating
to see if they have any serious impact.
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is visiting President Bush at his ranch
in Texas this week, and it is likely to be something of a war council.
But the two might have to spend at least a little bit of time discussing
how to sell the war to the American people and to an increasingly
large slice of the American elites. Perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld might even
have to write an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal,
to counter the piece the Journal ran last Friday by former National
Security Adviser (in the Bush I administration) Brent Scowcroft.
this comes amid an increasing chorus from respectable and in some
cases unusual quarters questioning whether the United States should
go to war with Iraq unilaterally and whether that decision should
be made by President Bush and/or the executive branch. To wit:
Scowcroft, the national security adviser under President Gerald
Ford and the first President Bush, wrote in Thursday's Wall Street
Journal, "It is beyond dispute that Saddam Hussein is a
menace." However, "there is scant evidence to tie Saddam
to terrorist organizations and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks."
Iraq "would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly
would be very expensive with serious consequences for the
U.S. and global economy and could as well be bloody. In fact,
Saddam would be likely to conclude he had nothing left to lose,
leading him to unleash whatever weapons of mass destruction he possesses.
would have to expect to be the first casualty, as in 1991 when Saddam
sought to bring Israel into the Gulf conflict. This time, using
weapons of mass destruction, he might succeed, provoking Israel
to respond, perhaps with nuclear weapons, unleashing an Armageddon
in the Middle East."
GULF WAR HERO
H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces in the 1991
Gulf War, urged preparation on MSNBC's "Hardball" on Friday.
"I think we have to have a coalition firmly in place,"
he said. "We have to have that kind of support. We have to
have better intelligence than we have right now ... I don't know
if they [the U.S. military] have the port facilities ... to really
conduct a ground campaign. ...The worst case scenario is that, if
they [the Iraqis] put up a fight, we have to go in the cities and
the fact that he was charming as a briefer perhaps a dubious
distinction when one is engaged in explaining why one's government
is raining death and destruction on other people I always
liked Norman Schwarzkopf because he was a competent choral conductor.
Now it appears he is one of the U.S. military men willing to speak
out on the wisdom of starting a war against Iraq in the face of
very little of the kind of provocation that is ordinarily required
for a country to initiate a war. The suspicion or hope is that he
represents a growing number of military people more reluctant to
criticize a policy that is almost entirely driven by civilians who
have little experience or understanding of what war means to those
we ask to fight it.
Eagleburger, secretary of state under the first President Bush,
joined the chorus. "Unless he [Saddam] has his hand on a trigger
that is for a weapon of mass destruction and our intelligence is
clear, I don't know why we have to do it now when all of our allies
are opposed to it," he said, as reported by ABC News on Friday.
"There are any number of other terrorist targets that deserve
our attention. We ought to be taking some time to think through
whether they are at least as urgent a target as Iraq."
Eagleburger may not be the most sterling avatar of peace and non-intervention
one might hope for; indeed, it's possible that he has business deals
pending or active that might be upset by a war in the Middle East.
But I'll take my allies where I can find them when war and peace
are at stake. And I don't necessarily hold business interests against
anybody; trade and commerce are almost always less harmful than
diplomacy and warfare, even when they mean arguably undeserved riches
for some influential people.
Kissinger, secretary of state to Presidents Nixon and Ford, was
more hawkish, but still cautious. He said on "Meet the Press"
Sunday that President Bush had made an "intellectual case"
for attacking Iraq, but, "He has not yet created the political
framework, but that will have to be the next step." One can
usually depend on Henry the K to end up on the side of the power
structure, and he is doing so once again. But even he seems to understand
that if there is to be a war this country isn't yet ready, and it
would behoove those in charge to do a lot more thinking and preparing
before taking that fateful step.
New York Times reported
on Thursday that "a crisis may be looming with Turkey,
[Bush] administration officials said. Turkish officials have warned
that they are preparing to go to war to prevent the Iraqi Kurds
from declaring a kind of mini-Kurdish state within Iraq.... The
Turkish government fears that such a state with control over key
oil resources around Kirkuk might incite Turkey's repressed Kurdish
population to rebel."
a U.S. war against Iraq might quickly spawn a war by Turkey against
Iraq's long-suffering Kurdish minority. Anybody who knew even a
little bit about the long history of this people without a state
of their own who seem to have come to some kind of accommodation
with Saddam Hussein's regime and especially the long-festering
Kurdish-Turkish hostility, might have predicted this complication.
Whether it will make any kind of impression on the war-whoopers
in the administration is another question.
this war wouldn't be a "cakewalk," those with doubts about
the pending Iraq attack should continue to insist that the U.S.
Congress must exercise its constitutional prerogative of deciding
whether or not to "declare war." Hearings on a possible
Iraq war in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 31 and
Aug. 1 only scratched the surface. No new hearings are scheduled
there or in the House Committee on International Relations. The
American people need to know the justification, the allies that
can be counted on to assist, the potential cost, the potential numbers
of troops involved, the definition of success and the exit strategy.
President Bush should not act alone. Congress represents the American
people, whose sons and daughters in the military and perhaps
cities in America could become war casualties in what Gen.
Scowcroft warns could be "an Armageddon."
of the chief reasons to oppose an invasion, however, is that there
is simply no legitimate casus belli to legitimize an American attack.
Saddam Hussein is no doubt a nasty customer. He may well be developing
weapons of mass destruction and he may well already have some. But
this administration has shied away even from any credible demand
to renew UN weapons inspections.
the U.S. demanded such inspections seriously there might be a more
legitimate case if Saddam refused, or if inspection teams were met
with intransigence. But administration officials have pooh-poohed
the idea of inspections that might give them some diplomatic cover.
They seem to have made up their minds, and believe in their imperial
arrogance that they don't really need any cover beyond the expressed
will of the leaders of the United States.
REASON, NO WAR
strongest reason to oppose a unilateral declaration of war, it seems
to me, is that there is at this point no way to argue that it is
anything resembling a defensive war. All during the Cold War, although
numerous arguments were made in favor of a pre-emptive strikes,
the U.S. avoided such strikes against a Soviet Union that posed
a much more dangerous threat to the United States than the pipsqueak
Iraqi state does. Going to war to effect a "regime change,"
even if such a change might well be beneficial for many, was simply
not the kind of thing a freedom-loving United States was supposed
that notion that a civilized country needs a justification beyond
imperial pique to do something so serious as going to war seems
to have little currency these days.
evidence that Saddam Hussein is currently harboring terrorists planning
to attack the United States is scant to non-existent. No problem.
He hasn't invaded any neighbors lately, and most of his neighbors
don't want a war. No problem. He may have weapons of mass destruction
but he hasn't used them or even rattled them. No problem. The evidence
that he had anything at all to do with the 9/11 attacks consists
of a single meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi
diplomat, whose existence is in dispute and the contents of which
(if it happened) nobody claims to know about. No problem. He's a
nasty guy and that's enough.
shouldn't be enough. War is too serious to be undertaken because
a nasty guy seems, in retrospect, to have gotten the better of your
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