December 18, 1998

Here is what the editors of The Progressive have to say about the breaking news of the day.


1. Now This Is an Impeachable Offense

The U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq smacks of a cynical ploy by Bill Clinton to upend the impeachment process.

It's an act of war that is not sanctioned by international law or by the U.S. Constitution. It is not solving the problem of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs.

But it is killing and maiming innocent Iraqis.

Twice now in the last five months, just as his political future was plunging to its nadir, Clinton has reached for missiles to hurl at Third World nations.

Within seventy-two hours of his grand jury appearance in August, Clinton bombed the Sudan and Afghanistan.

Now, the day before he was about to impeached, he attacks Baghdad.

Who knows which country he'll bomb if the Senate gets close to voting on his fate.

Forget about lying about sex; this illegal warmaking strikes at the heart of our constitutional system. Now this is an impeachable offense.

Our founders gave Congress the sole and express power to declare war. Bombing Iraq is clearly an act of war, but Congress has not made such a declaration. Democratic members of Congress acknowledge that the United States is at war but ignore that the President has usurped Congress's own power to declare war. And then they use the fact that the United States is at war as a justification for defending Clinton.

To see Democrats reflexively defend Clinton's bombing is to see how hopelessly bankrupt the Democratic Party has become.

Yes, the Republicans have been out to get Clinton.

Yes, Ken Starr is a Puritan creep.

Yes, lying under oath about a sexual affair does not rise to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor.

But that doesn't mean that Clinton's deserves the support of progressives. He should be censured for his perjury, impeached for the bombing of Iraq, and suffer eternal obloquy for abolishing welfare, speeding executions, stomping on civil liberties, and carrying water for multinational corporations all over the world.

The bombing of Iraq was the latest desperate and despicable act by a desperate and despicable man.

According to international law and the U.N. charter, a country can take unilateral action against another country only for the purpose of self-defense. But this bombing attack can hardly be called an act of self-defense.

Whether Iraq's cooperation with the U.N. inspectors has been full or partial is up to the U.N. Security Council to decide, not the United States or Great Britain. And it us up to the Security Council, not member states, to decide on what action to take. As Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said back in August, "It is a U.N. issue, not a U.S. issue." Magically, four months later, it has become a U.S. issue, not a U.N. issue.

This week, the United States pointedly refused to take the matter up with the Security Council, knowing full well that Russia and China would not support military action. This showed utter disregard for international law.

And it showed an utter disregard for the longterm security of the United States. The biggest threat to the United States is not Iraq but a reignited Cold War, either with Russia or China. By pursuing the bombing of Iraq against their wishes, and against the U.N. charter and U.N. Security Council resolutions, the United States runs the risk of chilling these relations to dangerous degrees. Already, the Russian Duma has made noises about deep-sixing Start-2 and Start-3, which would have reduced Russia's and America's nuclear weaponry by half. Is the bombing worth that?

Even as regards the Iraq policy itself, the irrationality of the bombing is striking. Administration officials admitted in November that a bombing campaign would not eliminate Saddam Hussein's chemical or biological weapons programs. And they admitted that as a result of the bombing, U.N. inspectors would probably never be invited back. These inspectors did more to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction than 80,000 tons of bombs during the Gulf War. This was a point that President Clinton himself made in November when he called the bombers back. What has changed since then, except for his political fortunes?

For seven years now, the United States has been punishing the people of Iraq for the sins of Saddam Hussein. More than half a million Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions, according to a U.N. study.

How many more will have to lose their lives now? According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon made a "medium-range" estimate of 10,000 deaths from the bombings that were planned in November. And many more Iraqis are likely to die as a result of the havoc that war will wreak on Iraq's health and sanitation system.

There were other ways to address the problem of Saddam Hussein, but the United States repeatedly refused to explore them.

The United States made clear to Saddam Hussein that Washington would oppose the lifting of sanctions no matter what he did.

On March 26, 1997, Albright said: "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions."

President Clinton was even more stark on November 14, 1997: "Sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts."

This kind of rhetoric, and the refusal to set a timetable for the lifting of sanctions, gave Saddam Hussein no incentive to cooperate fully. U.S. intransigence may have led to Iraqi intransigence.

Instead of strangling Iraq, the United Nations should have lifted economic sanctions while maintaining military ones and preserving inspections. It could have served as the monitor and handler of Iraq's oil revenues, as it did with the fuel for food program, to ensure that Saddam Hussein did not siphon off money for the military.

In any event, Iraq's lack of cooperation with U.N. inspectors did not give the United States and Britain a green light to go on a bombing spree.

U.S. policy makers justify the bombings on the grounds that we would lose face if we did not respond militarily to Saddam Hussein's defiance. But we are losing our soul by bombing.

--Matthew Rothschild

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