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Statesman Response #2

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I want to begin this article by thanking the Stony Brook Statesman for finally including editorials on their web site. Now that their commentary is on the web for all to read, I can remark on it, and people will be able to read both sides of the story.


Today, I'll be fisking the most recent editorial, linked above.

European Opposition to War on Iraq Not Realized in U.S.

Marie Huchton
Statesman Staff
February 17, 2003

Like most weeks before writing this column, I have just finished watching the news on the BBC, and like most weeks recently I was distressed by America's seemingly inevitable drive to war.

What's most interesting about this opening (apart from the author admitting to getting her information from the BBC, not the most unbiased of sources) is that it tries to pin responsibility for an Iraq war only on America. The article doesn't mention Saddam or any of the hundreds of thousands of people he has had murdered.

It's not just the deployment of thousands of American and British troops to the Middle East, or Bush's contentious attitude towards the United Nations that inspire in me a feeling of both concern and annoyance.

When President Bush went to the UN last year, he asked for and received a UN resolution (1441). This was passed by the Security Council. Iraq has failed to comply with it by disarming, or even by fully disclosing its weapons programs. Despite this, it looks like the US and UK may be going back to the UN for another resolution, the eighteenth since the Iraq crisis began in 1990.

The President has been giving the UN every opportunity to act. It's up to the Security Council to decide if it is a body that stands behind its words, or a debating society that's worthy of our contempt.

It's the steamroller attitude of the United States administration that makes me raise my eyebrows. Stopping for no one and nothing (let alone cooperation or international support)

...except for a congressional resolution, a UNSC resolution or two, and to build a coalition of over twenty nations...

the U.S. is doing a ten-month countdown in a matter of weeks, and alienating the rest of the globe in the process.

Let's see here.

  • 2002 State of the Union - The "Axis of Evil" speech: 55 weeks ago
  • Bush speaks before the UN: 23 weeks ago
  • Congress passes bill authorizing war: 19 weeks ago
  • The UN passes resolution 1441, giving Saddam's regime "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations": 14 weeks ago

Yes, the US is currently engaged in a year-long rush to war. I don't know where her ten month figure comes from. The first gulf war took under seven months to come to a head.

Oh, I should point out that the rest of the globe was so alienated, they wrote us a letter about it.

I'm sorry to have to break it to everyone in the United States who thinks that the world is in full support of Bush's plan to attack Iraq, but the majority of Europeans (including the British people) are against an immediate and full-scale war.

A recent (as in, published today) poll in the Daily Telegraph (registration required) reports that 84% of Britons support a war with Iraq. While most of those would like another security council resolution, only 16% say "an attack on Iraq would be unjustified".

I have no idea how the international community and its citizens are portrayed on American television, but I doubt the full extent of European opposition is made clear.

To be more accurate, French, German, and Belgian opposition. Most European countries support the US stand, especially those who have most recently suffered under totalitarian rule.

The resistance by the European people is based on more than just economic concerns or moral grounds. Sending troops into the Middle East will cost lives, both those of the Western military forces and the Iraqi people.

Yes, and that's unfortunate. But how many Iraqi lives will be lost if we do nothing, and allow Saddam's reign of terror to continue? How many will be lost if we wait until after he acquires nuclear weapons, and he then invades his neighbors again?

The weapons inspectors in Iraq have not found evidence of weapons of mass destruction, nor has the United States provided the smoking gun that would necessitate invasion.

They're weapons inspectors, not detectives. Their job is to verify Iraq's disarmament, not to disarm Iraq. We tried the latter for years, and the result was total failure.

Resolution 1441 clearly puts the burden of disarmament on Iraq, and Iraq has failed to comply.

France and Germany are proposing a peaceful solution (or at least a delay) to this conflict through the use of UN troops and more weapons inspectors.

France and Germany are proposing to extend the inspection regime. While the inspectors search the country for weapons that Saddam will not exist, the Iraqi people will be forced to suffer at the hand of prolonged sanctions and the secret police.

And it's not even clear that continued inspections of an uncooperative country will accomplish anything. During the last inspection regime, Iraq continued running its biological weapons program despite the presence of inspectors. Why would they desist this time around?

The US is bull-headedly charging straight into a full-scale military operation, without offering any conclusive evidence or absolute justification.

Before the Security Council, Colin Powell presented strong circumstantial evidence of Iraqi deception. There's also the matter of tons of nerve gas Iraq will not account for.

Saddam's regime has, on two occasions, invaded its neighbors. It used chemical weapons against both Iran and the Kurds. During the Gulf War, after invading Kuwait it attacked several other countries in the region with missiles, and was finally defeated by a US-led coalition and forced to sign a cease-fire. That placed the burden on Saddam to disarm, a task he has repeatedly refused to do.

And now the US is willing to alienate the most powerful countries in the world (France, Germany, Russia, China, etc.) and attack Iraq on its own. European headlines seem to waver between portraying America as arrogant and ignorant.

It's interesting to note that the other security council member was left off that list. That's because the UK supports us.

I'm not a dove or a pacifist (although this column would definitely make me seem so

I'll say.

). I'm a pragmatist, and Bush has definitely failed to convince me that we need to invade Iraq to 'protect the sanctity of democracy throughout the free world' (it just smacks of the Cold War turned biological to me).

I searched Google for this quote, but found only this article containing it. I also do not recall that quote from any major speech.

And since the US didn't do so hot a job with Bin Laden in Afghanistan, the 'War on Terror' doesn't seem adequate as justification either.

The war on terror is bigger than one man. That being said, before the war, Bin Laden once openly ran terrorist training camps. Now, the only evidence we have that he's alive consists of low-quality audio tapes.

The war on terrorism, and against the forces that back it, needs to be fought on many fronts. In this case, we don't have the luxury of waiting.

I think that what bothers me most is the Washington D.C. attitude that war is a foregone conclusion. The President is just placating the U.N. without any real intention of cooperating with a peaceful solution. The U.S. has always been arrogant, but is unilateral action in the face of international opposition really the way we want to begin the 21st century?

Does the author believe that allowing Saddam to develop even worse weapons of mass destruction is a more appropriate way to begin the new century?

The US is assembling a coalition. It's hard to call an action unilateral when it's backed by twenty nations, but still some try. We're even trying to secure yet another UN resolution, but countries concerned about their position in the EU or their oil interests in Iraq may block that.

In our global village, does the United States believe that it can survive by bullying and defying the international community?

Saddam's regime seems to. Unlike the US, Saddam routinely flouts UN resolutions. That's just one of the smaller crimes in the long litany of offenses he has committed against the international community, his own people, and humanity.

- Tom | permalink | changelog | Last updated: 2003-02-20 00:56

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