"The Case Against War"

[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by Lilly from D006180.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Saturday, September 14, 2002 at 1:51AM :

The Case Against War
The Nation

[posted online on September 12, 2002]

Despite growing opposition, both at home and abroad, the Bush Administration
appears to have begun its concerted final push to convince Congress, the
American people and the world of the need to invade Iraq. Such an invasion
would constitute an important precedent, being the first test of the new
doctrine articulated by President Bush of "pre-emption," which declares that
the United States has the right to invade sovereign countries and overthrow
their governments if they are seen as hostile to American interests. At
stake is not just the prospect of a devastating war but the very legitimacy
of an international system built over the past century that--despite its
failings--has created at least some semblance of global order and stability.

It is therefore critical to examine and rebut the Administration's
arguments, because if as fundamental a policy decision as whether to go to
war cannot be influenced by the active input of an informed citizenry, what
also may be at stake is nothing less than American democracy, at least in
any meaningful sense of the word.

Below are the eight principal arguments put forward by proponents of a US
invasion of Iraq, each followed by a rebuttal.

1. Iraq is providing support for Al Qaeda and is a center for anti-American

The Bush Administration has failed to produce credible evidence that the
Iraqi regime has any links whatsoever with Al Qaeda. None of the September
11 hijackers were Iraqi, no major figure in Al Qaeda is Iraqi, nor has any
part of Al Qaeda's money trail been traced to Iraq. Investigations by the
FBI, the CIA and Czech intelligence have found no substance to rumors of a
meeting in spring 2001 between one of the September 11 hijackers and an
Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague. It is highly unlikely that the
decidedly secular Baathist regime--which has savagely suppressed Islamists
within Iraq--would be able to maintain close links with Osama bin Laden and
his followers. Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, his country's former
intelligence chief, has noted that bin Laden views Saddam Hussein "as an
apostate, an infidel, or someone who is not worthy of being a fellow
Muslim." In fact, bin Laden offered in 1990 to raise an army of thousands of
mujahedeen fighters to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

There have been credible reports of extremist Islamist groups operating in
northern Iraq, but these are exclusively within Kurdish areas, which have
been outside Baghdad's control since the end of the Gulf War. Iraq's past
terrorist links are limited to such secular groups as the one led by Abu
Nidal, a now largely defunct Palestinian faction opposed to Yasir Arafat's
Palestine Liberation Organization. Ironically, at the height of Iraq's
support of Abu Nidal in the early 1980s, Washington dropped Iraq from its
list of terrorism-sponsoring countries so the United States could bolster
Iraq's war effort against Iran. Baghdad was reinstated to the list only
after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, even though US officials were
unable to cite increased Iraqi ties to terrorism.

The State Department's own annual study, Patterns of Global Terrorism, could
not list any serious act of international terrorism connected to the
government of Iraq. A recent CIA report indicates that the Iraqis have been
consciously avoiding any actions against the United States or its facilities
abroad, presumably to deny Washington any excuse to engage in further
military strikes against their country. The last clear example that American
officials can cite of Iraqi-backed terrorism was an alleged plot by Iraqi
agents to assassinate former President George Bush when he visited Kuwait in
1993. (In response, President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Baghdad,
hitting an Iraqi intelligence headquarters as well as a nearby civilian

An American invasion of Iraq would not only distract from the more immediate
threat posed by Al Qaeda but would likely result in an anti-American
backlash that would substantially reduce the level of cooperation from
Islamic countries in tracking down and neutralizing the remaining Al Qaeda
cells. Indeed, the struggle against terrorism is too important to be
sabotaged by ideologues obsessed with settling old scores.

2. Containment has failed.

While some countries, in part due to humanitarian concerns, are
circumventing economic sanctions against Iraq, the military embargo appears
to be holding solid. It was only as a result of the import of technology and
raw materials from Russia, Germany, France, Britain and the United States
that Iraq was able to develop its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons
programs in the 1980s.

Iraq's armed forces are barely one-third their pre-Gulf War strength. Even
though Iraq has not been required to reduce its conventional forces, the
destruction of its weapons and the country's economic collapse have led to a
substantial reduction in men under arms. Iraq's navy is now virtually
nonexistent, and its air force is just a fraction of what it was before the
war. Military spending by Iraq has been estimated at barely one-tenth of
what it was in the 1980s. The Bush Administration has been unable to explain
why today, when Saddam has only a tiny percentage of his once-formidable
military capability, Iraq is now considered such a threat that it is
necessary to invade the country and replace its leader--the same leader
Washington quietly supported during the peak of Iraq's military capability.

The International Atomic Energy Agency declared in 1998 that Iraq's nuclear
program had been completely dismantled. The UN Special Commission on Iraq
(UNSCOM) estimated then that at least 95 percent of Iraq's chemical weapons
program had been similarly accounted for and destroyed. Iraq's potential to
develop biological weapons is a much bigger question mark, since such a
program is much easier to hide. However, UNSCOM noted in 1998 that virtually
all of Iraq's offensive missiles and other delivery systems had been
accounted for and rendered inoperable. Rebuilding an offensive military
capability utilizing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) virtually from
scratch would be extraordinarily difficult under the current international

3. Deterrence will not work against a Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass

Saddam Hussein has demonstrated repeatedly that he cares first and foremost
about his own survival. He presumably recognizes that any attempt to use
WMDs against the United States or any of its allies would inevitably lead to
his own destruction. This is why he did not use them during the Gulf War,
even when attacked by the largest coalition of international forces against
a single nation ever assembled and subjected to the heaviest bombing in
world history. By contrast, prior to the Gulf War, Saddam was quite willing
to utilize his arsenal of chemical weapons against Iranian forces because he
knew the revolutionary Islamist regime was isolated internationally, and he
was similarly willing to use them against Kurdish civilians because he knew
they could not fight back. In the event of a US invasion, however, seeing
his overthrow as imminent and with nothing to lose, this logic of
self-preservation would no longer be operative. Instead, a US
invasion--rather than eliminate the prospect of Iraq using its WMDs--would
in fact dramatically increase the likelihood of his utilizing weapons of
mass destruction should he actually have any at his disposal.

Saddam Hussein's leadership style has always been that of direct control;
his distrust of subordinates (bordering on paranoia) is one of the ways he
has been able to hold on to power. It is extremely unlikely that he would go
to the risk and expense of developing weapons of mass destruction only to
pass them on to some group of terrorists, particularly radical Islamists who
could easily turn on him. If he does have such weapons at his disposal, they
would be for use at his discretion alone. By contrast, in the chaos of a US
invasion and its aftermath, the chances of such weapons being smuggled out
of the country into the hands of terrorists would greatly increase.
Currently, any Iraqi WMDs that may exist are under the control of a highly
centralized regime more interested in deterring a US attack than provoking

4. International inspectors cannot insure that Iraq will not obtain weapons
of mass destruction.

As a result of the inspections regime imposed by the United Nations at the
end of the Gulf War, virtually all of Iraq's stockpile of WMDs, delivery
systems and capability of producing such weapons were destroyed. During
nearly eight years of operation, UNSCOM oversaw the destruction of 38,000
chemical weapons, 480,000 liters of live chemical-weapons agents,
forty-eight missiles, six missile launchers, thirty missile warheads
modified to carry chemical or biological agents, and hundreds of pieces of
related equipment with the capability to produce chemical weapons.

In late 1997 UNSCOM director Richard Butler reported that UNSCOM had made
"significant progress" in tracking Iraq's chemical weapons program and that
817 of the 819 Soviet-supplied long-range missiles had been accounted for. A
couple of dozen Iraqi-made ballistic missiles remained unaccounted for, but
these were of questionable caliber. In its last three years of operation,
UNSCOM was unable to detect any evidence that Iraq had been concealing
prohibited weapons.

The periodic interference and harassment of UNSCOM inspectors by the Iraqis
was largely limited to sensitive sites too small for advanced nuclear or
chemical weapons development or deployment. A major reason for this lack of
cooperation was Iraqi concern--later proven valid--that the United States
was abusing the inspections for espionage purposes, such as monitoring coded
radio communications by Iraq's security forces, using equipment secretly
installed by American inspectors. The United States, eager to launch
military strikes against Iraq, instructed Butler in 1998 to provoke Iraq
into breaking its agreement to fully cooperate with UNSCOM. Without
consulting the UN Security Council as required, Butler announced to the
Iraqis that he was nullifying agreements dealing with sensitive sites and
chose the Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad--a very unlikely place to
store weapons of mass destruction--as the site at which to demand unfettered
access. The Iraqis refused. Clinton then asked Butler to withdraw UNSCOM
forces, and the United States launched a four-day bombing campaign, which
gave the Iraqis an excuse to block UNSCOM inspectors from returning. With no
international inspectors in Iraq since then, there is no definitive answer
as to whether Iraq is actually developing weapons of mass destruction. And
as long as the United States continues to openly espouse "regime change"
through assassination or invasion, it is very unlikely that Iraq will agree
to a resumption of inspections.

5. The United States has the legal right to impose a regime change through
military force.

According to Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, no member state has the
right to enforce any resolution militarily unless the Security Council
determines that there has been a material breach of its resolution, decides
that all nonmilitary means of enforcement have been exhausted and
specifically authorizes the use of military force. This is what the Security
Council did in November 1990 with Resolution 678 in response to Iraq's
occupation of Kuwait, which violated a series of resolutions demanding their
withdrawal that passed that August. When Iraq finally complied in its forced
withdrawal from Kuwait in March 1991, this resolution became moot.

Legally, the conflict regarding access for UN inspectors and possible Iraqi
procurement of WMDs has always been between the Iraqi government and the UN,
not between Iraq and the United States. Although UN Security Council
Resolution 687, which demands Iraqi disarmament, was the most detailed in
the world body's history, no military enforcement mechanisms were specified.
Nor has the Security Council specified any military enforcement mechanisms
in subsequent resolutions. As is normally the case when it is determined
that governments are violating all or part of UN resolutions, any decision
about enforcement is a matter for the Security Council as a whole--not for
any one member of the Council.

If the United States can unilaterally claim the right to invade Iraq because
of that country's violation of Security Council resolutions, other Council
members could logically also claim the right to invade states that are
similarly in violation; for example, Russia could claim the right to invade
Israel, France could claim the right to invade Turkey and Britain could
claim the right to invade Morocco. The US insistence on the right to attack
unilaterally could seriously undermine the principle of collective security
and the authority of the UN and, in doing so, would open the door to
international anarchy.

International law is quite clear about when military force is allowed. In
addition to the aforementioned case of UN Security Council authorization,
the only other time that a member state is allowed to use armed force is
described in Article 51, which states that it is permissible for "individual
or collective self-defense" against "armed attack...until the Security
Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and
security." If Iraq's neighbors were attacked, any of these countries could
call on the United States to help, pending a Security Council decision
authorizing the use of force.

Based on evidence that the Bush Administration has made public, there
doesn't appear to be anything close to sufficient legal grounds for the
United States to convince the Security Council to approve the use of
military force against Iraq in US self-defense.

6. The benefits of regime change outweigh the costs.

While the United States would likely be the eventual victor in a war against
Iraq, it would come at an enormous cost. It would be a mistake, for example,
to think that defeating Iraq would result in as few American casualties as
occurred in driving the Taliban militia from Kabul last autumn. Though
Iraq's offensive capabilities have been severely weakened by the bombings,
sanctions and UNSCOM-sponsored decommissioning, its defensive military
capabilities are still strong.

Nor would a military victory today be as easy as during the Gulf War. Prior
to the launching of Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi government decided not
to put up a fight for Kuwait and relied mostly on young conscripts from
minority communities. Only two of the eight divisions of the elite
Republican Guard were ever in Kuwait, and they pulled back before the war
began. The vast majority of Iraq's strongest forces were withdrawn to areas
around Baghdad to fight for the survival of the regime itself, and they
remain there to this day. In the event of war, defections from these units
are not likely.

Close to 1 million members of the Iraqi elite have a vested interest in the
regime's survival. These include the Baath Party leadership and its
supporters, security and intelligence personnel, and core elements of the
armed forces and their extended families. Furthermore, Iraq--a largely urban
society--has a far more sophisticated infrastructure than does the largely
rural and tribal Afghanistan, and it could be mobilized in the event of a
foreign invasion.

Nor is there an equivalent to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, which did the
bulk of the ground fighting against the Taliban. Iraqi Kurds, having been
abandoned twice in recent history by the United States, are unlikely to
fight beyond securing autonomy for Kurdish areas. The armed Shiite
opposition has largely been eliminated, and it too would be unlikely to
fight beyond liberating the majority Shiite sections of southern Iraq. The
United States would be reluctant to support either, given that their
successes could potentially fragment the country and would encourage both
rebellious Kurds in southeastern Turkey and restive Shiites in northeastern
Saudi Arabia. US forces would have to march on Baghdad, a city of more than
5 million people, virtually alone.

Unlike in the Gulf War, which involved conventional and open combat in flat
desert areas where US and allied forces could take full advantage of their
superior firepower and technology, US soldiers would have to fight their way
through heavily populated agricultural and urban lands. Invading forces
would likely be faced with bitter, house-to-house fighting in a country
larger than South Vietnam. Iraqis, who may have had little stomach to fight
to maintain their country's conquest of Kuwait, would be far more willing to
sacrifice themselves to resist a foreign, Western invader. To minimize
American casualties in the face of such stiff resistance, the United States
would likely engage in heavy bombing of Iraqi residential neighborhoods,
resulting in high civilian casualties.

The lack of support from regional allies could result in the absence of a
land base from which to launch US air attacks, initially requiring the
United States to rely on Navy jets launched from aircraft carriers. Without
permission to launch aerial refueling craft, even long-range bombers from US
air bases might not be deployable. It is hard to imagine being able to
provide the necessary reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft under such
circumstances, and the deployment of tens of thousands of troops from
distant staging areas could be problematic. American forces could
conceivably capture an air base inside Iraq in the course of the fighting,
but without the pre-positioning of supplies, its usefulness as a major
center of operations would be marginal.

Such a major military operation would be costly in economic terms as well,
as the struggling and debt-ridden US economy would be burdened by the most
elaborate and expensive deployment of American forces since World War II,
totaling more than $100 billion in the first six months. Unlike in the Gulf
War, the Saudis--who strenuously oppose such an invasion--would be unwilling
to foot the bill. An invasion of Iraq would also be costly to a struggling
world economy; higher oil prices could be devastating to some countries,
causing even more social and political unrest.

7. Regime change will be popular in Iraq and will find support among US
allies in the region.

While there is little question that most of Iraq's neighbors and most Iraqis
themselves would be pleased to see Iraq under new leadership, regime change
imposed by invading US military forces would not be welcome. Most US allies
in the region supported the Gulf War, since it was widely viewed as an act
of collective security in response to aggression by Iraq against its small
neighbor. This would not be the case, however, in the event of a new war
against Iraq. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has warned that the Bush
Administration "should not strike Iraq, because such an attack would only
raise animosity in the region against the United States." At the Beirut
summit of the Arab League at the end of March, the Arab nations unanimously
endorsed a strongly worded resolution opposing an attack against Iraq. Even
Kuwait has reconciled with Iraq since Baghdad formally recognized Kuwait's
sovereignty and international borders. Twenty Arab foreign ministers meeting
in Cairo in early September unanimously expressed their "total rejection of
the threat of aggression on Arab nations, in particular Iraq."

American officials claim that, public statements to the contrary, there may
be some regional allies willing to support a US war effort. Given President
Bush's ultimatum that "either you are with us or you are with the
terrorists," it's quite possible that some governments will be successfully
pressured to go along. However, almost any Middle Eastern regime willing to
provide such support and cooperation would be doing so over the opposition
of the vast majority of its citizens. Given the real political risks for any
ruler supporting the US war effort, such acquiescence would take place only
reluctantly, as a result of US pressure or inducements, not from a sincere
belief in the validity of the military operation.

8. "Regime change" will enhance regional stability and enhance the prospects
for democracy in the region.

As is apparent in Afghanistan, throwing a government out is easier than
putting a new one together. Although most Iraqis would presumably be
relieved in the event of Saddam Hussein's ouster, this does not mean that a
regime installed by a Western army would be welcomed. For example, some of
the leading candidates that US officials are apparently considering
installing to govern Iraq following a successful US invasion are former
Iraqi military officers who took part in offensives that involved war

In addition to possible ongoing guerrilla action by Saddam Hussein's
supporters, American occupation forces would likely be faced with competing
armed factions among the Sunni Arab population, not to mention Kurdish and
Shiite rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. This could lead the United
States into a bloody counterinsurgency war. Without the support of other
countries or the UN, a US invasion could leave American forces effectively
alone attempting to enforce a peace amid the chaos of a post-Saddam Iraq.

A US invasion of Iraq would likely lead to an outbreak of widespread
anti-American protests throughout the Middle East, perhaps even attacks
against American interests. Some pro-Western regimes could become vulnerable
to internal radical forces. Passions are particularly high in light of
strong US support for the policies of Israel's rightist government and its
ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The anger over US double
standards regarding Israeli and Iraqi violations of UN Security Council
resolutions and possession of weapons of mass destruction could reach a
boiling point. Recognizing that the United States cannot be defeated on the
battlefield, more and more Arabs and Muslims resentful of American hegemony
in their heartland may be prone to attack by unconventional means, as was so
tragically demonstrated last September 11. The Arab foreign ministers, aware
of such possibilities, warned at their meeting in Cairo that a US invasion
of Iraq would "open the gates of hell."

-- Lilly
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from Cyberarmy.com