MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

So, what happens if the inspectors find a 'smoking gun'?
response by Phil Steger

received 2-10-03

Just what IS a "smoking gun" in this case? It won't be a gun that's been fired - that's for sure. Saddam Hussein isn't nearly so suicidal or stupid as to launch, or to help others to launch, a biological or chemical weapons strike against the US or our interests. Hussein is no desperate fanatic, but the supreme ruler of one of the world's wealthiest nations. His ambitions are hardly "pie in the sky". They are here and now: an earthly kingdom, not some fanatic's promise of a heavenly reward. Unlike during the 1980's, the decade during which Hussein committed his most heinous crimes, he doesn't have the financial and geopolitical support of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or the US government. If he gasses the US today, will they step in to save him from annihilation? Hussein himself surely doesn't believe so.

What the president is saying is that the mere evidence that a gun exists in Iraq, without any compelling case that Hussein will use it, is cause enough to send American youth into an invasion that many of them will not return from. Are Americans ready to lose everything that we risk in this war, including the lives of American servicemen and women, over evidence that Saddam Hussein is seeking weapons of mass destruction?

If the UN inspectors prove that Saddam Hussein is putting together a weapons program, who will be surprised? "But he promised he wouldn't," shouldn't be enough to drive us into war. Iraq has the second largest reserves of the highest quality oil in a world full of nations bristling with weapons of mass destruction and slathering for oil. Every present and future leader of Iraq will seek weapons of mass destruction - from Saddam Hussein on - for the simple reason that wealthy nations in the nuclear age depend upon nuclear and other doomsday weapons to deter other nations from attacking them. Search any textbook on US defense policy written during the last fifty years and you will find everyone from Breszinski to Truman to Kissinger telling you the same thing.

Invading Iraq, plunging the country deeper into humanitarian catastrophe, incensing the Arabs of the region and the Muslims of the world yet further, toppling the government and plugging first an American general and later an Iraqi chieftain into the role of ruler will not accomplish US or world security in the region or Iraq. It will only prompt Saddam Hussein to unload whatever arsenal he has onto whatever American soldiers the president orders into harm's way. It will not solve the problem of weapons of mass destruction or terrorism in the short- or long-term. Instead, it will create an inferno into which 200,000 American young people, 24 million Iraqi children, women and men, and $200 billion dollars-plus will be dumped. It will pull young men and women from their families, desperately needed dollars from an ailing economy, and White House, intelligence and military attention from the pursuit of Al Qaida, the search for Osama bin Laden and the mounting nuclear and humanitarian crisis in North Korea. The only beneficiaries of this war will be Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida and American arms and oil corporations. Even President Bush will lose, when after the wreckage the American people peacefully depose him in 2004.

It is too bad if the president can't see this. Too bad for him. Much worse for the rest of us.

Disarmament is an all or nothing affair. In the resource wars of the nuclear age, every nation that has anything to protect will seek to defend it with the only proven defense against the appetites of greater powers - the deterrent power of weapons of mass destruction. There's no military solution to this. There's no end to the wars that the US will have to fight. No end to the occupations that the US will have to orchestrate - with American taxpayers' money and their sons’ and daughters’ lives. So long as Iraq's neighbors are armed to the teeth, receiving billions of dollars in aid and America's high-tech weaponry, so long as Iraq is defenseless and rich in oil, Iraq will seek weapons of mass destruction. Unless it is ruled from Washington, D.C., or totally destroyed.

America has one choice, if peace and security is what we're truly after. Forceful, peaceful, non-military means. In the first place, we must stop selling weapons of mass destruction to the dictators of the Middle East. We must pressure the other arms-exporting nations of the world to do the same. We must lift the sanctions on Iraq, which will stimulate the Iraqi people to challenge the regime and invest them in Saddam's disarmament, if not his demise - whichever they choose. We must divest ourselves of our intolerable dependency upon Middle Eastern oil in particular, and petroleum in general. We must reengage the Iraqi people as a sovereign people and thus empower them to make the move toward democracy. No one can make a democracy in Iraq, except the Iraqi people themselves. Any American president who believes otherwise - and acts on it - is playing God.

We will have to go to the United Nations as the most powerful among equals - not as an empire among vassals. We will have to re-stimulate their interest in helping the United States to bring the orchestrators of the 9-11 attacks, and the schemers of any future terrorist attacks to justice. We can't do this while we plunge the world into the chaos of war. Ultimately, we will also have to work with the UN to accomplish the most important goal of any sane vision of US and world security: global disarmament and the banishment of weapons of mass destruction from the Earth. This is the only path to a peace that can be counted upon. It should have been begun before the last Gulf War. It wasn’t. We went the other way instead, with increased military spending, increased military activity, and increased arms sales to the Middle East. Saddam Hussein followed suit, seeking weapons of mass destruction with every ounce of his cold intelligence and power. Have the stakes risen high enough for us find sustainable solutions to the problems of oil dependency and weapons proliferation, yet, or not?

How much greater must the risk of armageddon grow, before we step back from the brink?

Philip Steger is Executive Director of Friends for a Non-Violent World, a non-profit in St. Paul, MN. He has traveled three times in the last two years to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness. He has been spoken widely in Minnesota and the US as an expert on US policy toward Iraq, especially sanctions, and has been a guest on WCCO, KSTP, MPR and Wisconsin Public Radio talk radio shows.

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