STOP Painting Iraq as a Tortured Saint
It seems like everyone on IMC seems to deny the possibility that Iraq could ever pose a threat to anyone. Why is that, you think?
What would happen if we woke up one day to find that a nuclear bomb had destroyed the heart of Washington, D.C.? Over 100,000 would be dead. The White House, Congress, the offices of the Cabinet, museums, and precious and irreplaceable historic monuments, would all be gone, and our capital rendered uninhabitable for years. Our legislators would have died in numbers sufficient to precipitate a constitutional crisis. If the president were killed, the vice president might still be alive in his secure location, along with bureaucrats sufficient to keep the wheels of government turning (barely) in a crisis-ridden and grieving nation.
But what action would the vice president, now president, take in retaliation? Would he launch a nuclear strike at Baghdad? On what evidence? How would we know if the bomb had come from Saddam Hussein? Would the new president send the FBI to the radioactive wasteland of Washington to find Saddam's fingerprints, or evidence of whoever else might have devised the bomb? (How many FBI agents would remain, by the way?) How long would the investigation take? What would the world be saying in the meantime about the advisability of wiping out the city and people of Baghdad on the hunch that Saddam might have had something to do with the destruction of Washington, D.C.?
I ask these questions because there are those who oppose this war with the argument that we can deter Saddam Hussein. There are those who claim that Saddam would not dare supply al Qaeda with a nuclear device, for fear that we would find "his fingerprints" and subsequently wipe Baghdad off the face of the earth. I do not believe that we can rely on traditional principles of deterrence in the matter of a nuclear bomb supplied to al Qaeda by Saddam Hussein. I would like to see opponents of the war explain in more detail how we would determine Saddam's guilt after a nuclear terrorist attack, and how and when we would retaliate.
Was Saddam behind the terrorism already launched against us? We still don't know. Could Saddam's anthrax have been the anthrax in the envelopes sent to Congress? We don't know. Could Saddam's agents have met with Mohammad Atta? We're not sure. Might Saddam have had a hand in the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center? Some say yes, but we still don't know. Would we know more after a nuclear explosion in the heart of our capital?
By the way, the attempt to topple the World Trade Center in 1993 was intended to kill 200,000 people, roughly the combined death toll of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Had the truck bomb been just a bit stronger and positioned just a few feet over, one tower (of 50,000 people) would have toppled into the second tower (of 50,000 people), and both towers would have fallen onto the surrounding offices (containing another 100,000 people), before anyone could have escaped. So we have already been subject to an attack intended to be equivalent to nuclear in scale.
In 1993, the same year as the first attack on the World Trade Center, Saddam's intelligence agents attempted to assassinate the first president Bush. Let's stop and think about that for a moment. That attempt to assassinate the former president has become a bit of a cliché, frequently recited as part of a list of Saddam's depredations, but not really considered.
It is often said by those who believe that the principle of deterrence will suffice to contain Saddam that he is rational enough not to do anything that could bring down the might of the United States upon his head. But why then did he attempt to assassinate former President Bush? Revenge, of course. But why would Saddam have risked bringing on his own destruction, as a successful assassination attempt against even a former president well might have? In this case, after all, we could, and did, trace the source of the plot. And in response to even an unsuccessful assassination attempt on a former president, President Clinton did in fact launch a cruise-missile strike against Iraq's intelligence headquarters. What might we have done had the attempt on the former president's life succeeded?
So the importance of Saddam's attempt to assassinate the first president Bush (just after his presidency had ended) is not simply that it shows his wickedness, but that it suggests that deterrence will not, and has not, worked in Saddam Hussein's case. Saddam has already risked his life and his power on an act that had no real benefit but revenge and "glory." Arguably, the traditional logic of deterrence has already failed with Saddam.
David Brooks has pointed out that those who oppose an invasion of Iraq never bother to balance the risks of an attack against the dangers of inaction. That is right. But it's important to emphasize that the problem extends well beyond Noam Chomsky and his ilk. I find it extraordinary that even so serious and distinguished an observer as Stanley Hoffman could have written a lengthy attack on President Bush's Iraq policy without giving a moment's serious consideration to the danger of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in the new terrorist environment.
Despite September 11, I do not believe that most of the Americans who openly or privately oppose this war have given sufficient thought to the true nature of the danger we now face in a world of terrorism and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. Many opponents of the war are honestly at a loss to understand the reasons that are driving us toward invasion.
Is it not extraordinary that the Israelis would like to see us attack Iraq, knowing that it will almost surely prompt an attack on Tel Aviv by Saddam's chemical and biological weapons? Why do the Israelis willingly risk this? It is because they know that once Saddam Hussein has a nuclear bomb, he will find a way to give it to terrorists for use against Israel. Clearly, Israel does not believe that the logic of deterrence will work with Saddam. Although they have nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them to Baghdad, the Israelis know that they face the very real possibility of waking up one morning to find that the heart of Tel Aviv has been wiped off the face of the earth. The Israelis take this danger so seriously that they are willing to subject themselves to chemical and biological attack to protect against it.
Do we not understand that we are now, and have been for some time, every bit as much a target for Saddam Hussein as the Israelis? The Europeans and the Canadians know that they will not be hit, at least so long as they continue to make the right noises. Gerhard Schroeder was clever to play to the fears of his people. His pledge to refrain from aiding our invasion must have reassured many frightened Germans that America and Israel would remain the sole targets. And make no mistake about it. We are targeted.
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