Response to Bush Speech on Iraq
Bush's speech was nothing new, more it was a continuation of the the same tired policy: Saddam Hussein is bad and should disarm himself. Bush leaves us with the same old 'or else' threat that Clinton and Bush I used though he may be more likely to actually start something.
Response to Bush Speech of 7 October 2002
President Bush took to airwaves from Cincinnati on October 7 to outline the Iraqi Threat. All quotes below otherwise attributed are from that speech which can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021007-8.html
He tended to stray from any sort of explanation as to how this situation arose and except for two rather general references to armed intervention he successfully avoided discussing how the problem could be solved. Instead his listeners were treated to what would have been stated more simply on SouthPark as "Saddam is bad mmmkay?"
To be honest, I agreed with much more of the President's speech than I usually tend to. He is fully correct in saying that Iraq presents a dilemma and that Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted. Unfortunately, this administration seems bent on duplicating the failed efforts of past administrations that allowed the problem of Saddam Hussein's regime to get to this point.
Mistake number 1: Misunderstanding the nature of the problem. Bush says, "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction." The problems in that statement are many, but I will focus on what I consider to be the most important - personalizing Iraq's drive for weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein.
Yes, Saddam Hussein has long tried to develop weapons of mass destruction. This is nothing new. The United States has long developed weapons of mass destruction, as have many other states. This is a logical response to the modern state system. Weak states (especially those headed by macho brutal dictator types) want to become stronger states. Stronger states have powerful armies and weapons at their disposal. Thus, weaker states feel compelled to develop stronger militaries and arsenals to command more respect.
Iraq would like to dominate the Middle East (Hussein would substitute the word unite for dominate of course). The easiest way to gain respect in the Middle East currently lies in challenging Israel. The ability to threaten Israel lies in developing military superiority - something Israel and its 200 or so nuclear warheads understand. Simply getting rid of Saddam Hussein would not remove the motivations for Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Furthermore, in the hierarchical state system, possession of nuclear weapons automatically places states higher in the hierarchy. When a state with nuclear weapons makes demands or threats, it gets far more attention than when a non-nuclear state does. This is inherent due to the incredible destructive power of the device. Thus, the drive for weapons of mass destruction is not solely a result of Hussein's homicidal tendencies and his removal from power does not ensure a successor would not follow a similar course of action.
Mistake number 2: "Saddam Hussein must disarm himself - or , for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him." Few seem to realize that the prospect of disarming Iraq may not be possible. Years of inspections are a testament to the fact that attempting to force Iraq to disarm does not work. Periodic bombings, and a decade of incredibly punishing sanctions (that have resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqi) have not come close to encouraging Hussein to willingly disarm.
Consider that the equipment to create weapons of mass destruction - particularly biological and chemical warfare agents is fairly easily hidden - else they would have long ago been destroyed by cruise missiles that can target ant hills from 750 miles away.
It is not at all fanciful to believe that Iraq has significant stores of chemical and/or biological weapons buried at locations that only a few top advisers in the regime are aware of. Even if Iraq were only the size of Kuwait, exhuming the entire desert would be a fantastic undertaking. And Iraq is much much larger.
Taking another step, even if the U.S. were to uncover all of Iraq's stored weapons of mass destruction, it could not prevent Iraq from beginning to recreate stockpiles with the chemicals and tools necessary for living in a modern society - germ incubators from hospitals, chlorine for water purification, and so on. The idea of totally disarming Iraq is absolutely fanciful.
Finally, mistake number 3: "regime change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a great danger to our nation." From the threats of Bush I's advisers following the Gulf War and Clinton's continued policy, Hussein has long known that the U.S. ultimately wants him out of power. This leaves him with absolutely no motivation for compliance with U.S. demands.
Hussein has maintained his power over the years not only by ruthlessness but also by making intelligent decisions to maintain his power. The most obvious example was his reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction during the Gulf War - something that would have led to overwhelming response by the United States and the coalition.
The real problem with U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq is that three successive administrations have painted themselves into a corner by so demonizing Hussein that they could not normalize relations with him. Though he is a brutal dictator, the U.S. has worked with butchers in the past when it was deemed to be in U.S. interests. Given Hussein's stranglehold on power, the U.S. must either deal with him, wait for him to die, or remove him from power.
To sum up: The drive for weapons of mass destruction goes beyond Hussein. The chances of actually disarming Iraq are abysmal especially since Hussein knows the U.S. ultimately is working to remove him from power. Given the history of U.S. reluctance to back down from such a strong position (witness Fidel Castro) the chances of a normalization of relations with Iraq (they would term it constructive engagement - look at U.S. policy toward China) are practically nill.
Now to be honest, Saddam Hussein's regime does present a potential threat to international peace, but more pressingly, it continues to present a clear and present threat to the Iraqi people. That fact has remained unchanged during its twenty-plus year rule while U.S. support for its tactics was only withdrawn during the last twelve years. Regardless, I think few would disagree that the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein and his regime.
Bush correctly raises the question: "how can we best achieve it?" Sadly, he never answers it. Instead he lays out some criteria that Iraq must meet to avoid conflict. The same old conditions as ever - the terms laid out by the Security Council of the U.N. following the Gulf War. "Taking these steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself. America hopes the regime will make that choice."
This sounds vaguely like the call Bush gave to Iraqi dissidents to rise and throw off Hussein's shackles toward the end of the Gulf War. Unfortunately, those dissidents are not around anymore because the U.S. military and leadership watched as they were decimated by Iraqi gunships. So do not be surprised when no Iraqi dissidents fall for that old trick this time around.
So basically Bush gave a speech detailing the ways in which Hussein's regime presents a threat and he cannot be trusted, then lays out conditions that the regime must take or else. The threat is ambiguous. Six pages of speech and we are left at the exact same spot in U.S. policy toward Iraq as we have been since hours after Iraq withdrew from Kuwait.
What it comes down to is that barring a sudden reversal in policy, the U.S. will have to either wait for Hussein to die of natural causes (the Cuba approach) or kill Hussein. Given his thus far limitless capacity for avoiding American bombs, it would most likely take a full invasion which would therefore push Hussein to using whatever weapons of mass destruction he has available in what could be termed a "use it or lose it scenario."
Ultimately, there is no magic bullet. The U.S. will not back down. Until Hussein is removed from power, the U.S. will hold the course of sanctions and bombing. A full invasion remains unlikely given the risk of Iraq's using chemical and biological warfare.
Though it may seem that I support an invasion, I do not. My concern is for the Iraqi people who suffer doubly under the sanctions and Hussein's brutality. No matter how the situation plays itself out, they will suffer as they have for too long.
I continue to believe the best solution lies in the U.S. ending sanctions in order to end the malnourishment and suffering of the Iraqi people. When they are no longer starving, they will eventually rise and overthrow their oppressors.
Sadly, I do not believe this is a likely outcome. In the face of that, I do believe an invasion could result in less suffering for the Iraqi people than even more years of living in a war torn nation prevented from recovering by sanctions. But this is not a decision for me to make - rather it appears to be a decision that will be made by the President of the United States Empire. Rest assured that the decision will be made in the interests of the Empire, not in the interests of Iraqis, or those who will die implementing the decision.
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