Diplomacy with Iraq is still a possibility

There are so many times I am grateful that I am not the president. Sex scandals, congressional dissension, mudslinging … but the worst part of the job is sending people off to kill other people.
You know, people, such as the ones in our armed forces; kids just out of high school trying to finance an education or a house. Some of them end up in meaningless office jobs just like the civilian ones. Actually, I enjoy my job as a columnist, but I sure as hell wouldn’t die for The Minnesota Daily.
And when the United States and Great Britain strike Iraq, it’s the average Iraqi citizen who will suffer, if not die. All the while they’re just trying to do what we are — get by.
Since Oct. 31, Iraqi officials, under Saddam Hussein’s command, have refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraqi facilities. This sure isn’t the first time. In February, the United States was poised to strike, like it is now, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan diffused military conflict in a last minute diplomatic trip to Iraq. Hussein promised to comply, pressure was lessened, and now it’s November — and events are repeating themselves.
Annan has once again gone on an 11th hour peace-keeping mission, apparently holding off the U.S. forces for at least a couple more days. Iraq sent a letter to the United Nations late Saturday saying that they were now willing to comply — again. The point of contention with the letter is what officials are calling the “annex.” It’s Iraq’s P.S.: a list of the sanctions Iraq wants lifted. U.S. officials were outraged, but at least canceled an attack planned for this weekend.
The fact that Iraq is duplicating its February moves nullifies the possibility that what is currently happening is some kind of political mistake. It takes a complete idiot or a total schemer to repeat the same action that caused international disturbance less than a year ago.
We need to figure out what Hussein is up to. He is not a stupid man, or so it seems. He is definitely not an ethical man. He flagrantly defies international policy and has no regard for human rights. He pretends to support his own people and yet tests chemical weapons on the Kurdish population. Then he tries to vilify the United States — an easy thing to do when we’re threatening to bomb him. This rallies support for him and nationalism when what the Iraqi people should be doing is rebelling against the Hussein regime.
The international community has failed to hurt Hussein. Sanctions are a way of applying political and economic pressure, yes, but the leaders rarely suffer. More often than not, the people starve or get sick, and the lucky ones barely survive. Sanctions don’t generally cause a shift in power or power structure. Take Cuba for example, sanctions did nothing to further U.S. interests there. The end result was hurting the Cuban people, not Castro.
Threats and diplomatic deals haven’t curbed Hussein’s mischief either. How long has this nonsense really been going on? Almost a decade? Nothing has changed. He’s still a volatile and arrogant leader sitting on a pile of weapons of mass destruction.
Hussein needs to be sent a message that really hurts him personally. And I’m not talking about assassination, even though the subject has been discussed in such magazines as Newsweek. George Stephanopolous wrote an article for the magazine discussing the upside of assassinating Saddam. We don’t need to murder Saddam to remove him from power. We can charge him with war crimes or violating human rights or breaking U.N. treaties. And then we can have him arrested and hand him over to the World Court.
It’s obviously a complicated situation. If it were really that easy, we would’ve done something by now. But bombing the Iraqi people is not a solution.
U.S. involvement in the situation falls a bit short of commendable. The United States is not doing this because of the devastation of the Kurdish people — otherwise we would be threatening Serbia with the same vehemence. Iraq is situated in a very valuable location. The United States is willing to fight to keep oil production in the Middle East running smoothly.
So it’s not ideology that motivates us. The Iraqi region is worth a lot of money. It is so precious to us, in fact, that the United States is funding dissenting groups, like anti-Iraqi terrorists, in hopes that they will do some of our dirty work for us. This is no secret. Government officials are amazingly frank about how much they want Hussein out of the picture.
Now tensions are running even higher. It’s as though America is looking for an excuse and has no problems marshalling in an army on a moment’s notice. In fact, 25,000 troops have been positioned into place. Battleships are on their way. As part of a running theme, the operation already has a name: “Desert Thunder.” The grandiosity of that title would be kind of funny if there weren’t actual lives at stake.
As of the wee hours on Sunday morning, the United Nations ceased its debates on how to handle the Iraqi letter. They will reconvene to decide what actions are warranted towards Iraq. It’s unfortunate that their decision probably doesn’t matter. If the United States decides that Iraq’s letter isn’t enough, we will attack on our own.
Canada and Great Britain are both supporting the use of military force. Other Gulf countries have washed their hands of Hussein in this case — they don’t endorse military force, but they aren’t condemning it this time. Russia, China and France are vocally opposed to U.S. military intervention.
Annan’s diplomatic efforts on behalf of the international community should be commended. Diplomacy is so preferable to military action. It’s likely that Annan’s new deal with Hussein will be broken again, just like past agreements. But the United Nation’s willingness to negotiate — their stoicism in the face of a crisis — is something U.S. officials could learn from.
At the moment, it looks like the United States will be bombing Iraq. There might even be a war. Congress is discussing the idea of issuing a declaration of war. It’s very easy to dislike Hussein, to want him out of office — he is an abhorrent character. He should be removed from power. But since we are trying to live in a civilized society, that can’t be done by assassination, and attacks on the country at large should be as minimal as possible.
If the humanitarian routes are all stymied, I don’t know what to say. I’ll probably cry when I see the wreckage of the bombs, thinking about the people who didn’t know they were going to work to die that day. I’ll think about fatherless or motherless children, or a young person dead well before their time.
I don’t know whether I can agree with a U.S. military attack, even though I can see the reasons for it. I don’t know that I would be the slightest bit sad if Saddam were “accidentally” killed in one of the attacks. Let’s all just be thankful that not one of us has to make a decision like that. I would take a sex scandal over that any day.
Sara Hurley’s column appears every Monday. Send comments to [email protected]