Momentum has been building for months toward a U.S. invasion of Iraq, with or without international cooperation, and with or without the approval of Congress. Though President George W. Bush now is soliciting both, U.S. troops are quietly gathering in the Middle East and the looming shadow of war has all but descended on Baghdad.
Iraq, according to the Bush administration, is a part of the “axis of evil,” those three regimes hiding terrorists around the world. There is evidence to support this even without the special intelligence the administration claims it has. Saddam Hussein has been encouraging Palestinian suicide bombers by paying off their families. Members of al-Qaida have met with Iraqis in the past and may be hiding in the country now.
Interestingly, the Bush administration is not emphasizing these terrorist connections to defend its intentions, though it still mentions them in passing. Instead, they have claimed Iraq is, or soon will be, in possession of a nuclear weapon. Iraq is also poised to unleash chemical and biological weapons against the United States and its allies, the administration said. For weeks, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and, to a lesser extent, Secretary of State Colin Powell have been fanning the flames of war with inflammatory language.
“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” Rice said on CNN’s “Late Edition” last week. Rumsfeld asked the public to “imagine a Sept. 11 with weapons of mass destruction. It’s not 3,000 – it’s tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children” on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” despite the fact Iraq has no method of delivering a nuclear weapon to U.S. soil.
Though Bush is now soliciting the approval of Congress and the United Nations before invading Iraq, his actions have made it clear that he doesn’t feel the need for either. A legal memo ordered by Bush argues that no congressional approval is needed. During last week’s address to the United Nations, Bush delivered a stern warning: the United Nations must “serve the purpose of its founding or … be irrelevant,” indicating his willingness to take on Iraq alone or with allies. But Bush angrily showed his true concern for U.N. approval when he chastised Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for suggesting that the Senate may wait for a U.N. vote before casting a vote on Bush’s measure. “I can’t imagine an elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, ‘I think I’m going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision,’ ” Bush said.
After his speech before the United Nations, it has become clear that most of the important European leaders weren’t opposed to military action in Iraq; they were just being petulantly contrary because Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair wouldn’t let them into the war room. Germany still has not fallen into line, most likely because Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will be up for re-election soon, and even if European politicians are happy to go war, most European citizens are not.
Russia and China have not declared their wholehearted support, but they appear to hold out for political concessions from the United States. Russia wants a free hand in Georgia to deal with Chechen rebels threatening its borders, leeway the United Nations is presently unlikely to give. To placate China, the Bush administration added a separatist group of Chinese Muslims to its list of terrorist organizations and last week convinced the United Nations to do the same, which lends a degree of credibility to Beijing’s often criticized suppression of dissent in its Central Asian borderlands.
In any case, the impossible conditions Bush laid down before the United Nations virtually eliminate any course of action but war. Iraq must remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, stop persecuting its citizens, end illicit trade, end support for terrorism, release or account for all Gulf War prisoners and finish paying Gulf War reparations.
Perhaps Powell summed it up best last week, however, when he said, “The president will retain all of his authority and options to act in a way that may be appropriate for us to act unilaterally to defend ourselves.”
But in this rush to war, it looks like the politicians may be overreacting to the threat of Iraq. The fact remains that Iraq is not an imminent threat to anyone regardless of the weapons it may or may not have in its arsenal. Saddam may be cruel, but he is not stupid, and he must know any overt aggressive action against any other country would be met immediately by the world with lethal force. If Iraq is not an imminent threat, the United States has no valid reason for attacking first. Hopefully, more reasonable consideration will prevail as the Bush administration and its allies spread the fever of war.