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The Iraqi War: Was It the Right Thing to Do?

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The Iraqi War: Was it the Right Thing to Do?
The invasion of Iraq was unconstitutional, had no real justification for happening and has severely damaged relations with our allies. Most importantly, Saddam Hussein was considered a threat and it was believed that he had weapons of mass destruction, would take on the U.S in an instant and was accused of having ties to the events of September 11, 2006 and the Al-Quaeda terrorist network. None of this could be proved and it appears as if it were all just convenient statements made by the administration to find a way to make it a justifiable cause.
The Iraqi War: Was it the Right Thing to Do? The invasion was unconstitutional, against international law, violated the Christian doctrine of "just war" and has damaged U.S. relations with its allies. It has wreaked havoc in the Muslim world, where there's plenty of havoc already, and most importantly, it has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. Frankly, it’s surprising it hasn’t resulted in dropping a nuclear bomb on Baghdad. Claims made prewar regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have all proved to be wrong; the number of terrorists in Iraq has increased rather than decreased and the abuse inflicted on Iraqi detainees contradicts the most basic values the Administration claimed it would bring to Iraq (Savoy, 2004). President Bush’s actions portray him as an individual that has the right to attack Iraq anytime he wants to due to his position. It's false, and very dangerous for a democracy. Our founding fathers gave the right to Congress and only to Congress to make the decision of whether to take the United States to war or not. It's clearly there in Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution. The founders knew that to give the President such power would risk dragging the country and its people into one senseless war after another. Unfortunately, since World War II, Presidents have usurped this power of Congress, and Congress has abdicated it. There has not been a Congressional declaration of war since December 1941, though there sure have been plenty of wars since then, most notably Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War, but also Panama, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, and a host of other nations the United States has assaulted directly or covertly over the last six decades (Rothschild, 2002). Let it first be known that as a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the official definition of a “war” can only be related to the fact if there is a 5 star general appointed by our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States. Therefore, as noted earlier, references to the wars of Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf do not specifically include Panama, Grenada, and the Dominican Republic as real wars as the author if this reference stated. Wars have appointed 5 star generals and conflicts do not. Therefore, if there is no 5 star general in power, there is officially no war. There is no such appointment at this time for the Iraqi conflict. To this extent, we have a lawless Presidency. If we are to restore our democracy, we need to insist that the Constitution be followed. That means Congress, not the President, has the sole power to declare war. In the current circumstance of Iraq, the President's cronies argue that he has the authority to wage war by virtue of two Congressional acts. First, in 1991, Congress gave the President the authorization to wage war against Saddam Hussein (though technically it did not declare war). But how open-ended is this authorization? Congress did not intend to give the President a blank check to wage war against Iraq forever, or anytime he happened to feel like it. The Congress did not grant the President the right to change the regime there more than a decade later. The second Congressional act that Bush's cheerleaders cite is the September 14, 2001, use of force authorization, which allows Bush to attack any person, group, or country that he believes was involved in the attack of 9/11. Now we all know that the Bush administration has been trying their hardest to pin some of the blame for that unforgettable act on Saddam Hussein, but there's hardly a tissue connecting the two. International law is quite clear: Country A cannot attack Country B unless Country B has already attacked Country A or is about to attack country A. Iraq has not attacked the United States and it's not about to. Saddam, as brutal as he is, and even though he’s no longer in power, his history as a leader is that he loved to cling to power. He knew that attacking the United States would be suicidal. Actually, under international law, Saddam Hussein had a better case for attacking the United States today than Bush had for attacking Iraq, since Bush is threatened imminent war against Iraq. Furthermore, for the United States to take this aggressive action without the approval of the U.N. Security Council would be a violation of the U.N. charter, which the United States has ratified. To get around this, the Bush Administration hyped the danger that Saddam posed to the United States. To further blow it out of proportion, Cheney had called Saddam a "mortal threat." The United States has a $400 billion Pentagon budget; Iraq's military budget is approximately $4 billion. The United States has thousands of nuclear weapons; Iraq doesn't have one yet, much less the means to deliver it. Even if Iraq obtained one nuclear weapon or two, would that present a "mortal" danger to the United States? Remember, the United States managed to survive for four decades against an enemy with thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at us (does anyone remember the former Soviet Union?). The fact is, there is no justification under international law or under Christian "just war" theory for Bush to attack Iraq. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has said so. There is no precipitating act that Saddam Hussein has engaged in that would justify it, nor has President Bush exhausted all peaceful means to resolve the issue, as required by just war theory. Quite the contrary: former Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney were openly disdainful of getting U.N. inspectors back in, which would have been the best way to grind down whatever program Saddam Hussein had for weapons of mass destruction (Rothchild, 2002). As a sidebar, we heard a lot about Saddam Hussein kicking out weapons inspectors. But remember, President Clinton was as much to blame for those inspectors having left Iraq as anyone. Saddam did not kick them out. Clinton pulled them out right before he decided to wage his own little bombing attack on Iraq back in December 1998, to deflect attention from Monica Lewinsky (Rothschild, 2002). Whether starting a preemptive war is justified in a particular instance is not primarily a question of international law. The critical question is whether the action is one of aggression or of legitimate self-defense, and no law can answer that. There are, however, criteria for judging the action: the unwritten understandings international players reach on an ongoing basis as to what is within the boundaries. To justify a resort to preemptive war, a government needs to give reasonable evidence that the step was necessary, forced upon the initiator by its opponents, and also that it represented a lesser evil, i.e., that the dangers and evils averted by war outweighed those caused the international community by initiating it. This requires showing that the threat to be preempted is (a) clear and imminent, such that prompt action is required to meet it; (b) direct, that is, threatening the party initiating the conflict in specific concrete ways, thus entitling that party to act preemptively; (c) critical, in the sense that the vital interests of the initiating party face unacceptable harm and danger; and (d) unmanageable, meaning not capable of being deterred or dealt with by other peaceful means. These criteria are naturally open to interpretation and contest. They are stringent; most claims made to justify preemptive wars do not pass the test, which is as it should be. But the criteria are not unrealistic and do allow for preemptive war in certain particular cases. To show that the threat is clear and imminent, the president and his supporters repeatedly insisted that Saddam Hussein had long wanted weapons of mass destruction and tried to develop them. Since 1998, he has prevented the United Nations' international inspectors from returning to Iraq. So far, nothing has been found, not to say he might have been close to acquiring them since he had the capability. This proves the opposite of what is required--that the threat was not clear and imminent. It indicated what government officials must admit: we simply did not know whether Iraq had developed weapons of mass destruction, or whether it would, or when. Pleas from our closest allies, including even Tony Blair in Britain, that there must be a real effort to get UN inspectors back into Iraq before taking any other action against it, met with impatient skepticism. In short, the administration really did not know whether there was clear and imminent threat from Iraq, could not prove that one exists, and resisted proposals for finding out because the answer might undermine its plans for war. To show that the threat is direct, i.e., specific, concrete, and pointed at the United States, the administration and other advocates of preemptive war took a look at Saddam Hussein’s criminal record and character, especially the fact that he used poison gas in his war against Iran and against his own people in the 1980s and has resorted to brutal repression since, and that if and when he obtains weapons of mass destruction he could and would use them against the United States or its allies in the region. In so doing, they ignored certain inconvenient facts – that the United States generally supported Iraq in its war against Iran, may have known and winked at his use of chemical weapons, and never at that time considered Hussein’s attack on Iran or the atrocities encountered in it grounds for overthrowing him, and that the people whom Hussein brutally repressed in 1991 were mainly Kurds whom the United States encouraged to rise against him and then failed to support. The main point, however, is that again these arguments fail to prove what they are supposed to – i.e., that the threat from Iraq was concrete, specific, and directed against the United States or any American ally. They proved only what hardly needs proof, that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless individual who would do anything to stay in power, including using poison gas against external and internal enemies in a losing war. He might indeed use weapons of mass destruction against anyone for reasons of political survival – a point which counts if anything against attacking him and putting him into that kind of corner. But this says nothing about what he might do with them under other circumstances for other purposes and certainly fails to show that he would use them against the United States or its allies or allow terrorists to do so. Stalin had nuclear weapons, was more imbalanced than Hussein and even more paranoid about threats to his reign, and his record of atrocities against his own people was far worse than Hussein’s, yet none of this gave any indication whether or how he would use nuclear weapons. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that Hussein would do something so suicidal as to attack the United States or one of its allies directly, or allow a scapegoat to do so, and the administration knows it. One expert witness at the Senate hearings on the proposed campaign against Iraq, frankly admitting this, remarked that the real danger was that possessing such weapons would give Hussein and Iraq more influence in the region (a significant admission). The administration’s case thus fails both the imminence and the directness tests. Its attempts to prove that the threat is critical don’t hold water. They consist mainly of repeatedly invoking the memory of September 11, 2001 and the war on terrorism, the right of American citizens to security against terrifying new threats revealed by that attack, the duty of their government to provide that security at all costs, and (once again) the possibility that Hussein, if he does get control of nuclear or other weapons, will supply them to terrorists for use against the United States. All this lays the basis for the general doctrine that the United States has a right to prevent weapons of mass destruction from coming into the hands of evil, hostile regimes by any means necessary. The threat of international terrorism, even if it were the critical danger the administration claims it to be, did not stem from Hussein or Iraq and would not be met by ousting him. Despite many efforts, no one in the administration has ever proved there was a connection between Hussein or others in the Iraqi regime and September 11 or al-Qaeda and its terrorist activities. The evidence and probabilities, all well-known, point the other way. Hussein’s regime and his ruling party are secular rather than Islamist. He rules a country deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines, and belongs to a branch of Islam (the Sunnis) that is a minority in Iraq. Why should a ruler obsessed with maintaining his power collaborate with some of his most dangerous enemies (Schroeder, 2002)? In addition, the just war theory requires that the risks of doing more harm than good with a war must be minimal. But with this invasion those risks cannot be dismissed lightly. Let's look at some of those risks. First, on the diplomatic front, a unilateral war against Iraq--or even one with our ally Tony Blair on board--would drive a wedge between the United States and many of its allies in Europe and around the world. The German government has already said it would not support such an adventure. The French are not enthusiastic, nor are the Canadians, the Russians, and the Turks. And Saudi Arabia, whose kingdom (OK, whose oil--the United States fought to defend in the first Gulf War), wouldn't even allow U.S. troops to use its land as a staging ground. Egypt and Jordan are also opposed to this war. This was the second Muslim nation the United States has invaded in the last two years. Scenes of innocent Iraqis being killed on Al Jazeera has not enhanced the image of the United States in the Muslim world, an image already badly smeared by Ariel Sharon's offensive against the Palestinians and the 11-year embargo the U.S. insists that the U.N. impose on Iraq, an embargo that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi kids (Rothschild, 2002). On the economic front, this conflict in Iraq has spiked the cost of oil, since Iraq is a leading oil supplier, and since other big oil suppliers--Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran --are right next door. Now our economy is not the best it could be, but the invasion of Iraq had tipped it back into a recession. Here’s what’s so ironic militarily speaking. Bush's invasion could have increased the odds that Saddam Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons. In 1991, he had chemical or biological weapons loaded onto missiles. The elder Bush warned Saddam that if he used those weapons, he would face devastating retaliation. Everyone, including Saddam, understood that to mean the U.S. would drop a nuclear bomb on him. So what did he do? He backed down and didn't use those weapons. But today, with Saddam out of power, he had no incentive not to throw whatever vials of chemical or biological weapons he might have lying around at U.S. troops or at Israel. This could have inflicted awful casualties on U.S. troops or Israeli civilians, and then what? Then, the worst case might have come true and George W. would drop a nuclear bomb on Iraq; the first time in 57 years that the world has seen such a hideous device used in warfare. The lesson of 1991 should be that Saddam Hussein knew not to use his chemical or biological weapons. What evidence was there that he was more reckless and suicidal when he was in power at the time of the invasion than when he was back in 1991? He hadn't recently invaded another country. He hadn't recently gassed the Kurds or the Iranians (which he did, but only when he was receiving military intelligence from the United States) (Rothschild, 2002). Iraq is Exhibit A. The threat from Iraq has not changed in the past year, yet it no longer seems incredible to believe that, just maybe, even before we learned there were no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq might use them against us. The Bush administration officials have said that they cannot wait until we see the mushroom cloud to act against this threat. Based on available information, however, there is no new evidence, no new precipitating event, no new threatening actions by the Iraqi government, no new reason to go to war that did not exist one, two, four, or even six years ago. It is entirely legitimate to ask, therefore: Why? What is the basis for claiming a unilateral right to use preventive force to overthrow the Iraqi regime? What would be the consequences for Iraq, the Middle East, and international relations (Powers, 2002)? We are quickly approaching nearly 3,000 U.S. casualties since the invasion in March 2003. What do we have to show for it? We have a national debt that has increased by leaps and bounds due to the cost of keeping troops on the ground over there, the chance for weakening our forces when we have greater issues with greater consequences such as North Korea looming over us, and the thousands of children who never got to know their mom or dad because they became a statistic.

Powers, G.F. (2002, December 17). Essay read at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Washington, D.C. [Transcript]. Retrieved December 4, 2006, from
Rothschild, M. (2002, August). The case against the Iraq war. The Progressive. Retrieved November 28, 2006, from
Savoy, P. (2004, May). The moral case against the Iraq war. The Nation. Retrieved November 28, 2006, from
Schroeder, P.W. (2002, October 21). Iraq: The case against preemptive war. The American Conservative. Retrieved November 30, 2006, from…...

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