Sunday, October 06, 2002
Why War with Iraq?
This past week saw two very clearly reasoned pieces for why war with Iraq is justified, responsible, proper, and necessary. One was Jeffery Goldberg in this dialogue entry (scroll down) on Slate.
In 1995, the government of Saddam Hussein admitted to United Nations weapons inspectors that its scientists had weaponized a biological agent called aflatoxin. Charles Duelfer, the former deputy executive chairman of the now-defunct UNSCOM, told me earlier this year that the Iraqi admission was startling because aflatoxin has no possible battlefield use. Aflatoxin, which is made from fungi that occur in moldy grains, does only one thing well: It causes liver cancer. In fact, it induces it particularly well in children. Its effects are far from immediate. The joke among weapons inspectors is that aflatoxin would stop a lieutenant from making colonel, but it would not stop soldiers from advancing across a battlefield.The second piece (here) appeared today in The Boston Globe. It's by Jean Bethke Elshtain.
Once the case for preventive force has been made, the question then becomes one of jus in bello - what sort of force and against whom? The single most important factor here is the principle known as discrimination. This means that noncombatants cannot be the intended targets of harm, as were the victims of Sept. 11 and the Iraqi Kurds. In any conflict civilians will fall in harm's way. But it is forbidden to knowingly and maliciously target them. Of course, if the United States goes to war, it must not target civilians. As for Saddam, we know he has no compunctions in this regard, and that fact, too, weighs heavily in evaluating the threat he poses and our own actions.Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "The time is always right to do what is right." A continued failure to act -- and the current situation is one in which we have failed to act already -- regarding the weapons that Iraq has developed and continues to develop would constitute a grave moral neglect. A future which includes the likes of the current regime in Baghdad holding its own citizens, the citizens of neighbor nations (democratic or not), or the citizens of the rest of the world hostage by its use or threat to use chemical and biological, much less nuclear, weapons is simply unacceptable. It is entirely proper to use all forces at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- to make sure that future does not happen.
Addendum: The 7 October 2002 New York Times features this op-ed by William Safire. The piece includes the URL for this testimony to the House Armed Services Committee by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarding the Bush (II) administration's stated reasons for action against Iraq. Even though this is prepared testimony, it is expressed with Rumsfield's usual clarity and lack of obfuscation.