The drumbeat of war is getting louder by the day. The arguments both in favor and against the war have by this time become rather familiar and repetitive. Lost in the cacophony coming from the White House is the idea of disarming Saddam Hussein without waging a war.
That Saddam is a brutal dictator is a given. The list of human rights abuses in Iraq is documented beyond a shadow of the slightest doubt. Amnesty International has documented gross human rights violations: arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, judicial and extra-judicial executions, disappearances, and forced expulsions based on ethnicity. These can't be justified or tolerated under any circumstance.
But neither can a war that is supposed to liberate Iraq and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction - which, to date, have not been found. The reasons for waging war are hollow and the evidence flimsy. We must realize that a wide swath of this world is ruled by dictators and despots - and somehow we have found their oppressive rule to be acceptable. Don't China, North Korea, Cuba, and many countries in Africa qualify? If we lower the threshold, then we would be fighting wars on every continent. In the past we have chosen to engage these countries in a dialogue that has been fruitful and rewarding.
President Bush considers Iraq an evil (as in the axis of evil that also includes Iran and North Korea) and appears to have convinced himself that military action against Iraq is based on sound moral ground. Though his spiritual gurus, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, and the like, motivated by their xenophobic religious philosophy, might agree with him, a majority of religious leaders, including the Catholic Church, are against any such action.
The recent meeting of Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, a practicing Catholic, with Pope John Paul underscores the church's opposition. The unprecedented joint declaration of the archbishops of Anglican and Catholic churches in England against the war is further proof that there is no moral basis for Mr. Bush's war against Iraq.
George Bush and his neo-conservatives may consider it their Christian destiny to attack Iraq, but no one is buying that line, including millions of people who took to the streets all across the world to protest the war. Call it a pre-emptive peace strike, because it is the first time that such a massive global protest has been made even before the first shots were fired. The real reason for war is not what kind of person Saddam Hussein is, but the vast oil reserves that he controls.
The divide in Europe is interesting. Russia, Germany, and France do not want war and the people in those countries agree with their leaders. In Italy, Spain, and Great Britain the leaders have already saddled up to join Mr. Bush, but an overwhelming majority of their citizens are against the war and implicitly against their leaders.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing a revolt within his own party because of his unflinching support of President Bush. When the question of war was put before the parliament last week, 110 members of his own party, that is more than one-fourth of Labor seats in the parliament, voted against the resolution. Mr. Blair has been called Mr. Bush's lap dog and an ambassador of the U.S. to Great Britain. This unkind characterization underscores the anger of his people and his party.
Wars are expensive enterprises. It is estimated that a short and decisive war would cost the United States at least $100 billion. A protracted one would cost up to $2 trillion. Add to that the cost of occupation and reconstruction and the bill may run into trillions of dollars.
With the economy still in the doldrums how can the U.S. afford this kind of expenditure? Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said this in so many words while testifying before the Congress.
Are there any alternatives to war? Just about everyone except the leaders of Britain, Spain, and Italy and a corralled group of Eastern Europeans believe there are. Let the U.N. inspectors continue their mandate. Keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein to fulfill his commitments to the world community.
In the meantime let us make concentrated efforts to get rid of him through whatever means we have. The CIA could dust off some of the old tricks it used to knock off Salvador Allende of Chile, Patrick Lumumba of Congo, and Ziaul Haq of Pakistan, to name a few.