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[casi] War On Saddam, by Art Goldschmidt


by Art Goldschmidt

A unilateral attack by the United States on Iraq, for the purpose of changing its regime, is a 
thoroughly bad idea. President Bush and his top advisers will do lasting harm to the interests of 
the United States, the countries of the Middle East, and the war on terrorism if they conduct this 
war against Saddam Hussein.

Attacking Iraq would be a logistical nightmare, especially if no neighboring state agrees to let 
its territory be used as an air base. Any military invasion would have to be an amphibious one, 
coming from the Persian Gulf, probably without even having access to the basing facilities that the 
U.S. has on the island of Bahrain. Although Iraq’s capacity to wage war has probably been 
degraded since 1991, it would resist an invasion fiercely. If it really has significant biological, 
chemical, and nuclear weapons, it would probably use them against American troops, and possibly 
also against Israel if its missiles suffice. The civilian casualties would be high, both due to 
“collateral damage” and to the further degradation of water supplies, electric power, and 
sewage treatment systems. If our real but unspoken motive for attacking Iraq is to gain control 
over its oil, many of its wells and installations would be destroyed by the Iraqi army.

How would we replace Iraq’s existing regime? The U.S. government has ties with the Iraqi National 
Congress, a group of expatriate politicians who enjoy no credibility or support within the country. 
The least bad solution would be to bring back a member of Iraq’s royal family, which ruled from 
1921 to 1958. This would strengthen Iraq’s ties with Jordan, as the family in question is the 
Hashimites, who also rule in Amman and who are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Keep in mind, 
though, that the royal family never became legitimate in the eyes of most Iraqis when it ruled in 

The new cabinet would have to include representatives of the Shi’ite majority, mainly living in 
southern Iraq and some neighborhoods of Baghdad, and of the Kurds, who have enjoyed considerable 
autonomy under U.S. protection in northern Iraq since 1991, as well as of the Sunni Muslim Arabs, 
who have traditionally predominated. It would be hard to find capable ministers who also served to 
represent Iraq’s religious and ethnic factions. Forming a coalition cabinet that enjoyed national 
legitimacy would be as difficult in Iraq as it has proved to be in Afghanistan, probably harder 
because of the probable anger of the Iraqis against an American occupation army. Drafting a 
constitution and electing a legislature would take a very long time indeed, and several years would 
pass before U.S. troops (stationed most probably at our expense) could withdraw.

More seriously, an American-engineered regime change in Iraq will stir up opposition in every other 
Arab country and among non-Arab Muslims throughout the world. Saddam Hussein is hated by many 
Arabs, partly due to the large number of Iraqis who already have sought refuge in other Arab lands, 
or in Iran, and he would not be missed. But the Arab world as a whole consists of some twenty 
countries with regimes that were not chosen by their people and, in most cases, very little 
opportunity for expression of public dissent. Arab populations are rapidly growing, youthful, often 
frustrated by the lack of economic opportunities at home, and angry already at Washington for its 
perceived partiality to Israel. American-owned businesses, military bases, universities, research 
centers, archaeological excavations, and schools in the various Arab countries would all be 
jeopardized by an attack on Iraq, whether or not it succeeded in its mission.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush pronounced a “War on 
Terrorism.” Experts generally argue that fighting terrorism is better done by police rather than 
by soldiers, but we can no longer reverse a policy that has driven the Taliban from Afghanistan 
(taking more civilian lives than the number of Americans killed on 9-11), obliged Pakistan’s 
insecure government to change its own policies in defiance of Pakistani public opinion, and drawn 
the U.S. government closer to Russia and China, both of which are suppressing their own minorities 
as “terrorists” even as they oppose our proposed attack on Iraq.

President Bush was wise to bring his case to the United Nations and to draw its members’ 
attention to the fact that Iraq has defied fourteen previous Security Council resolutions. As a 
result, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let one of its air bases be used in the event of a multilateral 
attack on Iraq, and it is likely that other Arab regimes may be amenable to an action under UN—as 
opposed to US—leadership. But they will also start asking when Israel will start obeying the 
numerous resolutions passed by the Security Council regarding the Palestinian question. Iraq’s 
stated willingness to readmit United Nations inspectors to check for weapons of mass destruction is 
also a step in the right direction, but will Baghdad actually cooperate with the inspectors when 
they arrive? The record between 1991 and 1998 is, well, spotty, but it would help if the inspectors 
were not serving as intelligence agents for Washington or Jerusalem.

Thoughtful observers should ask some other questions. Why do any countries, including the United 
States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan, need to possess nuclear arms? 
Which nations have supplies of biological and chemical weapons? What types of arms, military 
training, and police work will most effectively protect the United States and all other countries 
that fear the spread of terrorism? Why has the United States refused to sign international 
conventions against land mines, genocide, violence against women, and proliferation of greenhouse 
gases? The world is already a dangerous place, but can we better restrain bad actors by balance of 
power politics, strong sanctions, and universally accepted standards of political behavior.

Can there be a new world order in which peoples and countries will live in peace?

Roger Stroope
Austin College
"Ideas are more powerful than weapons."

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of 
obedience…Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent 
crimes against peace and humanity from occurring" -- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950
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