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[casi] A Statement By President Carter: An Alternative To War

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A Statement By President Carter: An Alternative To War   By  Jimmy Carter  31 Jan 2003

CONTACT: Deanna Congileo

Atlanta…..Despite marshalling powerful armed forces in the Persian Gulf region and a virtual 
declaration of war in the State of the Union message, our government has not made a case for a 
preemptive military strike against Iraq, either at home or in Europe.

Recent vituperative attacks on U.S. policy by famous and respected men like Nelson Mandela and John 
Le Carré, although excessive, are echoed in a Web site poll conducted by the European edition of 
TIME magazine. The question was "Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" 
With several hundred thousand votes cast, the responses were: North Korea, 7 percent; Iraq, 8 
percent; the United States, 84 percent. This is a gross distortion of our nation's character, and 
America is not inclined to let foreign voices answer the preeminent question that President Bush is 
presenting to the world, but it is sobering to realize how much doubt and consternation has been 
raised about our motives for war in the absence of convincing proof of a genuine threat from Iraq.

The world will be awaiting Wednesday's presentation of specific evidence by Secretary of State 
Colin Powell concerning Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. As an acknowledged voice 
of moderation, his message will carry enormous weight in shaping public opinion. But even if his 
effort is successful and lies and trickery by Saddam Hussein are exposed, this will not indicate 
any real or proximate threat by Iraq to the United States or to our allies.

With overwhelming military strength now deployed against him and with intense monitoring from space 
surveillance and the U.N. inspection team on the ground, any belligerent move by Saddam against a 
neighbor would be suicidal. An effort to produce or deploy chemical or biological weapons or to 
make the slightest move toward a nuclear explosive would be inconceivable. If Iraq does possess 
such concealed weapons, as is quite likely, Saddam would use them only in the most extreme 
circumstances, in the face of an invasion of Iraq, when all hope of avoiding the destruction of his 
regime is lost.

In Washington, there is no longer any mention of Osama bin Laden, and the concentration of public 
statements on his international terrorist network is mostly limited to still-unproven allegations 
about its connection with Iraq. The worldwide commitment and top priority of fighting terrorism 
that was generated after September 11th has been attenuated as Iraq has become the preeminent 
obsession of political leaders and the general public.

In addition to the need to re-invigorate the global team effort against international terrorism, 
there are other major problems being held in abeyance as our nation's foreign policy is 
concentrated on proving its case for a planned attack on Iraq. We have just postponed again the 
promulgation of the long-awaited "road map" that the U.S. and other international leaders have 
drafted for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a festering cancer and the root 
cause of much of the anti-American sentiment that has evolved throughout the world. At the same 
time, satellite observations of North Korea have indicated that nuclear fuel rods, frozen under 
international surveillance since 1994, are now being moved from the Yongbyon site to an undisclosed 
destination, possibly for reprocessing into explosives. It is imperative that this threat to Asian 
stability be met with aggressive diplomacy.

Since it is obvious that Saddam Hussein has the capability and desire to build an arsenal of 
prohibited weapons and probably has some of them hidden within his country, what can be done to 
prevent the development of a real Iraqi threat? The most obvious answer is a sustained and enlarged 
inspection team, deployed as a permanent entity until the United States and other members of the 
U.N. Security Council determine that its presence is no longer needed. For almost eight years 
following the Gulf War until it was withdrawn four years ago, UNSCOM proved to be very effective in 
locating and destroying Iraq's formidable arsenal, including more than 900 missiles and biological 
and chemical weapons left over from their previous war with Iran.

Even if Iraq should come into full compliance now, such follow-up monitoring will be necessary. The 
cost of an on-site inspection team would be minuscule compared to war, Saddam would have no choice 
except to comply, the results would be certain, military and civilian casualties would be avoided, 
there would be almost unanimous worldwide support, and the United States could regain its 
leadership in combating the real threat of international terrorism.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is chair of The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga., a not-for-profit, 
nongovernmental organization that advances peace and health worldwide.

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