Friday, February 28, 2003

American Occupation Force to Exceed 100,000

Imagine the cost of maintaining several divisions of troops to act as a police force. Imagine the resentment of the rest of the Muslim world toward an America that is occupying Iraq for several years. Imagine the increase in the threat of violence against this country as Osama bin Laden and similar terrorist leaders enroll hundreds and perhaps thousands of new recruits eager to avenge America's war on a Muslim nation.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Questions for Mr. Bush

In his speech to the American Enterprise Institute last night, President Bush pressed his case for war against Iraq. He argued that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a direct threat to the US and the Middle East. He asserted that "The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world." The President said that the United States is "opposing the greatest danger in the war on terror — outlaw regimes arming with weapons of mass destruction." He argued that the use of force to oust the current Iraqi regime would lead to freedom and prosperity for the people of Iraq and serve as a beacon of democracy and hope for the Middle East.

Furthermore, the President argued that "Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state." He said that the United States supported the creation of a Palestinian state with "true" leaders who disavowed the use of terrorism to achieve their goals. He said that after the terror threat is removed Israel would be expected to end settlement activity and support the formation of a Palestinian state.

President Bush argued that the United Nations Security Council should act to support immediate armed intervention in Iraq. He said the Council risked undermining its credibility: that "the United Nations will be severely weakened as a source of stability and order" if it did not approve the United States resolution to use force against Iraq.

Finally, the President asserted that he had listened to those around the world who advocated peace. However, he asserted: "The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world." He said that if America made war upon Iraq it would be "to restrain the violent and defend the cause of peace."

Evidently, the President has made up his mind to attack Iraq. Yet as we look over the rationale for the attack, it is clear that he has not answered basic questions about the assumptions underlying his decision.

Exactly what threat does Saddam Hussein pose to America? Do we have real proof that he supported Al Queda operations against targets in the United States prior to or after 9/11? Why action against Iraq now when it is clear that the outlaw regime of Kim Jong Il in North Korea poses a far greater threat of the development, deployment, and possible use of weapons of mass destruction than does Iraq? What about the extensive documentation of support for Al Queda from countries such as Syria and Yemen or from nominal US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? What about the presumed development of weapons of mass destruction in Iran, which has a much more powerful military than Iraq? Are we prepared to overthrow the Muslim fundamentalist theocracy there? How about other brutal dictatorships such as that of Robert Mugabe in Africa?

Why do the Iraqi people live in scarcity now? Could it be that our blockade of the country over the last decade has contributed to the thousands of deaths from malnutrition and related causes? Why is it that Iraqi "lives and freedom" mean so much to us now when they clearly did not until after 9/11?

Why do we tolerate the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel? Why have we allowed thousands of innocent Palestinians to be murdered by Israeli bombings and missile strikes? Why have we allowed the continued impoverishment and despair of millions of Palestinians by the Israeli colonial regime? Why have we allowed the decades-old policy of settlement building by the Israelis to continue, a policy whose purpose is to make it impossible to create a Palestinian homeland? What strategic benefit does our alliance with Israel confer upon us? Would we have incurred the hatred of most of the Muslim world and become the target of terrorists if we were not perceived as the primary sponsor of Israel? Why do we continue to provide billions of dollars of military aid for Israel? Why have we looked the other way as it developed a substantial nuclear arsenal? Why have we repeatedly thwarted the will of the vast majority of Security Council members by wielding our veto when they attempted to pass resolutions condemning Israeli seizure of Arab land and oppression of the Palestinian people? Is there a double standard here?

How will forced regime change contribute to greater security for the people of the United States and the world? Does anyone really believe that Islamic terrorism will be deterred by our own conquest and occupation of Iraq? Has the "successful" war against Al Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan reduced the level of terrorist threat? Why are we living at a greater and greater threat level of terrorist attacks? Will the assaults on our own freedoms as American citizens continue to escalate as we pursue this "successful" war on terrorism?

What about the material costs of the war on Iraq? How many hundreds of billions and how many years of occupation by our soldiers will it take to create a democratic and stable Iraq? What will happen to our own needs for decent medical care for our citizens, prescription drugs for the elderly, the looming crisis in Social Security and Medicare, highways and mass transit, education, etc. as we are bled white by the costs of the war and of the nation-building that follows?

The use of force, except in immediate self-defense or the defense of innocent victims, cannot be justified. The Bush doctrine of defensive pre-emptive strikes against any targets that the President perceives as threatening this country -- regardless of the will of the American people or of the United Nations -- makes this country an outlaw and threatens its very foundations as a beacon of democracy and peace.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Brandishing the Big Stick in Support of the Big Lie

Not satisfied with the waffling of the weaker nations on the UN Security Council, the Bush Administration has taken to twisting arms in search of a Council vote in favor of war against Iraq. No matter that such a vote would be tainted. It would promote the charade that the Bush Administration actually cares about world opinion as embodied by the United Nations. You see, the fact is that all the Bush administration really cares about is that it appears to care about world or -- for that matter -- American public opinion.

It's the appearance of compassion, the appearance of justice and equity for the poor, the elderly, the children, and the working men and women of America that matters to this Administration. It doesn't matter that in an untampered-with tally, a majority of the Security Council would vote against the newest American proposal to make war against Iraq. All that matters is that we get our way and get some threadbare political cover to hide behind as we proclaim ourselves the saviours of the free world.

Of course, why should we be surprised at an attempt to rig an election. This is small potatoes for a man who rigged his own "election" to the most powerful office on earth.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Every Human Life Is Sacred

I was frightened when I first looked at the front page of the New York Times online this morning: "Subway Fire Kills At Least 100." Could it have been in New York? No -- I am embarrassed to admit my relief -- it was in Seoul, Korea. I imagined the horror and suffering as the gasoline exploded through the packed commuters on the two trains that were charred by the flames.

My daughter takes the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan almost every day. It could have been her. It could have been hundreds of others: children, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. Why are we opening ourselves to the possibility of such terror in our country by threatening to rain even worse destruction upon Iraqi citizens?

Is the hypothetical threat posed by a significantly weakened Saddam Hussein, after the wholesale destruction of the first Gulf War, seven years of previous inspections and weapons destruction, strict sanctions on weapons imports and restriction of finances, plus the current inspections process so great that we should participate in the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens, incur the hatred of millions of Muslims around the world, destroy our relationship with our historic allies, expose our entire population to the threat of terrorist attacks and the permanent end of our sense of security?

Must this country become a garrison state with a large military presence around the world? Must we mortgage our future and that of our children? Must we curtail our own civil liberties, so that the quality of our democracy is lost in the name of fear?

I hope not.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Americans Do Not Support Bush's War

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that most Americans don't accept the Bush administration's rationale for immediate war against Iraq. Most survey respondents backed proposals to give UN weapons inspectors more time to search for weapons of mass destruction.

The administration's attempt to portray Saddam Hussein and Al Queda as partners in fomenting international terrorism is a cynical misrepresentation of the facts. It is clear from past history and the latest Bin Laden audiotape that there is little love lost between muslim fundamentalists such as Al Queda and the secular dictator of Iraq. At most, Bin Laden will use any U.S. assault on Iraq as an means of recruiting more footsoldiers in his jihad against America and an excuse for further terrorist attacks against innocent Americans.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States grants to the Congress -- not the President -- the right and responsibility "To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water." The President, although named as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, does not have the right to take this country into a war without an act of Congress.

President Bush is squandering the good will of people around the world and destroying historic alliances with our closest allies to pursue an imperialistic war. He is ignoring the desires of the majority of Americans. He is placing all of us at risk of current and future terrorist attacks. He has proposed a universal Big Brother state via the Total Information Awareness Act. He is abrogating the Constitutional rights of Americans by arresting citizens without providing them with access to lawyers, reasonable provisions for bail, and the ability to examine the evidence against them and to confront their accusers.

The House of Representatives almost impeached President Clinton over allegations of impropriety and moral turpitude. Somehow those failings pale in comparison to the arrogant and reckless adventurism of President Bush.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The War Has Already Started

Supposedly, President Bush hasn't made up his mind to launch an invasion of Iraq. However, a story in today's Washington Post makes it clear that U.S. Special Forces have already penetrated into Iraq in order to prepare for the on-coming full-scale assault. When questioned about this "premature" act of war against Iraq, an irate Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld threatened to put those who leak information about military deployments in jail.

It's clear that the decision to invade Iraq was made months ago, despite the attempt to hide that decision from the American people. It really didn't matter what the inspectors reported to the Security Council, the administration was going to find that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass detruction and was affiliated with Al Queda.

We are being asked to trust that our leaders -- with access to classified intelligence information they refuse to share with us in any meaningful detail -- are making the right decisions to safeguard our safety and our form of government. Why don't we feel safer? Why don't we feel that our civil liberties are safe either?