Attempting to think about Iraq

by William Grosso

I've been really distressed lately, about the Iraq war. It seems to me that there were ways to avoid the war, and that the debate which occured in this country was a confusing debate, which mostly focused on the wrong issues.

This is my attempt to think things through.

First. Let's stipulate a few things, just to get them out of the way:

  • Saddam is a bad person and the current Iraqi regime is evil.
  • France is not evil, and was simply acting in its own best interest. No shame there.
  • "No blood for oil" is a vast over-simplification. So vast as to be utterly useless for reasoning.
  • The war will almost certainly be a great thing for Iraq. There won't be that many civilian deaths (from coalition troops at least), and the net number of civilian deaths (e.g. when you factor in the regime's known history of cannibalizing its population and the effect of the sanctions) will decrease. From a humanitarian point of view, the war is a good thing.
  • Iraq has chemical and biological weapons.
  • It is possible to be for the war and still be a good person.
  • It is possible to be against the war and still be a good person.
  • Most people who are either for or against the war are good people.

Now, there are three basic justifications being given for the war:

  1. Humanitarian. This is the "let's free the Iraqi people from their shackles" argument, in all its forms.
  2. Self Defense. This is the "Iraq would eventually use chemical and biological weapons against the US.
  3. Dominos of Freedom. This is the "Freeing Iraq is the cornerstone of a profound change in the mideast, and will lead to a wave of regime change that will improve the lives of everyone in the area" argument.

The question is: are any of these any good? Let's look at them in order.

The Humanitarian Defense.

This one fails in the short term for a very simple reason: the war will cost some $75 billion. The question is not whether Iraq will be better off as a result of the war (we've stipulated that it will be), but whether we could do better things (from a humanitarian perspective) with that $75 billion. And the answer is: yes, we could do much better. You don't have to think very hard to find problems in the world today where the money could make a profound difference.

Of course, I'm being simplistic here, and assuming Saddam wasn't about to spread his evil past his borders. It seems reasonable to assert that he was "mostly contained" (e.g., he could send rogue agents out to cause emotionally significant but statistically neglible events to occur, but that he wasn't about to invade other countries again) though. That is, I'm assuming we know the scope of Saddam's evil, and it's not that big compared to the other problems we could solve (or at least work on).

In the long term, it's a harder question. Suppose we no longer have to enforce the sanctions (costing $x a year). That money gets freed up. And suppose that Saddam and his regime are no longer draining the Iraqi economy of all vitality (so that not only Iraq is helped, but the Iraqi people become more productive members of the world's economy). Maybe this is such a good thing that making war on Iraq turns out to be the best humanitarian investment. I doubt it, and I think no-one seriously believes it, but I also have to say I've never heard anyone seriously do a cost-benefit analysis of the war on Iraq from this perspective.

I find that last point particularly disturbing. If you're going to claim humanitarian reasons for the war, aren't you obligated to say why this use of funds is the best use of funds from a humanitarian perspective? I haven't seen any attempts to do that, and my conclusion is that, while the war will be good for Iraq, the humanitarian effects won't spread beyond the Iraqi borders and aren't particularly impressive, given the amount of money being spent. The humanitarian argument is mostly an emotional red-herring.

As a side note, I also find the idea of sending the US Army out on a large-scale humanitarian mission disturbing. It's one thing to tell a soldier to fight to defend the nation (that's in the job description), it's quite another to tell someone to fight on behalf of a third party for humanitarian reasons (that's not what the soldiers signed up for).

Self Defense

This argument basically says that the world changed after 9/11. That terrorism (terrorist tactics) and modern weaponry are so potent a combination that we are obligated to eradicate potential combatants. It's an interesting claim, and one that scares me because it relies on such an overwhelming assumption of knowledge: in order to make this claim effectively, you really have to know a lot, and be very confident of your deductions.

But, it seems to me that the proper response to an event like 9/11 is a combination of the following three things:

  1. Immediate and overwhelming retaliation. Whomever did this, must be punished. And punished in a large-scale and somewhat irrational way, so that people understand the basic point: actions have consequences and actions like 9/11 have enormous consequences (think Rome and Carthage. Did Rome really need to salt the earth? No. But, what the hell, it made the point clear). I think the ongoing work in Afghanistan, and the continued hunting of terrorists, satisfies this.
  2. Long term investigation and destabilization. It's not enough to retaliate locally. You need to press the investigation and disrupt the organizations that planned and arranged for the attack. And I think the US has been doing a good job at this as well.
  3. Make sure that conflicts stay at the right level and prevent conflicts from escalating Every conflict has its natural level, and an appropriate set of participants. And almost every conflict starts out small (Hannibal Lecter, in the Silence of the Lambs, points out to Clarice Starling that coveting beings at home: we first begin to covet the things we see every day. So too with conflicts: conflicts begin with daily interactions, and local ones. Friction followed by border skirmish followed by .....).

    It follows that, if Iraq had chemical or biological weapons, Iraq would use them locally first (and, indeed, such weapons were deployed against the Kurds, to crush an uprising). It also follows that, from the point of view of self-defense, the problem is mostly a local or regional one. The countries in the area mostly likely to be affected are the countries with the most at stake, and are the countries that ought to be taking ownership of the problem. US policy ought to encourage local ownership of problems, not rely on the US military as a cudgel to solve them.

    As an added bonus, nearby countries are likely to be much better at assessing the problem (they understand the culture much better, frequently speak the same language, have significant ethnic overlaps, etcetera). When they take action, they'll have greater knowledge and be more confident of their deductions.

    This dovetails nicely with my basically isolationist beliefs-- I would much rather problems be solved at the regional level than at the global level.

Dominos of Freedom

I haven't seen any serious arguments for, or against, this. It's mostly brought up in the tail end of debates, as a sort of ginsu-style added bonus. "And, if you act now, we'll throw in the eventual liberation of Iran and Syria via popular actions at no extra cost."

As you can tell by my summary, I'm skeptical of this argument.

Got Information?

I'm not sure there are any conclusions here. I don't know how much the sanctions were costing each year to enforce, and that matters for a cost-benefit analysis of the humanitarian effort.

If there were evidence (or even strong arguments) that Iraq was planning on invading its neighbors in the near term, that would sway things as well (and I know of very little evidence about that).

In addition, if Syria really was helping Iraq hide chemical weapons (as some reports have indicated), then that's an indication that war was probably a right decision as well.

And, of course, now that we're in it, there's really no option but to win it. And then evaluate whether it was a good idea, and vote appropriately.

Got information? Please share.


2003-03-31 08:14:36
But, these arguments are cumulative.
You tackle each of these arguments in a sensible and reasonably fair minded way, but you only evaluate each one in isolation. The fact that the war has a humanitarian element does not mean it's cost/benefit can only be calculated in terms of that humanitarian benefit, as you seem to suggest.

The humanitarian benefit has to be summed with the non-proliferation enforcement benefit, and with the (clearly very contentious) domino effect potential benefit, and with any other potential benefits such as cutting off a significant source of funds for Palestinian terrorists, etc.

I'm not saying that the sum total will necesserily end up being worth the costs, thats an estimation each one of us makes independently.

Simon Hibbs

2003-03-31 08:36:32
Some possible clarifications.

1) The proposition that Iraq has *usable* bio and chem agents has not been especially well established (being, as they are, well over 14 years old).

2) RE: spreading freedom to Iran. Iran is arguably the most democratic nation in the region (other than Israel). The clerics do exercise a veto over the parliament, but they do so increasingly at the peril of public opprobrium.

2003-03-31 09:41:45
Chemical and biological weapons
You are "stipulating" that Iraq has these weapons. So were/are Colin Powell and Tony Blair. However, there is no conclusive proof that indeed Iraq has and is able to use chemical and/or biological weapons. The UN guys (Hans Blix etc.) didn't find any evidence - and frankly, if Iraq had these things, why wouldn't they have used them by now? Remember, this government is Evil. It is reckless. It's using suicide bombings (I'm not sure about this term, but you probably now what I mean) - what would prevent it from using anthrax, if it had it?

On another note - I think you failed to mention WHO provided Iraq with poison gas in the first place and which government decided to look the other way when it was used on the Curds.

Kind regards
Christian Kirsch, Germany

2003-03-31 09:42:53
You may like this site
It's a new blog site that post links to lots of stories about the Iraq War -- and its implications -- from lots of international news sources. That's not it's only focus though. It's a general news site from a libertarian perspective.
2003-03-31 09:58:03
Chemical and biological weapons
Very good article, but there is one obscure point: chemical and biological weapons. What does it means?
Are 100 Tomahawk mass destruction weapons? 100 Tomahawk have the same power of chemical weapons?
Biological weapons are very difficult to use (eg: they can not shot with a missle) and chemical weapons are not so devastating as they want let us belive.
2003-03-31 13:56:50
Why "No blood for oil"
It really is (almost) just as simple as that.
It's about the Wolfowitz/Perle/Rumsfeld/Cheney imperialistic agenda to control a region and its vast, valuable natural resource. It's a huge business deal for their friends in oil companies and defense contractors - in other words, it's a racket. Try this one -

Yes, I'm posting anonymously, and it's unfortunate. I believe if my name can be connected with this opinoin, my employment is at stake.

2003-03-31 15:23:50
Re: Why "No blood for oil"
"No blood for oil" is useless because it assumes a conclusion. It's simple, really: I'm trying to rationally sort through the muddle and figure out whether the policy my government is following makes sense.

"No Blood for Oil" assumes that the stated reasons are insufficient, assumes bad faith on the part of the people making the decisions, and then wraps everything up in a pithy phrase.

It may be correct (I don't know). But it's not the place to start thinking about the problem.

2003-03-31 15:27:01
Re: Chemical and biological weapons
Of course I'm stipulating it. The whole point is to examine the publicly stated reasons and rationales and see if they hold water.

If I start by doubting something so crucial to the case, I'm essentially assuming a conclusion.

Remember: the point is to figure out what the correct policy should have been. To do that, I'm stipulating a few basic things, and then trying to reason.

I didn't mention anything that happened in the 1980's for the same reason that I didn't mention what countries have been selling arms recently-- it's irrelevant. We are where we are, the world is what it is, and the question is: what's the appropriate policy.

2003-03-31 20:54:32
Chemical and biological weapons
The common misperception is that "weapons inspectors" were there to find hidden weapons. This is not the case, they were there to make sure that the disposal of the weapons claimed disposed by Iraq were indeed disposed. The UN sent weapons inspectors, not weapons investigators. Besides, if I gave you a few hundread inspectors and said find every meth lab in the state of California I doubt you'd be able to find many. Saadam had 12 years, inspections were a waste of time. The inspectors would not have been there in the first place if the use of force was not present.
2003-04-01 00:59:22
Re: Chemical and biological weapons
> If I start by doubting something so crucial to
> the case, I'm essentially assuming a conclusion.

As far as I know, doubt is part of reasoning. In my book, reasoning based on wrong (or unproven) assumptions is not valid.

In my memory, the alleged weapons of mass destruction are one of the Bush's administration arguments for having started this war. If this reason is void, what remains of the thread to the US? If that's gone, what legimation does the US have for breaking international law?


2003-04-01 02:05:02
Re: Chemical and biological weapons
Unfortunately your reasoning is based on a fundamental missunderstanding of the remit of the weapons inspectors.

The inspectors were not there to find hidden weapons, but to confirm that dissarmament had taken place. They found next to no such evidence. Even though the Iraqi regime produced a huge and badly organised report saying they used ot have such weapons but had destroyed them, they were not able to actualy come up with a signle shred of physical evidence to back this up.

The fact that Iraq had WOMD is not in dispute, even by Iraq. What is in dispute is whether they still have them, and if not what happened to them.

And finaly, whether or not these weapons are in a currently usable state is also not the issue. After all supposing they aren't, would you rather wait untill they are before doing something about it?

Simon Hibbs

2003-04-01 02:12:15
Chemical and biological weapons
>Are 100 Tomahawk mass destruction weapons? 100
>Tomahawk have the same power of chemical weapons?

Tomahawks are point-target weapons that are not effective for attacks against mass civilian targets. Chemical and biological weapons are most effectively deployed as mass terror weapons against civilian targets.

>Biological weapons are very difficult to use (eg: they can not shot with a missle) and
>chemical weapons are not so devastating as they want let us belive.

Tell that to the thousands of Kurds and Iranians who were killd by poison gass attacks in the 1980s. Oh, you can't because they're dead!

It is true that most chemical and biological weapons are not very effective for defeating modern military targets, but that's not primarily what they're for. They are much more effective against more primitive military machines, such as those of Iraq's neighbours, but they realy come into their own against civilian populations.

Simon Hibbs

2003-04-01 02:38:02
Why "No blood for oil"
The Economist has looked at the figures, and if the US expects this campaign to pay for itself, they're going to be bitterly disapointed.

For a start, Iraq's decayed oil production infrastructure will take 5 to 10 years and tens of billions of dollars of investment to upgrade. Secondly it's all Russian equipment, so they're more likely to benefit than US or European companies. Even if oil production gets up to maximum speed fairly quickly, and all of it went to the US, it would still take decades for it's output to pay for the military campaign. Finaly, potential Iraqi oil output is too low to significantly dent global oil prices.

The US administration knows this.

Simon Hibbs

2003-04-01 03:26:08
Robin Cook's resignation speech
Robin Cook, the now former UK Foreign Minister, resigned his position due to his great consern over the actions of the UK and the USA.

What follows is a copy of his resignation speech in the House of Commons, which won applause from some backbenchers in unprecedented Commons scenes.

This is the first time for 20 years that I have addressed the House from the back benches.

I must confess that I had forgotten how much better the view is from here.

None of those 20 years were more enjoyable or more rewarding than the past two, in which I have had the immense privilege of serving this House as Leader of the House, which were made all the more enjoyable, Mr Speaker, by the opportunity of working closely with you.

It was frequently the necessity for me as Leader of the House to talk my way out of accusations that a statement had been preceded by a press interview.

On this occasion I can say with complete confidence that no press interview has been given before this statement.

I have chosen to address the House first on why I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.

The present Prime Minister is the most successful leader of the Labour party in my lifetime.

I hope that he will continue to be the leader of our party, and I hope that he will continue to be successful. I have no sympathy with, and I will give no comfort to, those who want to use this crisis to displace him.

I applaud the heroic efforts that the prime minister has made in trying to secure a second resolution.

I do not think that anybody could have done better than the foreign secretary in working to get support for a second resolution within the Security Council.

But the very intensity of those attempts underlines how important it was to succeed.

Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.

France has been at the receiving end of bucket loads of commentary in recent days.

It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.

We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac.

The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner - not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council.

To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.

Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.

The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower.

Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.

Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate.

Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.

I have heard some parallels between military action in these circumstances and the military action that we took in Kosovo. There was no doubt about the multilateral support that we had for the action that we took in Kosovo.

It was supported by NATO; it was supported by the European Union; it was supported by every single one of the seven neighbours in the region. France and Germany were our active allies.

It is precisely because we have none of that support in this case that it was all the more important to get agreement in the Security Council as the last hope of demonstrating international agreement.

The legal basis for our action in Kosovo was the need to respond to an urgent and compelling humanitarian crisis.

Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.

The threshold for war should always be high.

None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands.

I am confident that British servicemen and women will acquit themselves with professionalism and with courage. I hope that they all come back.

I hope that Saddam, even now, will quit Baghdad and avert war, but it is false to argue that only those who support war support our troops.

It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.

Nor is it fair to accuse those of us who want longer for inspections of not having an alternative strategy.

For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.

Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?

Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?

Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months.

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted.

Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.

I welcome the strong personal commitment that the prime minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.

Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.

That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.

What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.

The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people.

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.

From the start of the present crisis, I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war.

It has been a favourite theme of commentators that this House no longer occupies a central role in British politics.

Nothing could better demonstrate that they are wrong than for this House to stop the commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support.

I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.

2003-04-01 03:35:34
John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation
The Washington Post

Outlook Section

Sunday, March 9, 2003

[Letters of resignation, particularly those from State Department diplomats to their superiors, are not ordinarily a forum for disagreements about the course of American foreign policy. The following letter of resignation, written by career diplomat John Brady Kiesling to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, is unusual for its content and length. Kiesling, 45, served in several U.S. embassies before his most recent post in Athens. He shared a 1994 award from the American Foreign Service Association for "constructive dissent" after he and 12 others signed a letter of protest over the lack of U.S. intervention in the conflict in Bosnia.]

February 27, 2003

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart.

The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safegua! rds that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to do to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has oderint dum metuant [Ed. note: Latin for "Let them hate so long as they fear," thought to be a favorite saying of Caligula] really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America's friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security and justice for the planet?

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

2003-04-01 03:37:47
Senator Patrick Leahy - Concerning Iraq
Friday, 14 March 2003, 3:16 pm
Speech: U.S. Senator

CONTACT: Office of Senator Leahy, 202-224-4242

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
On The Senate Floor
Concerning Iraq
The Countdown To War
March 13, 2003

Mr. President, last Thursday at his press conference, the President gave his reasons to justify the use of military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The President said again that he has not made up his mind to go to war, but his own advisers are saying that even if Iraq fully complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power.

The President said his goal is protecting the American people from terrorism, a goal we all share, but he offered no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the September 11 attacks or any details of Iraq’s links to al Queda.

He offered no new information about the potential costs of a war, either in American and Iraqi lives, or in dollars. Both Republicans and Democrats have urged the President to be more forthcoming with the American people, yet he is apparently ready to send hundreds of thousands of the sons and daughters of American taxpayers into battle without saying anything about the costs and risks.

The President repeatedly spoke of the danger of "doing nothing," as if doing nothing is what those who urge patience and caution – with war only as a last resort – are recommending. In fact, virtually no one is saying that we should do nothing about Saddam Hussein.

Even most of the millions of people who have joined protests and demonstrations against the use of force without UN Security Council authorization, are not saying that the world should ignore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Yet that is the President’s answer to those who oppose a preemptive U.S. invasion, and who, contrary to wanting to do nothing, want to give the United Nations more time to try to solve this crisis without war.

The President also failed to address a key concern that divides Americans, that divides us from many of our closest European allies, that divides our allies from each other, and that divides the UN Security Council. That issue is not whether or not Saddam Hussein is a deceptive, despicable, dangerous despot who should be disarmed. There is little if any disagreement about that.

Nor is it whether or not force should ever be used. Most people accept that the United States, like any country, has a right of self defense if faced with an imminent threat. And if the UN inspectors fail to disarm Iraq, force may become the only option.

Most people also agree that a U.S.-led invasion would quickly overwhelm and defeat Iraq’s ill-equipped, demoralized army.

Rather, the President said almost nothing about the concern that by attacking Iraq to enforce Security Council Resolution 1441 without the support of key allies on the UN Security Council, we risk seriously weakening the Security Council’s future effectiveness and our own ability to rally international support – not only to prevent this war and future wars, but to deal with other global threats like terrorism.

And this concern is exacerbated by the increasing resentment of the Administration’s domineering and simplistic "you are either with us or against us" approach, which has already damaged long-standing relationships, both with our neighbors in this hemisphere and our friends across the Atlantic.

The President says that if the Security Council does not support the use of force today, it risks becoming irrelevant. But the President has it backward. The Security Council will not become irrelevant because it refuses to agree with the President of the United States. Rather, the Security Council’s effectiveness is threatened if the United States, the world’s only superpower, ignores the will of key allies on the Security Council regarding the enforcement of a Security Council resolution.

The President was also asked by several members of the press why there is such fervent opposition to his policy among Americans and some of our oldest allies, when only a year and a half ago, after the September 11 attacks, the world was united in sympathy with the United States. He had no answer.

The President should heed the words of former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who was an architect of the 1991 Gulf War. General Scowcroft has strongly criticized the Administration’s ad hoc approach based on "coalitions of the willing," which he calls "fundamentally, fatally flawed." He said: "As we’ve seen in the debate about Iraq, it’s already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we’re paying a very high price for that image. If we get to the point where everyone secretly hopes the United States gets a black eye because we're so obnoxious, then we’ll be totally hamstrung in the war on terror. We’ll be like Gulliver with the Lilliputians."

Mr. President, for two hundred years, people of every nationality have looked up to the United States because of our values, our integrity, our tolerance and respect for others. These are the qualities that have set the United States apart. But today, while most countries share our goal of disarming Saddam Hussein, we are being vilified for our arrogance, for our disdain for international law and our intolerance of opposing views.

A distinguished American career diplomat, John Brady Kiesling, echoed General Scowcroft’s concerns about the practical harm done to U.S. interests and influence abroad in a letter he recently wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, proffering his resignation as an act of protest about the Administration’s policy toward Iraq.

I suspect Mr. Kiesling’s eloquent and heart-felt explanation of how he reached the difficult decision to give up his career, expresses the feelings and concerns of some other American diplomats who are representing the United States in our embassies and missions around the world. I ask unanimous consent that Mr. Kiesling’s letter to the Secretary be entered in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Mr. President, while I was disappointed by the President’s remarks last week, the Bush Administration and the Pakistani Government should be commended for the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of al Queda’s top leaders who was reportedly the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Whether others within al Queda will quickly fill Mr. Mohammed’s shoes remains to be seen, but the fact that the U.S. government, and other governments, are methodically tracking these people down sends an important message and should give some comfort to the American people.

This is encouraging, and let us hope that soon we can celebrate the capture of Osama bin Laden. Tracking down al Queda should be our highest priority.

But the world is increasingly apprehensive as the United States appears to be marching inexorably towards war with Iraq. Today, there are more than 250,000 American men and women in uniform in the Persian Gulf, preparing for the order to enter Iraq, and we hear that a decision to launch an attack must be made within a matter of days because it is too costly to keep so many troops deployed overseas.

In other words, now that we have spent billions of dollars to ship all those soldiers over there, we need to use them "because we cannot back down now," as I have heard some people say. Mr. President, it would be hard to think of a worse reason to rush to war than that.

We should not back down. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. Doing nothing, and I agree with the President about this, would mean that the United Nations is unwilling to enforce its own resolutions concerning perhaps the most serious threat the world faces today – the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That would be unacceptable. The UN Security Council ordered Iraq to fully disclose its weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq has not done so.

And I agree with those who say that the only reason Saddam Hussein is even grudgingly cooperating with the UN inspectors and destroying Iraqi missiles is because of the build up of U.S. troops on Iraq’s border. I have commended the President for refocusing the world’s attention on Saddam Hussein’s failure to disarm. I also recognize that the time may come when the use of force to enforce the UN Security Council resolution is the only option.

But are proposals to give the UN inspectors more time unreasonable, when it could solidify support for the use of force if that becomes the only option?

Despite the President’s assertion that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States, that assertion begs credulity when the UN inspectors are making some progress and a quarter of a million American soldiers are poised to invade. Absent a credible, imminent threat, a decision to enforce Resolution 1441 should only be made by the Security Council, if it becomes clear that the inspectors cannot do the job, not by the United States or any other government alone.

The President says war is a last resort. If he feels that way, why do he and his advisers want so desperately to short circuit the inspections process? Why is he so anxious to spend billions of dollars to buy the cooperation of friends who do not yet believe war is necessary? Why is he so unconcerned about the predictable, hostile reaction of the Muslim world to the occupation of Iraq, perhaps for years, by a U.S. military "government"? Why is the President so determined to run roughshod over our traditional alliances and partnerships, which have served us well and whose support we need both today and in the future?

I cannot pretend to understand the thinking of those in the Administration who for months or even longer have seemed possessed with a kind of messianic zeal in favor of war. A preemptive war against Iraq without a declaration of war by Congress or the UN Security Council’s support, may be easy to win, but it could violate international law and cause lasting damage to our alliances and to our ability to obtain the cooperation of other nations in meeting so many other global challenges.

Just recently, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned that a war with Iraq could bring more threats and more terrorist attacks within the United States. The CIA Director has testified that Saddam Hussein is more likely to use chemical or biological weapons if he is attacked. Yet we are marching ahead as if these warnings do not matter.

I have said before that this war is not inevitable, and I still believe it can be avoided. But I fear that the President, despite opposition among the American people, in the UN, and around the world, is no longer listening to anyone except those within his inner circle who are eager to fight. I hope the Iraqi Government comes to its senses. I hope we do not walk away from the United Nations. I hope we do not decide that just because our troops are there we cannot afford to wait.

I yield the floor.

2003-04-01 06:52:15
Why "No blood for oil"
it doesn't have to pay for itself when the public is footing the bill. it only has to pay for itself for those in power.

the us administration knows this.

2003-04-01 07:32:36
Chemical and biological weapons
I am sorry that I do not have the exact reference handy, but I believe the following claims are from an editorial in the New Republic:

Even if chemical and biological weapons are horrific when used, so are "conventional" weapons. Saddams mass-murders using chemical weapons (which was acquiesced by the US administration of the time, many of which are also in the current administration - let us not forget) involved significant time and effort. It is not an unlikely conjecture that the same amount of resources spent on using "conventional" weapons to commit the mass-murder would not wreck just as much terror. Surely, the victims do not care too much by what methods they are killed?

Yes, chemical weapons are bad, but so are bombs and bullets.

An interesting point from the New Republic editorial was the actual number of people killed in the sarin attack in the Tokio subway. A subway is of course an ideal setting for using gass, as it does not blow away or become inert by the sunlight. The number of fatalities: 6.

Personally, I worry more about suicide bombers.

2003-04-01 08:03:34
Please Stop

I didn't post my article to have people paste in the same old crap that can easily be found elsewhere. You're not contributing anything but noise.

2003-04-01 11:14:58
Still no answer to the content, questions and issues raised?
I have yet to find ANY such "elsewhere", which actually anwsers the questions or the issues raised by these three of the most highly briefed and informed persons.

If you are unable to fully address the content of this one letter and two speaches, then your article and your replies to this forum, are nothing more than one amongst many examples of the second guessed noise by those far less informed.

Another example, Andrew Wilki, now-former senior analyst with the Australian Office of National Assessment...

That I have posted only four exmples so far, is not for any want of examples of those at the highest level of briefing resigning over the stance and actions the USA,UK and Australia have taken.

2003-04-01 13:19:56
I send in a post a day ago and it hasn't shown up. Nothing offensive in it, either... OK, it was on the long side, but...
2003-04-01 13:26:53
OK, this one made it. Heaven knows why the other one didn't. Sorry about this diversion, but I'm sure we all know what its like to work on something, polish it, only to find it barf on you...

More seriously to the OP: are posts on this board being moderated by "your's truly"?

2003-04-01 14:09:33
Why "No blood for oil"
You've never lived through an oil crisis in a third world country have you?

No gas, no food transportation. In the US, you will be inconvienced. In my former country, people will die just like in the early 1970s. Securing Iraq and improving the oil supply will help people in the long-term.

No Blood for Oil is short-sighted and downright inhumane.

2003-04-01 19:24:38
Not as far as I know

As far as I know, there's no censorship from above (or even editing). It's probably a bug in the software.

2003-04-02 05:11:57
Re: Chemical and biological weapons
If chemical weapons are the issue, what about the U.S. then? Don't they have them, too? Does that now give whomever the right to attack them?

No, of course not. Because the U.S. are the good guys, and Iraq are the bad ones. Or what exactly are you saying?

The inspectors did NOT find any evidence for womds. The U.S. government allegedly had "proofs" that these weapons exist but it didn't bother to offer these proofs to public scrutiny. Which makes them completely useless.

The U.S. government wanted to attack Iraq (and possibly Iran and Syria after that). And so it did.

2003-04-02 11:06:10
Re: Chemical and biological weapons
I guess a hundread thousand Kurds killed by Chemical Ali's gas attacks are not enough evidence that they had these weapons. Iraq can't account for a sizable quanity of anthrax. How much more evidence do you need? Saadam did not prove that he disarmed, he was not fully co-operative with the inspectors, how much longer do we give him, the UN was unable to set a decent timetable.

Yes the US has access to chem & bio weapons, but unlike Saadam we haven't shown a willingness to use them.

After Gulf War I, Iraq surrendered and agreed to disarm. He did not do so. Would we not have gone back into Germany or Japan after WWII if they didn't honor the terms of the surrender? What is the difference here?

Let me ask you this, why is Saadam fighting so hard to hold onto these weapons of mass destruction?

2003-04-02 11:43:17
Chemical and biological weapons
>Tomahawks are point-target weapons that are not effective for attacks against mass civilian targets.

Hmm, tell that to the 50 or so people killed in a Baghdad market square by one stray US cruise missle.

2003-04-02 18:36:30
Problems with the war
Supposedly, The coalition (really the U.S.) is attacking Iraq for two main reasons: Saddam is a threat because he possesses weapons of mass destruction and to free the Iraqi people.

These reasons can be furthur analyzed by asking the following questions:

Question: Who is Saddam a threat to?
Answer: His neighbors and his people. Saddam poses no threat to National Security. He can't get a missile into Kuwait(they keep getting shot down by our Patriot missiles), so it is absurd to think he can attack us militarily. With our military intelligence it would be extremely difficult for anyone to attack the U.S., especially after 9/11 with security at an all-time high. So if he is a threat only to his neighbors, then he should be their problem. Of course, his neighbors are members of the "axis of evil" so they are all a threat. Speaking of "axis of evil", North Korea has proven to be the most defiant. They acknowledge the fact that they are developing nuclear weapons and have also stated that they would not even allow inspections to take place. Talk about a threat! Also, Saddam is a bigger threat to Israel and you don't hear of any Israelie soldiers in the war. Ironic.
Conclusion: There are other countries developing weapons of mass destruction who are a *bigger* threat than Saddam.

Question: Who is the biggest threat to the U.S.?
Answer: Usama Bin Laden (UBL) is the leader of the international terrorist network called Al-Qaeda. Did you forget? It is known that he is residing somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan. So it would seem that getting UBL should be a priority because of the threat he imposes to National Security (remember 9/11?). It's true we have some troops in that region, but not an extensive military effort to get UBL. Al-Qaeda has no country whereas Saddam has Iraq, thus making Saddam a much easier target but there is no doubt that getting UBL would be a serious blow to Al-Qaeda.
Conclusion: The U.S. needs to be consistent in its war against terrorism by knowing its priorities and accomplishing its objectives in some kind of order. Terrorism is global and we can't attack it simultaneously.

Question: Can this money be used for something more important?
Answer: Billions of dollars spent towards war could have been easily spent beforehand to prevent war. Do people not understand the potential impact billions of dollars could have on hunger, poverty, shelter, medicine, education, and other problems in the world and in our nation? You'd be surprised the difference it makes when you start helping people.
Conclusion: You can solve some of the world's problems without war.

Finally, the bottom line is that innocent people are dying on both ends: Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers misled into fighting for the wrong cause. When it comes to death, people always think in terms of numbers when there should only be one number we should think about--ONE. One innocent person dies and people think that it was inevitable, that it's the only way, that you have to kill the innocent in order to get the guilty. This thinking disappears once someone close to you dies. Think about the family of the soldiers and Iraqi people killed in this war. Think a little harder and put yourself in their shoes. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" now has fine print that says possibly more innocent Iraqis will die then bad Iraqis. When this war is over will Iraqis say, "Saddam is gone, some of my family were killed, thank you America." We have to realize that there is no difference between one person dead and a lot of people dead. One person means something to somebody.

It is also disturbing that some people are thinking in terms of how much the sanctions cost us to enforce. I'll tell you how much it costs: 5000 Iraqi children die every month (Source: UNICEF). It is known that international law is against collective punishment (according to the Geneva conventions). Sanctions do not affect Saddam as much as they do his people.

In conclusion, this war is unjustified. Saddam is not the biggest threat to the international community. Being American does not mean blindly following the government. This country has principles that it was built upon. In these hectic times of war, the rights of other countries and even our own are being threatened. We must stand up for justice and in this case, both the coalition and Saddam are being injust. You don't fight injustice with more injustice. You put out fire with water just as kindness puts out hatred.

2003-04-03 07:23:39
Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia
William Grosso seems to believe that the arguements put forward for invading Iraq are somehow novel. My recollection that these are but slight variations of the arguments used to justify US involvement in the former Yugoslavia, Haiti and Somalia.

I heard William Krystal on PBS yesterday make the same point while saying that President Clinton nearly sent troops into Iraq. The Bush Junior administration has mearly adopted the interventionist arguments that are the conventional wisdom at places like the Brookings Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Perhaps now is a good time to revisit the military endeavors of the last administration to see if the rationale for undertaking them stands up.

2003-04-03 14:12:52
Problems with the war
Question: Who is Saddam a threat to?
The argument was never that Saddam would attack us outright with his weapons. The Argument is they he would provide terrorist organizations with the means to use these weapons of mass destruction. There is plenty of evidence of Saddam's increasing willingness to work with terrorists (paying families of suicide bombers, to having training facilities with commercial aircraft fuselages, to the facility found in NE Iraq). Even though there may be no concrete link between Saddam and AlQueda is not the point, the point is that he's working with any terrorists.

Question: Who is the biggest threat to the U.S.?
The biggest threat is a terrorist with a (rogue state sponsored) weapon of mass destruction.

Question: Can this money be used for something more important?
More important is subjective, and an either or argument simplifies the allocation of resources too much. Are you saying that freeing the people of Iraqi from a brutal, monstrous, mass murdering dictator/regime is not important? Blaming the poverty of the Iraqi people solely on sanctions is unfair. Poverty in Iraq started to increase when Saddam decided to get into a 10 year war trying to invade Iran. Does Saddam's regime not take any responsibility for amassing wealth while his people starve? Why is everyone who argues against what the coalition is doing so silent about Saddam's actions? Why is there no outrage about his actions?

Remember the result of the US leaving Vietnam early, millions of people were massacred by the VC....Interesting where were the protests?