As Humpty Dumpty famously said to Alice, "When I use a word, my dear, that word means whatever I want it to mean." Here in the U.S. of Wonderland, we are about to launch a "preemptive" attack on Iraq–preemptive being the word that means whatever George W. Bush wants it to mean.
As Humpty Dumpty famously said to Alice, “When I use a word, my dear, that word means whatever I want it to mean.” Here in the U.S. of Wonderland, we are about to launch a “preemptive” attack on Iraq—“preemptive” being the word that means whatever George W. Bush wants it to mean.
A recent publication of the usually Republican Cato Institute sets the dictionary straight: “A U.S. invasion of Iraq would not be a ‘preemptive’ attack. The President is using that term to sell the policy, but it would be a preventive attack. A preemptive attack is what the Israelis did against the Arabs in 1967; they detected that an Arab attack was imminent, so they attacked first.” There is, as the folks at Cato duly noted, no evidence whatever that an attack by Iraq is imminent—or even possible.
Well, we know what words the President is using—what about the words he isn’t using, the questions he isn’t answering? For example:
· Mr. President, you accuse Iraq of harboring terrorists. But all the evidence suggests that Pakistan, Syria, Iran and our ‘friend’ Saudi Arabia are far more implicated in supporting terrorism than Sadaam. So why are we picking on Iraq?
· Mr. President, you say that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Others in a position to know dispute that, but even assuming you are correct, why have we singled Iraq out? Our own Defense Department says there are at least twelve hostile nations with nuclear programs, thirteen with biological weapons, sixteen with chemical weapons and twenty-eight with ballistic missiles. North Korea has recently bragged about its nuclear capacity, and if we are looking for loony leaders, they have a doozie. So—why Iraq?
· Mr. President, the U.S. contained both the USSR and China for many years, when they posed a huge and very real threat to us. Why can’t we use policies of containment that worked well for Presidents like Ronald Reagan?
· Mr. President, right now, Sadaam Hussain is not a favorite of other Arab leaders, to put it mildly. Middle East experts believe an invasion by the U.S. will create great sympathy for him among populations of other Arab countries, that such an attack will create a “west versus Islam” mentality that will make it far more difficult to fight terrorism. Indeed, they believe it will encourage more terrorist activity. What happened to your War on Terrorism? Is Iraq that much more important? Why?
· Mr. President, the Middle East is the least stable part of the world. An invasion of Iraq is almost certain to further destabilize it. If we begin a war, Sadaam is almost certain to attack Israel (a country he actually can reach with current weapons). Given the current leadership of Israel, its restraint is unlikely. Once there is a war with Israel, what will prevent neighboring Arab states from piling on? Where will it stop? How involved will we get, and for how many years?
· And finally, Mr. President, now that you have enunciated your new doctrine of “preemption,” what is to keep China from employing that same doctrine against Taiwan, or Pakistan against India (or vice-versa)? Aren’t we setting an enormously dangerous precedent, by claiming a right to invade anyone who “might” be a danger to us sometime?
I’ve heard what a bad guy Sadaam Hussain is (no argument there!), but I haven’t heard answers to any of these questions.
A student of mine who works in a local hotel tells me that he recently served a secretive meeting of National Guard leaders from all over the Midwest. He said they were clearly preparing for war no matter what the U.N. inspectors find—or fail to find. (No shock there—Bush has already said that if the inspectors don’t find weapons of mass destruction, it will be because they are poor inspectors, not because there are no weapons. Shades of Humpty Dumpty…) My student wondered why we were going through the charade of asking for U.N. concurrence. I reminded him that polls show the American public is unwilling to go it alone—ergo, let’s pretend we aren’t.
I know how I define “just war.” This isn’t it—not even for Humpty Dumpty.