By Patrick J. Buchanan – February 19, 2002
With his “Axis of Evil” speech threatening Iraq, Iran and North Korea with war if they deploy “weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Bush burned his bridges. And when Gen. Colin Powell told Congress we have no war plans regarding Iran and North Korea, the signal was clear all the way to Baghdad. Mr. Bush intends war on Iraq.
And when he goes to war, America must achieve its stated goal, “regime change,” or cease to be the invincible superpower.
Why the president would lock himself into war to the death against Iraq, before he has convinced the country we have no other option, is puzzling. But so he did, just as his father did in August of 1990, when that President Bush declared, “This will not stand!”
The first President Bush had said that if Iraq did not vacate Kuwait, the U.S. would evict Iraq from Kuwait. And he made good on that threat. But there are major differences between then and now.
First, U.S. armed forces are only half of what they were in 1990-91. Second, where in Desert Storm I we had forces from NATO allies France and Britain and Arab allies Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, few or none of these will be enlisting in Desert Storm II.
In 1990, Saddam had committed naked aggression against a fellow Arab League state and U.N. member by invading, occupying and annexing Kuwait. Condemnation was universal. And in his declared intent to liberate Kuwait, George H. W. Bush had the support of the Arab League, the Security Council, NATO and Congress.
Today, Iraq has not committed aggression. The Arab League opposes a U.S. war on Iraq. NATO opposes a U.S. war on Iraq. The Security Council opposes a U.S. war on Iraq. Every Gulf state, except Kuwait, opposes a U.S. war on Iraq. And Congress has yet to be consulted.
By what authority, then, does Mr. Bush threaten war?
Answer: None but his own. The president has no constitutional power to attack Iraq, for there is no clear and present danger of an Iraqi attack to justify a pre-emptive strike or preventive war. So it is time someone whistled Congress in out of the tall grass to vote either to authorize or not to authorize Mr. Bush to lead us into a war that must surely end with the U.S. Army occupying Baghdad.
Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Henry Hyde, the chairmen of the House and Senate foreign-affairs committees, have a constitutional duty to conduct hearings on a declaration of war. If we must fight, let us at least show a decent respect for the Constitution.
Public hearings are crucial. While all Americans have backed the war on terror to eradicate the al-Qaida killers who perpetrated 9-11, and their fellow vermin, no evidence has been presented that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9-11.
The questions Congress must answer before declaring war are: Does Saddam have weapons of mass destruction? If so, what kind? And is there a present danger he will use them on U.S. forces or the U.S. homeland? After all, he is said to have had chemical weapons in 1991, but never used them. Deterrence worked then, why not now?
And if he has weapons of mass destruction, is he more or less likely to use them if he knows the U.S. war against him has to end in his certain extinction and that of his sons and heirs?
Never close off an enemy’s avenue of retreat. JFK gave Nikita Khrushchev a way out of Cuba, and nuclear war was averted. We did not offer the German generals who wanted to kill Hitler anything but “unconditional surrender.” So, Nazi Germany fought to the death and took untold millions of innocents down with them.
And if Saddam must go, must U.S. troops march to Baghdad to dictate his successor? How many will be required? Who will march with us? What are the anticipated casualties? How long must we occupy Baghdad? Is an independent Kurdistan an anticipated result? Will the Turks go along? Will we permit Iraq to be broken up and a Shiite state to form in the south? Is Iran the likely beneficiary of the breakup of the lone Arab power that can balance Iranian power?
What will be the impact on the Arab and Muslim world when it sees America smashing Baghdad as Israel smashes the Palestinians?
Could Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan or Pakistan explode, leaving us worse off than we are with Saddam Hussein? And if Mr. Bush may unilaterally expand our list of enemies, what other countries does the president have in mind to attack?
General Powell once wisely said: Before you commit the Army, commit the nation. Before we commit the Army to war on Iraq, we must commit the nation. That is done through the Congress of the United States. And where the devil is the Congress?