by Patrick J. Buchanan – February 10, 2003
In his 90-minute presentation to the Security Council, Colin Powell made a compelling case for the prosecution that Iraq is not cooperating fully and freely in its own disarmament. Clearly, Saddam is concealing weapons he is forbidden by U.N. resolutions to possess.
On this count, Saddam appears guilty as charged. But this is not the question we Americans must answer.
For us, the question is this: Why are we going to war? Why are we about to attack, invade and occupy a country that has not attacked us, does not threaten us and does not want war with us?
Did Iraq have a role in the mass murder of Americans on 9-11? Answer: no. The sensational charge that Mohammed Atta secretly met an Iraqi agent in Prague, prior to driving that plane into the World Trade Center, proved false, despite the propaganda that this was the “smoking gun” that tied Saddam to 9-11.
Was 9-11 the work of Iraqis hell-bent on revenge for their defeat in Desert Storm? Again, no. Not one of the 19 hijackers was an Iraqi, but 15 were Saudis. Their motive for massacre was not revenge for Desert Storm, but a fanatic resolve to drive America off the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia.
Were the al-Qaida terrorists behind the 9-11 murders run by Iraqi intelligence? Again, the answer is no. Al-Qaida’s ties were to the Saudi and Pakistani intelligence agencies, and Osama bin Laden and his agents were provided sanctuary by Afghanistan, not Iraq. Indeed, Osama had only contempt for the secularist regime in Baghdad.
But if Saddam was not behind 9-11, was he behind other terrorist attacks on Americans? The embassy bombings in Africa, the Cole? No, again. It was Iran, not Iraq, behind the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the nations that aided Hezbollah most in driving Israel out of Lebanon were Syria and Iran.
But even if Iraq was not behind terrorism against Americans, is not Saddam a mortal peril to a region of the world vital to the West: the oil-rich Persian Gulf?
Is he? Iraq has an economy not 1 percent of ours, no navy, a few MIGs, an army whose armor was ravaged in Desert Storm and a few Scuds. Indeed, neoconservatives predict a “cakewalk” war over Iraq. None of his neighbors is clamoring for war on Iraq. The Turks march in and out of Iraq at will, Israel has nuclear weapons, the Saudis fear an Iraqi break-up more than an Iraqi attack, and Iran is far more likely to end up as hegemon of the Gulf when the Americans depart, as they will.
Why, then, is Iraq at the top of America’s enemies list?
The Bush Doctrine. After 9-11, and the rout of al-Qaida from Afghanistan, the president had placed before him an idea for a second front in the War on Terror.
The United States would declare it to be national policy to prevent any and all Arab and Islamic radical or rogue states from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction. To secure this objective, America would embrace a strategy of pre-emption – proclaim a right to attack and invade rogue nations to prevent them from ever acquiring or producing such weapons.
Hungry for further action after victory in Afghanistan, President Bush had this precooked meal placed right in front of him, and he dug in. In his “Axis of Evil” address in 2002, the president identified three such nations: Iran, North Korea and Iraq.
But why are we about to attack Iraq first?
Of the three, Iraq appears the least menacing. With its economy stifled by a decade of sanctions, its military crippled by Desert Storm and systematic destruction of its arsenal under years of U.N. inspections, Iraq is in no condition to launch an invasion of the Gulf region.
Iran would appear the greater potential threat. For not only was Teheran behind several terror attacks on Americans, it is testing ballistic missiles and developing, with the aid of Russia, a nuclear capability.
North Korea has missiles capable of hitting every U.S. base in Asia and two programs to produce fissile material for atom bombs. It boasts an army of a million men that could kill thousands of Americans in any second Korean war and is a known proliferator of weapons for cash. And while Iraq is desperately trying to avoid war with the United States, Kim Jong Il is openly defying the Americans.