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Making the case for Iraq

By Steven Martinovich
web posted December 24, 2001

Though the American-led war in Afghanistan is far from over, it seems a safe bet that the Taliban and their guests al-Qaida won't be the only targets of U.S. President George W. Bush's war against terrorism. In a recent New Yorker piece, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes that there is an intensive debate between hawks like Paul Wolfowitz and doves like Colin Powell in the Bush Administration on whether to continue that war to America's old nemesis Iraq.

Saddam HusseinOn the face of it, there are a few good arguments against attacking Iraq and perhaps toppling Saddam Hussein. As Hersh points out, bringing Hussein down could bring about chaos with three nations - Shiite's in the south, tribes loyal to Hussein in the middle and Kurds in the north - emerging out of one. Iraq, point out many, also serves as a useful counterbalance to Iran, a nation which despite its moves towards moderation and its quiet help to America in Afghanistan is still home to fanatical mullahs pressing forward with a campaign to build or acquire an atom bomb.

Those fears may be as groundless as the ones the pundits trumpeted when the war in Afghanistan was launched only a few months ago. Each "new and more dangerous phase," the favourite and oft-used phrase of newspapers like the New York Times, only brought more crushing defeats for the Taliban and al-Qaida. The quagmire that trapped the British and the Russians turned out to be less quicksand and more beach for America and its allies in Afghanistan.

As many good arguments there are for continuing the international policy of attempting to contain Hussein, there equally good ones for finishing the job that was started in the early 1990s. Despite that containment policy, Iraq continues on a program of expanding its arsenal, including weapons of mass destruction. Evidence for this came courtesy of an Iraqi defector who in a December 20 interview alleged that he helped repair facilities designed to hold biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a civil engineer who defected in August, claims that he personally visited at least 20 sites he believes are associated with Iraq's secret weapons programs. Al-Haideri also told western media that that several production and storage facilities were hidden at government companies and private villas in residential areas. Some, he said, were built underground in what were designed to look like water wells but were lined with lead-filled concrete and contained no water. He also said he was shown biological materials from a laboratory beneath Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad, but had not personally visited it.

Even more worrisome is Iraq's continuing work in the field of ballistic missiles. Back in 1991, Hussein commented that he would have attacked American cities had he the missiles to reach them. Despite continuing economic sanctions, Iraq continues on its weapons programs including the development of improved ballistic missile technology. While Iraq may be a long way away from being able to strike the United States, weapons transfers from nations like China and Russia don't make it impossible either.

Fortunately, the American public seems to realize that. According to a recent Washington Times-ABC New poll, Americans by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, believe the war on terrorism will be a success only with the death or capture of Osama bin Laden and the removal from power of Hussein. By more than 3 to 1, Americans favor expanding the war to other countries where terrorists are believed to operate, such as Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Hopefully Bush will listen to the wisdom of the American people and not those in his Administration and around the world who believe that a job should be left half done. Given a chance, Hussein certainly wouldn't.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.

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