The question waiting to be answered in respect to Iraq is whether or not there will be war. Some people continue to believe that war with Iraq is inevitable, and/or imminent. Others believe that we have possibly avoided a war, and that we are now only placing troops in that region of the world to secure the world’s oil supplies, and to insure success against any action taken by possible enemies of the United States and our interests, friends and allies in the region. From just about any place in that region of the world, it appears that the United States is able to strike, and to put down any aggressive act against peace and humanity.
President Bush, and his Secretary of State Colin Powell might have successfully executed an ingenious plan, whereby the military is actually used as a tool of diplomacy rather than merely a blunt weapon of war. They may have succeeded at securing not only the United States from future al-Qadea attacks. By arranging U.S. military forces strategically throughout the Middle East, they may have also quietly secured the Middle East against any major activity by terrorist groups, states, or individuals that could destabilize the region. U.S. troops in the region will likely deter any major attacks such as occurred in New York and Washington D.C., which causes Iraq, to be less of a threat than may have been previously feared. Working along with troops from other committed nations in the region, there is a good chance that a real balance of power has been achieved against al-Qadea and its supporters, since they might not any longer enjoy the advantages they did prev! iously.
Unilateralists originally sought to portray the Iraq crisis as a U.S./Iraq conflict, when in reality it has always been an international crisis, exacerbated by an active al-Qadea that demonstrated an ability to target and successfully attack the United States. Al-Qadea seems willing to collaborate with anyone who shares their hatred for the U.S., as they reportedly continue to carry out attempts to punish the West for whatever reasons they claim. Repeated calls for an international jihad, and other such language made it vital to U.S. and international security that any nation/state that might possibly be willing, or capable of assisting al-Qadea be disarmed. Iraq fit the description, and might have fallen prey to what could be called “nation” profiling. Saddam Hussein’s previous possession of weapons of mass destruction, some of which is said to be unaccounted for, a history of condemnation and threats against the U.S. and his neighbors in the Middle East, a! s well as his proven ability to use such weapons of mass destruction without conscience or remorse, may have led to calls for Iraq’s immediate disarmament, if not voluntarily, then by force.
The Bush administration initially fumbled in its attempts to link Iraqi disarmament with the war against terrorism, but not because such an association was absent, but rather because the association was not obvious, and the argument was also possibly weakened, and its points obscured by other U.S. relationships, and interests. Perhaps not quite sure how the U.S. should present the argument for the disarmament of Iraq without itself destabilizing the region, the U.S. was awkward in its attempts to come up with a winning logic to support its already suspect argument, or a palatable excuse for its threatened unilateral action.
President George W. Bush, in spite of the criticism being leveled against him, took the crisis to the United Nations, who in turn rewarded his courage, wisdom and humility by passing unanimously, a strong resolution (1441) calling for renewed inspections, disarmament, and Iraqi compliance with all binding UN resolutions. The passage of the resolution, since it makes the case that Iraq is suspect, created an opening that has allowed the United State’s military to situate its troops in the region. Whereas Iraq is clearly within the sites of the military, the military is also in a position where it can now take the war on terror to the terrorists, cutting off their previously unobstructed routes to the U.S., while simultaneously positioning itself to respond quickly and effectively against any attempt to destabilize the Middle East, disrupt oil flows, or launch attacks against European, or other targets.
Whereas many have sought to use the deployment of U.S. troops to advance the argument that war with Iraq is inevitable, there are others, myself included, who believe that these deployments could make war with Iraq less likely. Yet it seems that in this situation, peace continues to depend upon Saddam Hussein getting the message that the United States wants peace, but will not exchange peace for the rights of the world’s people to live without fear, and to continue their progress unabated by such fear. To foment such fear through the threat of force, or violence against civilizations, might in itself be a type of terrorism. The distinction between U.S. threats, and Iraqi threats being that the U.S. has promised only to disarm, and to remove the Hussein regime, in an effort to attain security, while Hussein has threatened destruction, and international jihad against the West, and has heaped curses upon the world because the international community would ! not turn its head, or ignore the suggestion of his previous transgressions.
So, how does one remove a perceived threat without violent confrontation ? Debatably by first advising the threat that it has been identified as such. Then perhaps by calling upon the threat to end its threatening behaviors, and to demonstrate in some convincing way that it is not a threat, and also perhaps by positioning oneself to isolate the threat, limit its capacity for harm and deter its possible aggression by a show of greater strength and capacity to prevail should there be a war. If these steps succeed, there is no apparent reason for war. If they do not, then the argument might be internationally accepted that all real threats to international peace and stability must be either neutralized as in disarmament, or eliminated as in regime change. If the above steps represent a reasonable tactic, Saddam Hussein should recognize that his fiery rhetoric and threats against the U.S. only causes him to be seen as more of a threat. That his calls for international jihad against the West mimics too closely the calls of other threatening entities, who after being dismissed and ignored for years, carried out their threats, killing nearly 3000 innocent civilians, and not only Americans, Jews and Christians, but also Muslims, Arabs, and others, all equally loved, and significant as human beings. This is not to mention the lives of Africans and others killed in the previous attacks upon U.S. embassies, and other attacks attributed to al-Qadea.
September 11th changed things. Among those things that may have changed is the idea of a national sovereignty that protects a nation, or group, or individuals who carry out terrorist acts, and then hide within legally impenetrable borders from where they look out at a startled, hurt and frightened international community, mocks justice, and thumbs its nose at the world.
It seems that in a post 9/11 world, threats that appear real must be either proven benign, or made benign. Innocent until proven guilty might still be the overriding legal principle, yet innocence in a post 9/11 world might be defined differently. It might now have a moral component. It may not any longer mean simply that you have not actually committed an illegal act, it might also mean that you are not threatening, and that you have no menacing violent intent, or desire to do harm, or the willingness, or capacity to help others carry out violent acts against innocents.
It is almost impossible for anyone to prove that a state or person, or group has such intent, or desire to carry out a feared threat, yet a threatening person or entity, once advised that they are suspected, or feared, should be willing in a post 9/11 environment, to take reasonable steps to prove its innocence, and to put the world at ease. Sometimes, one might argue, in an attempt to identify and be protected from ones real enemies, it might be necessary to question, challenge and even perhaps forcibly disarm ones past, or potential, or likely enemies if they can hurt you or others. This would highlight the importance of fully cooperating, within the bounds of international law and standards, with attempts to make the world a safer place. This can only happen through cooperation. It might be within this context that we should understand the statement, that one is either “for or against,” and repeated calls for Iraq to disarm, and for the Hussein regime to ! change.
It seems that can either make the international community’s commitment and resolve to persevere, and win the war against terrorism either difficult or easy. If we wish to make it easier, we can join in calling for Iraq to cooperate completely with weapons inspectors, to stop threatening, and to change its manner, recognizing that we are all captives of the times in which we live. If we hope for a return to normalcy, we must cooperate with one another, and at times we may have to bend over backwards to accommodate one another’s reasonable concerns for security. If we want to make the war more difficult, all we need do is to continue to act as though the United States is the aggressor and al-Qadea the victim, and that Iraq is not also accountable for its past, and somewhat responsible for its own plight.
Will there be war with Iraq ? Only God knows for sure, but each time I hear that more U.S. troops have been set up in that region of the world, I feel sad, yet a little safer, and I imagine that if others in the world are experiencing this same feeling of increased security, it could make war with Iraq unnecessary, and a diplomatic solution more likely. May God help and protect us all, and especially bless our troops, their commanders, and those who assist, aide and support them.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women. The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.