The case against war

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This is a moment of great national peril. A U.S. military assault on Iraq will have terrible consequences for America. Even if Saddam Hussein possesses an array of weapons of mass destruction, the inevitable costs of war far exceed any possible benefits.

War will mean death or injury for U.S. troops. If it entails street by street fighting, the toll will be heavy. Thousands of innocent, politically-powerless Iraqi people — mostly Muslims — will be torn to shreds. Vast areas will be blighted. The agony suffered by these civilians will outrage many millions of people worldwide, especially 1.2 billion Muslims, more than six million of them U.S. citizens. These passions will widen and deepen the ugly gulf that, thanks to public policy and private bigotry, already exists between Muslims and the U.S. government.

If war comes, it may provoke rather than prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction. If Saddam Hussein is cornered, he is apt to fight back with every weapon at his command.

The war’s financial cost will be enormous. The administration has given estimates from $50 billion to $200 billion.

Perhaps the greatest costs will be inflicted on America internally. In our quest for security against acts of terrorism by the Iraqi dictator and others, we already sustain heavy costs: ethnic and religious discrimination, the impairment of individual liberty, personal privacy, and due process. If war comes, these costs will rise.

War will severely damage America’s reputation as a champion of the rule of law in international affairs. At the president’s request, Congress has already abandoned our government’s long- standing opposition to preemptive acts of war, measures that are strictly prohibited in international law except when a nation is under imminent danger of attack.

This is not the America that my generation defended in World War II.

Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, but there is no credible evidence that he had anything to do with 9/11 or that he poses an imminent threat to the United States or any other nation.

In rushing to war, President Bush defies opposition that is rising at home and overwhelming throughout the world. The Muslim world already sees the war as it truly is — the first big step by America — the new imperial power from the West as it sets forth to reorder the entire Middle East to suit its own security needs and those of Israel, the only nation on earth that strongly supports Bush’s war plan. British support hangs by a thread.

The plan to assault Iraq is not a sudden aberration. It predates 9/11. It is one step in a controversial plan for American world dominance that was formulated a decade ago by a small group within the administration of the first President Bush. Most of them — principally Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle — have now attained positions of great influence in the administration of the second President Bush. The undertakings they recommend are now approved steps in the president’s announced plan for the United States to maintain itself as the unchallenged military policeman of the world.

In that role, the U.S. government will establish a network of foreign bases and keep other nations from posing a threat to U.S. security. International institutions will be relegated to a supportive role or irrelevance. The State Department document on security issued on September 20, 2002, provides details.

Meanwhile, festering grievances against America have gone unattended. Since 9/11, our government has spent vast sums and instituted rigorous intrusions on civil liberties in the name of homeland security, but is has done nothing to redress major, legitimate complaints against government policy, specifically, our government’s flagrant complicity in Israel’s long oppression and humiliation of the mostly-Muslim Palestinian community.

Many respected observers believe that 9/11 would never have happened and there would be no rush to war today if the U.S. government had refused to support Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians. Today, the pro-Israel bias of our government is more extreme than ever before. Our government seems oblivious of the anti-American fury this bias generates.

In these grave circumstances, the president should disenthrall himself from past declarations. He should accept the clear decision of the world community against war in Iraq, let the UN inspection process continue, and end America’s longstanding bias in Middle East policy.

If, instead, he orders war, America’s future is bleak.

These observations arise from my long experience as a member of the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and extensive experience in the Middle East over the past thirty years.

Mr. Paul Findley, who served as a Republican congressman from Illinois for 22 years, is the author of ‘They Dare to Speak Out’ and a member of the American Educational Trust’s Foreign Relations Committee.

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