What is the sound of one man plotting the demise of another? We need only listen closely to the winds emanating from Washington to know the answer to this riddle. Indeed, this same sound – of President Bush edging closer every day to trying to unseat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by force of arms – reflects the tone of the moral and diplomatic bankruptcy the United States has now cornered itself with. Sadly, the rest of the world may be cornered as well, as the mantra of “regime change” grows louder.
We will recall that in 1990, the previous President Bush undertook a similar, though fundamentally different, effort in Iraq. In the Persian Gulf War, the United States had as its stated purpose the ejection of the Iraqi army from Kuwait.
As a military endeavor, the Gulf War was a resounding, if ultimately shocking and unsettling, success. Even then, however, grumbles about why the U.S.-led coalition did not oust Saddam when it presumably had the chance stole some of the victory’s thunder. Many also feared that a decade down the road, the country might find itself back in Iraq.
And so it may turn out. But by choosing to act unilaterally, with only the uncertain support of Great Britain, and with the Arab world warning strongly against an invasion, the present administration seems about to encounter a blizzard of dissent it doesn’t want to acknowledge is there.
This rowdy brand of nation-building seems par these days. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has installed a tentative leadership, which if not assassinated might bring actual stability. But with how many nameless and untold deaths, and at what continued cost to the Afghan people?
President Bush’s case for unseating Saddam is predicated on the vacuous idea that any regime is better than the present one. And true, Saddam has been a butcher who has presented real threats to his neighbors over the years. But why does the United States feel that it is in the best interests of its people – or of the Iraqi people and their neighbors – to invade and replace Saddam with whatever interim government we can cobble together?
By pressing ahead with plans for a military strike and brushing aside not only congressional but Cabinet-level concerns, Bush alone seems to wield the controls. This is not the way a democratic government is intended, or able, to work.
Any politician can topspin his way past legislative opposition. But when many in the military oppose a complex and costly campaign that they are expected to carry out – as they do here – only grim misadventure can ensue.
For those of us who oppose war, in whatever disguise it is marketed, this scenario becomes deeply troubling. Not only do we, and the Iraqi people, face a drawn-out campaign to change the face of the Arab world, we face it alone, and without a clear idea of what our country seeks to achieve beyond Saddam’s ouster.
Ever since 9/11, our country has been sold an open-ended agenda by the present administration – an agenda of wars that end when the president says they end, and of diplomacy that fosters acting on our own, and apart from the discretion of even our allies.
If we haven’t realized it yet, we are seeing a war manufactured before our eyes. If this is not a point of low morality for our country, we’re not sure what is.
This column was reprinted with permission from the Mennonite Weekly Review.