The Challenge of Iraq


I was recently in Iraq as part of a delegation of members of Congress who traveled there to observe the humanitarian conditions, press upon the Iraqis the need for weapons inspections and gain insight into the dangerous implications a unilateral, preemptive strike would have on U.S. national interest. These are subject areas generally ignored in our current discourse.

President George W. Bush has offered a litany of reasons for why Saddam Hussein is a "homicidal dictator."  The president did not have to convince many on that point, as there is no question of the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime.   His past actions demonstrate the need for disarmament and a strict weapons inspections program with unfettered access to all sites, including the presidential compounds. We made that point with unrelenting consistency in every meeting in Iraq.   And after our meetings with United Nations officials, I am more confident that weapons inspectors can disarm Saddam Hussein.  One need only look at the Gulf War example, where far more chemical and biological weapons were destroyed by inspections than war.  In a seven-year period, we had hundreds of inspectors conducting thousands of inspections and destroying tons of weapons.

The only reason not to seek a diplomatic solution to this crisis is if one can make the case that Saddam Hussein posses an imminent threat.  With all of the white papers, dossiers, speeches and hearings, that case has not been made. 

We are indeed facing an imminent threat.  The imminent threat to the safety of the American people, our diplomatic core serving overseas and our brave men and women in the military comes from the scourge of terrorism.  President Bush assembled a formidable coalition of world nations in our fight against al-Qaeda.  A unilateral attack against Iraq will destroy that coalition and harm our foreign, military and intelligence objectives.   It will harm our national security by altering the world stage for our war on terror and its broader global implications will be far reaching.

In thirty years of service to my country - four years in the Air Force and twenty-six in the House of Representatives - this is the most fragile, dangerous state I have ever seen the world in.  I liken it to a tinderbox where any one incident can set off a grave sequence of events.

How will the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan interpret our unilateral action as they continue their battle over Kashmir?  What if China and Taiwan heed our new preemptive strike doctrine?  How long can we continue to overlook the unrelenting violence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict while we launch a war presumably to enforce UN resolutions? 

Upon my return, I began to think about the severe divide between Americans and Arabs on this issue.  For an Iraqi audience, I stressed disarmament and compliance with inspections.  For Americans, we need to understand the nature of Iraqi suffering. 

President Bush said, "America is a friend to the people of Iraq."  After visiting hospitals, teaching a high school class and simply walking around the streets of Baghdad talking to ordinary citizens, I learned they do not have that same impression.

Whether the blame lies at Saddam Hussein's footsteps or not, the devastation of the most comprehensive sanctions regime imposed in modern history makes it clear why we are not viewed as a friend.  Ordinary people talked about how sanctions have destroyed their lives.  A humanitarian panel commissioned by the United Nations Security Council in 1999 concurred stating "the gravity of the humanitarian situation is indisputable and cannot be overstated . . . Iraq has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty."

It follows a deadly cycle.  Food rations are leading to a lack of protein resulting in low birth weights - 4% before the war, now at 25%. Whether it is diarrhea, dehydration, respiratory problems, or malnutrition - the result is the death of 50,000 children prematurely a year, half-a-million over ten years.  For those lucky enough to survive, we have an entire generation of Iraqi children whose growth is stunted. 

On a tour of a hospital in the southern town of Basra, a doctor told us that before the war, the first question asked in their hospital when a new baby is born is "is it a boy or girl?" After the war and the use of depleted uranium shells, the question became "is it normal or not?" People fear getting pregnant because of the rates of birth defects and the rate of some cancers has increased by 120%. 

The challenge of Iraq is not just disarming a dictator.  It is not just averting an unnecessary war.  It is understanding the nature of suffering inflicted upon innocent Iraqis in the aftermath of the Gulf War and the potential for further harm with a new military engagement.  It is understanding how the Arab and Muslim world view the United States in relation to that suffering.   

That challenge is now President Bush's alone since Congress has given him the option of war - a war that will ultimately show our power, but not our strength.


U.S. Congressman David Bonior, D-Michigan


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, George W. Bush, Iraq, Saddam Hussein
Views: 1612

Related Suggestions

 
COMMENTS DISCLAIMER & RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


Older Comments:
GRENDIZER FROM UK said:
Let me ask you something Mr. David Teall aka airforce ace...how christian is it to bomb an innocent nation of straving people who didnt harm you in any way ?
So much for that "love thy enemy jazz" !
2002-11-09

DAVID TEALL FROM USA said:
Mr. Congressman
I am a Senior Airman in the United States Air Force and I am also a Christian. Its is not my duty as an Airman or a Christian to question the President's deceision nor do I feel it is yours. I do beleive in freedom of speech which entitles you to your opinion but I think standing behind our president should be our most important goal as Americans. I am insulted that you politicians declare that the president is a loose cannon ready to attack Saddam. I beleive what is to happen in the United States and oversees will be determined by GOD not you or any president. If politicians do not realize this then keep preaching about what America should be doing and in the mean time remember me after revelations. Hope to see you in heaven.

My opinion,
SrA Teall
2002-10-25

ABDUL WADOUD FROM USA said:
As Salaamu Alaikum

I address my comments initally to nofobanana and yahyah and to anyone else interested in the truth about the effect the sanctions have had on the Iraqi people. visit the following site http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/sanction/iraq1/2002/paper.htm#4 sposored by Anglican Observer Office at the UN
Arab Commission for Human Rights
Center for Development of International Law
Center for Economic and Social Rights
Fellowship of Reconciliation Global Policy Forum
New Internationalism Project, Institute for Policy Studies
Mennonite Central Committee
Middle East and Europe Office of Global Ministries of the United
Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Quaker UN Office-New York United Church of Christ UN Office
World Economy, Ecology and Development Association (WEED)

in association with
Save the Children UK
This is a UN site that did a study of the effects of sanctions as the Prophet said "seek knowledge even if you must go to China" It is obvious that you brothers have not followed this advice. Now if we Muslims were Muslims in anything but name we would have settled this and many of the other problems plaguing the Ummah. The war we lost in six days in 1967 would have been won and 2/3s of the worlds refugee population would not be Muslim, nor would we have Muslims killing other Muslims or trying to create Islamic states through force and terror. Until we aguire true faith until La Illaha IllAllah becomes something we believe and not just something we say we will continue to be the worlds stepchildren.Finally Sadaam only claims Islam when in trouble for the most part he a secular socialist who visits the Mosque only for photo opps but he took the shaddah and rather we like it or not he deserves rights afforded to all Muslims and he deserves to be corrected and chastised by Muslims. When are we going to wake up
As Salaamu Alaikum
2002-10-23

SAIF FROM ENGLAND said:
This war is about Oil (energy), American interests, domination, globalisation. To have single ideology in the world. There can be no doubt about it. But is rule of 'Man' better than rule or Allah ? Allah SWT is the best of planner's. And there will be muslims who will challenge this arogance until the day of Judgement alhamdoolilah.
2002-10-23

JAWAD R. SHAKIR FROM USA said:
Iraqi people are suffering from hunger and disease as a result of the United States imposed sanctions. The United States government needs to immediately lift the sanctions it has placed on Iraq.

American people need to rally and lobby its leaders to concentrate our efforts to end the dehumanization of Iraqi people.

Our government needs to send medical supplies, food and clothing to the people of Iraq.
2002-10-23

NURU MUHAMMAD FROM NIGERIA said:
Assalamu alaikum,
It appears Uncle Sam has already made up his mind to go to war regardless of what others say. He is pretty sure of victory since today nobody can match his military and scientific strenghts. His real motive(s) for the war? May be Saddam, oil, Islam, Israel...or perhaps "peace".

Whatever may be his real motive, its pros and cons must have been discussed by now and I believe he must have heard it (assuming he has the ears that hear). So, Uncle Sam you may go out for war and use your FULL strength just like Pharaoh did when chasing the Israelites and...no, I may be using a wrong example. I'm sorry.

"They plan and Allah plans.And Allah is the best planner"

Bissalam
2002-10-23

K. A. YOOSUFANI FROM USA said:
I appreciate the concern expressed by Congressman
David Bonior regarding the people of Iraq. It
would be useful to put it in Islamic perspective.
Pen is mightier than sword. A war with Iraq and/
or unseating Saddam Hussein is not the best answer
I am suggesting that a small group of concerned
brothers should visit Saddam Hussein with the purpose of giving him sincere advice- regarding
Akhira, Allah's Commandments and his personal gain
in the Hereafter. Allah SWT has forbidden Zulm
(injustice) upon Himself and therefore will punish
severely anyone who practices Zulm (tyranny).
A tyrant ruler will be brought bound in chains on Judgment Day while waiting for Allah's Judgment.
Prophet Mohammed SAS said -a person may come with
lots of good deeds, but having done Zulm(injustice
to a number of persons. So his good deeds are given to those whom he wronged. Finally, when all
his good deeds are exhausted, their evils are
put in his account as compensation for Zu;m he did
Prophet Mohammed SAS said: Give your support to
the oppressed as well as to the oppressor. His (S)
Companions replied: How we should support the
oppressor? He SAS replied to make him stop Zulm.
Saddam Hussein is our muslim brother and we shd
help him by means of sincere advice. i.e. Amr
bil Ma'aroof and Nahee A'nil Munkar.
Secondly, Iraqi people themselves should obey
Allah SWT and His Rasul SAS. Then Allah SWT will
give them a good & just ruler. It is an art to
turn enemies into friends-and this can only be
done by few who practice patience & perseverence,
and are sincere in their endeavour.
War only creates enemies whereas this approach
will, InshaAllah, give excellent results.
Saddam will spend few years of his life in peace
with Allah SWT and so will his people.
Greed about oil is compelling foreigners to commit Zulm. Iraqi oil belongs to Iraqi people.



Com

2002-10-23

WISH TO REAMIN UNAMED FROM AMERICA said:
i liked your article. most articles that i have read are mostly critsizing anybody but the muslims. i think this showed critisism on both sides and that you showed that the peole in Iraq are not evil demonds {as other articles had depicted} but showed that they a are people as well and are going through a very dificult stransision and are not to be blamed at what there government does or decides. and not only that but you did not show america as all powerful but pointed out its good and its bad
the foramlity was good and level of critism was just right.
2002-10-23

AHMAD FROM U.S. said:
Salaam.

Brother Sajjad, did you read the article? The article stated facts. Just because the FACTS show that the U.S. is doing bad things doesn't mean that everyone hates America. The author didn't even mention that the US supplied Saddam with chemical and biological weapons, as well as other weapons. To say that the U.S. has nothing to do with Saddam, or the state of the Iraqi people is absolute garbage. No one in the whole world thinks Saddam is good. But does that mean that it's good for the US to attack Iraq to "remove Saddam?"

When we Muslims start looking to the kuffar for the solutions to our problems, then we are REALLY in trouble, and misguided.
2002-10-23

RAYAN B.T.S.A. RAFAY FROM CANADA said:
Saddam Hussein is the problem and so is George W. Bush. The solution is in averting the war and ousting Saddam. The Iraqi people must stage a coup and bring in a democracy, and I oppose to this occuring with US assitance. If the US were to attack Iraw they would put a friendly leader instead, like Hamid Karzai, which is terrible for the Iraqis. If Iraq has a democracy than we would see their strife vanish. For example, if Saudi Arabia were a democracy not only would it not be so Hypocritical as it is today but it would not give oil like water to the Americans. Unfortunately almost all Islamic nations have corrupt or cheap politicians that look for themselves, then their people. For some reason the pious are deterred from politics at the expense of the common civilian. Iraq needs someone to stand up to the US, to say that if you have nuclear weapons, we will too, but they will also be logical, rational and Islamic individiuals. By Islam of coure, I mean the correct Islam. Muslim nations control 72% of the world's oil supply; the world's most crucial resource yet we do not take advantage of it. Rulers like Saddam spend it on themselves rather than investing it in the people and technological development; the day the oil runs dry the Saudi's will become aware of the erroneous ways and if Saddam isn't replaced the Iraqis too will continue to suffer.
2002-10-22

SAJJAD FROM USA said:
Muslims with other view points, please speak up. Are there no Muslims who think ousting Saddam is a good thing? Is there no other side to this issue except America is bad? Is it possible something good may come out of ridding the world of a person like Saddam? Will Islamicity allow equal time to other view points on Iraq to be read, or is this Haram?
2002-10-22

NOFOBANA FROM UNITED STATES OF AMERICA said:
It is not the US' intentions to just go after Iraqi civilians. Who are we kidding!? US can never get away with that type of agenda. The US is solely after Saddam. Some may mistakenly die, but not purposefully. Everyone agrees that there is something seriously wrong with Saddam, and since the Arab/Muslim world won't do anything. The U.S. is forced to because why should America be put at risk because because the Saudi's and Kuwaitis couldn't defend themselves back in the 1990's. The U.S. is now playing defense, rather than offense for Arabs against "Madman" Saddam. We, Muslims, should not forget that there is over 6 million of us in America that are living a religious life freely and with many more to come. Americans are NOT out to get Islam, we are out to root out Evil no matter what they are. Yes of course, The U.S. should develop our Israeli policy, but it's hard because of the Jewish hold on the Media here. But slowyl it will happen, if the World lets it. Pres. Bush was the first US president to mention a Palestinian State. Bush also mentioned the fair treatment of Muslims in the U.S., during a Presidential Debate in 2000. Then 9-11 happend, and America is now between and rock and a hard place regarding Mid East Policy. Just try to understand as Peace loving Muslims that we are.
2002-10-22

YAHYAH ZAMZAM FROM USA said:
Why is there poverty in Iraq, Mr. Bonior? Because Saddam pours available resources into military and his own personal luxuries, sanctions or not. Things started really going downhill since the war with Iran, and the blame lies with Saddam, not America.

The official newspaper even played a cruel April Fool's Day joke on hungry people by falsely promising that rations would be increased. And you think America is at fault?

Rather than being concerned about pandering to liberal interests and ignorant American voters, tell the truth next time or do your homework, whichever applies.
2002-10-22

KASHIF SHAIKH FROM TORONTO, CANADA said:
Peace, I well written article that I most certainly would be photocopying and presenting to fellow University students...towards gaining petitions and support of upcoming multicultural Rallies in Toronto. We may not change the course of history but making the effort for human dignity and justice is vitally important both for our souls and giving strength to generations to come.
2002-10-22

KAMARA DUPREE FROM U.S.A. said:
I THINK YOU SHOULD TRY TO FORM A TRUCE.YOU SHOULD TRY TO BE A LITTLE MORE FRIENDLY TO OTHER COUNTRIES SO YOU CAN HAVE MORE ALLIES. IF YOU WERE A LITTLE BETTER THEN MAY BE EVERYONE WOULDNT WANT TO START WARS TO SETTLE THERE DISAGREEMENTS.
iN THE ARTICLE YOU SAID SHOW YOUR POWER BUT NOT YOUR STRENGTH. i THINK YOU SHOULD SHOW BOTH BECAUSE YOUR POWER MIGHT DIE DOWN.BUT YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR STRENGH TO KEEP YOU IN THE FIGHT. TRY TO BE FREINDS WITH YOUR ENEMYS YOU KNOW THE SAYING:

KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE BUT YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER.
2002-10-22