Check the facts before rushing to war

After a year of fighting in Iraq and an occupation fraught with violence, surely it is not rash to suggest, given the debacle over missing "weapons of mass destruction," that it is a good general rule to treat any official rationale for war with skepticism.

This conduct would be a healthy departure from the tendency of both Congress and the major media to assume, as was clearly done on the eve of this war in Iraq, that the government is telling the truth. And such skepticism would certainly be a prudent approach to any supposed candor coming from presidential press conferences, such as last night's, during an election campaign.

If one human being on trial can only be given a death sentence on the basis of certainty beyond "a reasonable doubt," then surely this criterion should be applied where the lives of thousands are at stake. The decision to go to war in Iraq should have been challenged on two grounds.

First, that the fearsome weapons claimed to be in Iraq's possession had not been found despite months of inspection by a United Nations team given unrestricted access throughout that country. Second, common sense suggested that a nation with 25 million people, devastated by two wars and 10 years of economic sanctions, without a single nuclear weapon, surrounded by enemies far better armed, could not be an imminent threat to the most powerful military machine in history.

Not only did the president deceive the public, and take the country into war with a rationale that defied common sense, but Congress and the media, by going along, became accessories to that deception.

A bit of history might have suggested skepticism. It might have been recalled that President James Polk took us into war with Mexico in 1846, and William McKinley took us into war with Spain in 1898, and Congress authorized war in Vietnam in 1964, all based on deceptions.

Another suggested principle: When a calamity occurs - such as the killing of soldiers on the Mexican border, or the sinking of the battleship Maine, or the blowing up of the Twin Towers, should Congress, the media and the public not be wary that the calamity might be made an excuse for going to war, with the real reasons concealed from the country?

Should we not, after the terrible events of Sept. 11, have acted more intelligently, in a more focused way, against terrorism, seeking fundamental causes, rather than striking out blindly at whatever seemed easy targets - Afghanistan, Iraq? Should we not have considered whether military action might not inflame terrorism rather than diminish it?

When the evidence for war is shaky, should we not ask: What is the real reason for military intervention?

History might be useful here. Is it too embarrassing to suggest that oil is the real reason for virtually anything the United States has done in the Middle East? The real reason for war with Mexico was to take almost half of its territory. The real reason for war in Cuba was to replace Spanish control of that island with U.S. control. The real reason for war in the Philippines was the markets of China. The real reason for the Vietnam War was to take another piece of real estate in the Cold War game of Monopoly with the Soviet Union.

Another general principle, buttressed by history: Military interventions and occupations do not lead to democracy. I would cite the long occupations of the Philippines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Also: the military action in Vietnam on behalf of a corrupt and dictatorial government, and the many covert actions - Iran, Guatemala, Chile - leading to brutal dictatorships.

More conclusions, from both history and our experience in Iraq: that all wars have unintended consequences, usually bad ones; that military occupation is corrupting to the occupied country and also to the occupiers; that the casualties of a military adventure are not just the immediate ones, but continue far beyond. Think of the tens of thousands of suicides of Vietnam veterans, the 160,000 medical casualties of the Persian Gulf War.

A final lesson from past and present: The American public cannot depend on our much overrated system of "checks and balances" to prevent a needless and costly war. Congress and the Supreme Court have proved to be no check for an executive branch hell-bent on combat. Only an aroused citizenry can provide the check on unbridled power that a democracy requires. 

Howard Zinn is professor emeritus at Boston University and author of "The People's History of the United States."

Source: Newsday

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Older Comments:
Salaamu alaikum,

No Nick you are so mistaken, I am angry but I am still a peace loving man. I would never kill you or anyone else but I would love to see justice served against the world's terrorists that kill civilians including America's terrorists because Bush for your knowledge is no different than Saddam. I would love to see him with his gang tried for war crimes against humanity. If I was an Arab leader & had your nukes & the Jewish money & power, I would still not use them against you because I know that your governments wouldn't dare attack me & my Ummah because if they do they happened to be "blood thirsty" then yes I will declare Jihad against them but not against you if you happened to be a civilian. I would definitely instruct my army not to kill civilians and if you happen to die by accident I would pray to Allah for forgiveness.

You see Nick, our biggest mistake we Muslims is that we listened to the majority of our Muslim scholars especially those of the Ottoman empires that opposed the idea of developing weapons of mass destructions making our people today the feast of all nations to devour. Islamically, they are correct but I guess they did not understand how far the West will go to destroy their culture's very existence & what they would do to achieve that goal. I guess prophet Muhammad's prophecy came true because our Muslim scholars oppose the idea of building weapons of mass destruction on the expense of Arab Muslims & Arab Christians lives.
Rest assured Nick that I am not a criminal & criminals power to manipulate you & many good Americans are the reason of my anger, outrage and disgust.

Zinedine's response to me was confirms another of my beliefs.

"We do need those WMD too to fight you .. on "equal" footing. So far Muslims are still the heroes that don't hide behind Jumbo jets & F16 & kill civilians like .. you are so proud of."

I always suspected that many in the Muslim world would attack American civilians like myself with WMDs. Not only did Zinedine remind me of our worst fears, i.e. enemies armed with WMDs aimed at us, but he also confirmed the Bush Administration's assertion that our enemies would use them against American civilians if given the chance.

Zinedine, you would seek to kill me even though I would have never have tried to harm you. It's people like you who turned me into a policy hawk after 9/11.

May God have mercy on your soul.

Salaamu alaikum,

This is a response to the two ..: Nick & Gitta in support of Akbar Khan.
We do need those WMD too to fight you .. on "equal" footing. So far Muslims are still the heroes that don't hide behind Jumbo jets & F16 & kill civilians like .. you are so proud of.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the infamous WMDs will miraculously be found quite shortly before the US presidential elections.

Well Saif, winning an argument is indeed not the same as being right, as you said. Rhetorical victories mean little to me, for they have no effect on Truth. That's why I dismiss your excuses. You attempt to hide your own prejudices by accusing the entire American people of bigotry. You can try to put whatever label you want on your remarks, but painting us all with a broad brush stroke as "close minded and arrogant" only betrays your own close-mindedness and arrogance.

As far your fascinating comments about our "collective responsibility", the American people does not authorize specific governmental policy, contrary to your apparent misconceptions. Our democracy is based on delegating authority, and by extension responsibility, to our elected officials. If we don't like the job that our officials are doing, then generally our recourse is to elect alternative candidates at the end of each political term. And the American people will have the chance to do that with the Presidency this November. So blaming the entire American citizenry for the goings on in Iraq is at best ignorant on your part, for the American people won't officially speak out on such issues until our elections.

As for your predictably snide remark about "spewing the Washington line on this forum", I speak only for myself. And don't tell me about "drawing a veil over the truth", because that's precisely what you did by trying to make excuses for your own narrow-minded comments to me. Blame where blame is due...;)

Peace to you, Kelly. Thanks for your response. As far as I know, for such a giant event, for a senior Israeli Nuclear scientist to be released from an Israeli prison after 18 years, and to be surrounded by thousands of Israeli's outside of his prison awaiting his release in order to thank him for speaking the truth, basically in support of him, tells you something very important...U.S. Media corporations which own many newspapers, television networks, and local newspapers, did not, but Should have, given extensive coverage to this event. I may be wrong for saying that they gave no coverage, but it was definitely not national, and I did not see it on one front page of one major US newspaper - I saw it on the Toronto Star though :-).

Even though the United Nations has asked Israel to disarm many times, Israeli officials never confirm, nor deny that they possess Nuclear weaponry, and simply do not want to awaken the American public to the dirty truth...that Israel is the nuclear monster of the Middle East. I find Ariel "the butcher" Sharon's visit to Washington to be of calculate political's strange how so many events recently took place while the controversy engulfed people's minds about Bush and Sharon's new annexation of Palestinian lands and the denial of 3.7 million Palestinians the right to return home. Then, Ahmed Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, both assassinated yet the media calls it "targeted killing" in order to desensitize the public? Then the release of Israeli former Nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu from 11 yrs of solitary confinement and a total of 18 yrs in has to seriously be able to wonder, why are American people never told about Israeli Bush is best friends with a war criminal who massacred tens of thousands of people in 1982's Sabra and Shatilla massacres, and various other massacres in the past.

Can we coin this as being "selective democracy"?

Peace to you, Kelly Lefarge, thank you.

Kelly Lafarge:

Your suspicions are correct, because despite Akbar Khan's claims our media did cover the story.,2933,117710,00.html,1,5662198.story

There are more, but I think you get the picture.

Akbar Khan wrote: "American media conglomerates gave NO COVERAGE to former Israeli Nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu who was just released yesterday..."

Is this true? There was coverage here in Canada about the release, about how many Israelis considered him to be a traitor, and about how he isn't allowed to leave to country for at least a year. Was there really nothing in the US? Not that I doubt you, Akbar, but it seems like something that should have been covered. I remember when CNN interupted their coverage 6 months back to announce that some former member of Israel's parliament had died of old age, so it seems strange that there was no mention of this.


SAIF FROM U.S. said:
Nick Cameron writes in response to my posting,

"This is what I meant by bigotry in the Muslim world. But the core issues are that such immoral intolerance is a) pervasive and b) generally unopposed."

It was bigotry that caused the U.S. to punish one group of muslims for the crimes of another. Iraq was linked to AQ using falsified intelligence when in fact no link has ever been established. Oh, yes it's also bigotry to support the killing and oppression of civilians by your friends with US weapons(israel) and to then to say that you plan to liberate another group of muslims.

Immoral intolerance, an extremely loaded term. How is it immoral? Is it not the responsibility of a democratic people to question their governments actions and motives, a responsibilty that the populous, the media and congress shirked before the war. Everybody was ready to believe whatever info this administration provided. Yes, it is the collective responsibilty of the U.S. citizens, they shirked their democratic responsibilty. Every U.S. soldier that dies that we hear about and the countless numbers of Iraqis that are killed whose body counts are not tabulated, do so because Americans were to closed minded and arrogant and refused to search the truth. By the way where is the "morality" in bringing back high ranking Baathists back into the American fold if the said purpose now is to free the Iraqis from the oppression of the Saddam regime.

Nick, who ever put you in charge of spewing the Washington line in this forum, selected a good spinner of words. I read what you write often, and undoubtedly you are very skilled at drawing a veil over the truth with words. Winning the argument doesn't mean you are fundamentally right.

Saeed, I agree with you. If the American public were more interested in reducing suffering/death in the world than in defending the US against attack, all that money might flow as food and medicine into the 3rd world. But we are not. We are selfish, like all humans, and put our self-preservation above that of others. It is more in every country's best interest to remove a perceived threat than to give handouts. The US gets severely criticized for not being more generous, only because it is the richest country, but if Sryia were the richest country if wouldn't be any more generous - it would not be in their best interests.

Regarding your other excellent point on WMD: Obviously incorrectly, the US government thought he had WMD. Yes, N. Korea has WMD, but it was felt that Iraq would be much more likely to give WMD (if they had them) to Al Qaeda. (Also, it was easier to take down Iraq - fewer US casualties, Iraq had no big brother like a China, etc. Iraq was the low hanging fruit.) Getting back to my #1 point on my first email, N. Korea was much less likely to cause the US to be attacked, thus it was less of a direct threat. People here were very concerned that Iraqi WMD would end up in the hands of people eager to use them. (Lesson for any country thinking about dealing with militant extremists.)

Actually, Nick, at the risk of my seeming presumptuous, Singh is fairly common name for Sikhs. Peace!

Oh - and peace to Brother Talwar, also!

For those of you who feel it is necessary to be vulgar and obnoxious while making a point, whatever. I would point out that referring to Jesus in such a crass way not only offends Christians, but is also forbidden in Islam. Grow up. Or go play somewhere else.
2:136 Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)."

SEND U.N. Weapons Inspectors to Israel Immediately!!! Press release press release...? Oh wait a minute, American media conglomerates gave NO COVERAGE to former Israeli Nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu who was just released yesterday after 18 years in an Israeli prison for spilling hte beans on Israel's nuclear arsenal. That's right..who cares if Israel has 400 thermo-nuclear weapons and nuclear warhead armed submarines.

SHOCKING...yes it is, read it here, get the low down on what Israel has had all along, and Iraq hasn't... :

Just to add 2 points:
1-To look at the WMDs failed claims as a reason to invade Iraq look to N-Korea.
2-To look at freeing a nation as a reason look lives lost in Africa and Asia for the lack of food. Is freeing a person better than keeping him a life. The billions spent in war against Iraq could save millions of lives.

While I disagree with several of the author's points, I'll focus on one - the war in Iraq is not about oil. I submit that most Americans really don't care what happens in the Middle East (including between Israel and it's neighbors - thus the lack of US leadership in that conflict). We would much rather that that part of the world police it's own problems. What we do want, in this order is:
(1) to not be attacked. The war in Iraq would not have occurred were it not for Osama bin Laden. 9/11 turned the US (even more?) aggressive, and the possibility of WMD linking up with Al Q was all the justification many needed to support the war.
(2) a PROSPEROUS Middle East that will be a market to our products. Most Americans believe that democracy goes hand in hand with open markets, thus a democratic Iraq in the following decades would be more prosperous, and more likely to buy American products. (Most wars occur for economic reasons - to blame this on oil is shortsighted and, I believe, wrong. We don't need Iraq's oil.) Look at all the countries that border Iraq; if a free market economy and democracy can thrive in Iraq, it will be hard for Iraq's neighbors to stop their migration. A free and prosperous REGION is the real prize.
(3) we want somewhat of a lid to be kept on the regional violence - too much (e.g. Kuwait) and we feel compelled to intervene.

As has become commonplace with many Muslims on this website, Talwar Singh is presuming too much about me.

Talwar, my fine feathered friend (lol I kid because I love!), I do happen read the Economist, among other periodicals. I never denied that Saddam and OBL conflicted ideologically. If you had read my comments less carelessly, you would have realized that what I said was far different from what you imagined I said. Let's try to read it more closely this time, shall we? Here ya go:

"As we all know, OBL had three grievances against the U.S. First, he objected to the U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Second, he didn't want American troops in Saudi. Third, he disagreed with America's productive friendship with Israel. The War in Iraq made moot 2 of OBL's complaints."

Still confused? Allow me to spell it out! Since Saddam is no longer in power, there is no reason for economic sanctions in Iraq. So they've been removed. And since there's no more threat of Saddam invading KSA, there no more need to keep our troops on Saudi soil. So, like the sancions, they've been removed. Easy, no? ;)

Talwar Singh, my friend, next time try to read with your eyes rather than your mouth (or in this case, your typing hands). Assalamualaikum, dood!

Nick, buddy, you mentioned OBL in a losing nuance?! You are deluted away from the truth. According to your facts and measure sticks, OBL carries the day. He is the champion! The greatest winner of all battles that USA through herself in. You wonder how? Well, up to date, considering OBL responsible for 9/11(I personally doubt it, there was no evidence presented), then add that kill plus the losses in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places that US claims to be masterminded by OBL. Total kill would be, let's say, close to 4000?! Wow, a man that killed approximately 4000 Americans and still transmitting messages of threat?! If you killed him yesterday, he would still be the champion! Moneywise? How much, up to date? $500 billions? And still growing? Think again, Nick, nobody's an idiot on this website except LP, Tim B. and you sometimes, but you come around. USA's butt is owned by Israel. Israel says:"Go!" Go it is for USA. As for your comment:"And I agree that there is only one God." This would make you Muslim if it was honest. Who is your god? Jesus? The Holy Ghost? The Father? Now how the hell, there is only one god for you? Or is this also part of Western hypocracy and bigotism? The trinity is one, Christians say, why can't clairvoyants see that? Let me guess, they don't have the Holy Ghost mother of all gods in them! Mary, mother of god! Jesus, son of god! Holy Ghost, father of god! Jesus, lord god! Paul, Jesus Christ! Jews, killers of god! Muslims, pagans! Are you Christian people serious in your statements and believes? These things don't make sense to any rationale! These are the sick speculations of a monk on Thai-sticks! Even a pot-head like Bob Marley made more sense! You can live with it? Live with it, damn it, but don't force it on us! Believe what you want. Have sex with whom ever your stupid law allows you! Dress or undress! Suck or bite! Who cares? Just do not force it on us Asians and Africans of different views than your sodomic and ghomorric ones!

Nickey "Dickey" and "LP Space Cadet". I don't suppose you ever read the Economist or The Times or The Walls Street Journal (No? you are probably reading The New York Post..and it shows). Well if you had you would have seen old Ossy B. Laddy not only condemning the secularist Baath party as being anti-isalmic but actively calling for the overthrow and extermination of Saddam. You see LP and Nickie/Dickie, since you don't know much (no surprise) Islam and Secularism are like oil and water. In this regard not only did our friend the Ape, Bushie, share a common goal with his bosom buddie Ossie B. Laddy but ol Ossie is probably laughing it up because Saddam was one of the biggest threats to Al-Quieda and "Bright" Bushie eliminated him. What a total dope. By the way Jesus Christ came to me last night and said, "Beware the One Eyed Man", would that be either of you Nickey Dickey or LP? He also said to read George Monibots article in the Guardian. I have never laughed so much. Boy you Christians are nutters:,3604,1195568,00.html

LP - you really are asleep. It has now been determined, time and time again that UN INSPECTORS WERE NOT DENIED ENTRY INTO IRAQ -EVER. The US Marine Sargent and UN Team Inspector, Ritter has stated this time and tim eagain and this has been verified by teh ENTIRE WORLD. The only morons who continue to harp the same old rubbish are you and the Bush team. On the Chemical weapons, you nutter, it was YOUR government who gave the Bio & Chemical weapons to Iraq in the first place to use against Iran and Kurds. Saddam used it all - thanks to you on teh Iranies and Kurds. LP are you just lost in space or what ?

BNAK said:
LP's comments are biased. Either he's truly unaware of the facts or he foolishly believes in those two facts he has specified. He says:

They possessed WMD in the form of bio. and chemical. It was used in the past to murder the people of northern Iraq and admitted to it at the end of the last war in UN Resolution 1441 on file with the UN.

My response:
Who gave Saddam those biological weapons and chemical weapons? Who was acting a mute spectator when those weapons were being used on the civilians? The answer to both these questions is: USA.

UN inspectors have been denied access to inspect for WMD since 1996. It is understood that the WMD was taken to Syria in the last four months of foot draging by the Hussein government.

My Response:
Yes, the UN Inspectors were denied access BUT not by Saddam Hussain but USA. They cut short the unhindered access UN Weapons inspectors had to the suspected weapons sites, inspite of repeated pleas by Hans Blix to let them complete their inspections. As for the charge that the weapons were transfered to Syria, nobody is foolish here to believe that a brutal regime that has WMDs will quietly transfer the weapons to a neighbouring country, instead of using those WMDs against the approaching enemy. How insane a claim it is that only fools like you can believe.

'Praise be to Jesus (PBUH) the ONLY GOD and LORD' you say, but how come the Jews killed 'Jesus' if he were the Lord and GOD? So, is your claim not a blasphemy?
We say, Peace Be Upon Jesus, the messenger of Allah.

To add to LP's comments, there was also a 9/11 connection. As we all know, OBL had three grievances against the U.S. First, he objected to the U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Second, he didn't want American troops in Saudi. Third, he disagreed with America's productive friendship with Israel. The War in Iraq made moot 2 of OBL's complaints.

And I agree that there is only one God.

Howard, your article shows reality, but is there a way it can reach the ears of the American public. Is there a way to find out a fair media that is concerned the truth. Is there a way to avoid future deception. America needs to breed amity instead of enemity to lead the rest of nations to harmony.

Saif said:

"George Bush is a reflection of American society. The blood of the innocent men, women and children of Iraq taint the collective hands of the U.S. citizenry."

This is what I meant by bigotry in the Muslim world. But the core issues are that such immoral intolerance is a) pervasive and b) generally unopposed. If I were a gambling man, I'd bet that I'll get more flak over my response than Saif will over his comments. And that, my brothers and sisters, is the problem.

Peace requires compromise and, at times, even a healthy portion of self-criticism. But peace will forever remain unattainable if the "moderates" in the Muslim world remain silent in the face of extremist hate.

The two reasons in this artical are false. The reason for going to war with Iraq is clear. Fact #1, They possessed WMD in the form of bio. and chemical. It was used in the past to murder the people of northern Iraq and admitted to it at the end of the last war in UN Resolution 1441 on file with the UN. You have seen the mass graves? Who did that? It was the intentions of the Iraq government to secure nuclear weapons. Fact #2, UN inspectors have been denied access to inspect for WMD since 1996. It is understood that the WMD was taken to Syria in the last four months of foot draging by the Hussein government.
The insurgent are going to get what thy're asking for and America is again, in the lead as always.
Look at Japan, Germany, France, Viet Nam. We are always be there to insure the peace. NO MATTER WHO'S RELIGION IS THERE!

Praise Jesun Christ! The only Lord and GOD!

Those are the facts. Now go back and do your homework again.

Terrific!!! finally an article that makes very important points in a style that is rational and tolerable. Zinn makes the most valid point of all: "Only an aroused citizenry can provide the check on unbridled power that a democracy requires."

The answer lies in the American desire to give the appearance of having a higher moral ground, and to cover their crime and mess with sweet smelling rhetoric and rubbish that any one with even a pea for a brain could see right through. Americans like to look good - no matter what lies underneath, and this is in their history. Whenever they are killing, plundering or murdering all of a sudden all this was ordained by God and they were only doing so in order to "spread Democracy," or if things get worse and their underwear is showing, "protecting their National Interests" and if their nakedness is apparent to all, "God ordained it". To illustrate this strange and hypocritical American nature, some time ago I happened to visit some historical homes in the US. I noticed that beneath the beds there was a large pan. I also noticed the large number of antique perfume bottles and the paintings were of men and women with elaborate hair designs. Our guide then explained that the pots were to hold human excrement, which was shoved under the bed after the call of nature had been satisfied. The masters and ladies of the homes would rarely take baths because it was a very lengthy and expensive task indeed to make their grand hairdos and hence did not want to be bothered with this task too often. So to hide their smell they would drench themselves with perfume. So you see they stink and know it, but they try and hide their stink with pleasant words and rhetoric, thinking that they have fooled everybody. But amusingly not the whole world is as stupid as they.

George Bush is a reflection of American society. The blood of the innocent men, women and children of Iraq taint the collective hands of the U.S. citizenry. If the claim to democracy holds true, it is the duty of every citizen to search the truth and take their government to task, and yet what we've seen is the lynching of Iraq, everybody was on-board, congress, the media and the citizens of this country. Only now do we hear some dissent as the casualties begin to mount and it appears that the Iraqis were unwilling participants in their delusional plans.

By the way let me remind everybody in case someone didn't read about this fact. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, representative of the House of Saud, KNEW about the plans to attack Iraq before Colin Powell the Secretary of State did. These are the same Saudis, who placed the fornicating, alcohol consuming, pork eating, American forces in our Holy Lands. Are these people worthy of being the trusties of Mecca and Medina?

Since we're at it, let us not get fooled by the posturing of Mubarak of Egypt and Abdullah of Jordan. Both of them conspired in selling the dreams of Palestine, they plan to take over security functions in Gaza for their Zionist masters. How long will we quietly watch their crimes?

May Allah's punishment be swift up on the enemies of Islam.

absolutely.the Cheaney(lets be realistic Bush can barely read...)regime cheated by using the peoples anger after 9/11 to go to Iraq. ridiculious for many reasons, the first war on Irak happened without talking about weapons of mass destruction, why now and not then? simple because then the US,along with france, had sold a whole lot of those WMD to Saddam. the reason back then was Koweits "invasion". shouldn't the UN have acted? why the US, for the freedom of Koweitis? why not free Kashmir then? or Tibet? or so many others?!!no because the Saudis hired the US army to do a job. american kids are killed in wars because millionaire bizness men from Texas rent their lives...oil...oil...oil supply. such a long topic that...anyway lets just all remember that the oil barrel s price stays at 34 dollars because of Saudis, and it is sold 500 dollars back at home...x15!!! you get the picture... Iraqis have all the rights to be mad, i'll even say that they are very peacefull compared to the crime upon them!