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."
Topics: Conflicts And War, History, Iraq, Iraq War, United States Congress, United States Of America
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.
"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.
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.
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...;)
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 reasons...it'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 prison...one has to seriously be able to wonder, why are American people never told about Israeli crimes...how 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.
Your suspicions are correct, because despite Akbar Khan's claims our media did cover the story.
There are more, but I think you get the picture.
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.
"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.
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.)
Oh - and peace to Brother Talwar, also!
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)."
SHOCKING...yes it is, read it here, get the low down on what Israel has had all along, and Iraq hasn't... :
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
And I agree that there is only one God.
"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 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.
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.