Invading Iraq: Why This? Why Now?
THE WAR DRUMS, BEATING FOR MORE THAN A YEAR, will reach their crescendo on December 8th when Iraq, under the terms of November’s U.N. Security Council resolution, must provide inspectors with a complete list of its weapons of mass destruction. Many experts believe that the U.S. will be able to find enough evidence that Saddam Hussein has flouted international law to justify an invasion. The costs for both Iraq and the United States will almost certainly be significant. Rolling Stone convened a panel of experts to explain the basics of this invasion: Why are we doing this? What are the risks? And what will it lead to down the line?
The U.S. has already moved troops, tanks and bombers into the Persian Gulf region. But still it’s not clear to many Americans that Iraq itself poses an immediate threat.
KENNETH POLLACK:Iraq does not pose an immediate threat to the U.S. Iraqi scientists and engineers are working feverishly to produce nuclear weapons, which is a violation of international law, but we don’t expect the weapons to be ready for several years. The United States most definitely should invade before that happens. There is a strong argument for taking more time to prepare for the risks associated with waging this war. But from a political perspective, it’s basically now or never: The Bush administration has somewhat backed itself into a corner by having raised expectations so high. It will be nearly impossible for them to once again generate the kind of public and international support they now have.
DR. KHIDHIR HAMZA: We have no choice but to invade. It will be impossible to control Saddam, to contain his development of weapons of mass destruction. He has 18,000 workers in his weapons program. There is no way a couple of hundred U.N. inspectors can outwit his regime. The decision is whether to go to war now or to wait until he has nuclear weapons, and then the costs will be unimaginable.
CHARLES FREEMAN: I am very skeptical about the necessity of an invasion, and I am concerned about the possible consequences not only to the American position in the Middle East but to our alliance structure at large. I was ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the last Gulf War, and I supported that action. It was the right thing to do, and it worked. This is the wrong thing to do, it is unlikely to work, and it has little behind-the-scenes support. There are a handful of political appointees who are enthusiasts. The military is mostly opposed to this whole adventure. The intelligence bureaucracy is unenthusiastic, to put it mildly.
AL GORE: We have the FBI saying the bureau has lost focus on the war against terror. We have CIA officials telling the press that resources needed for victory in the war against terror are being diverted to the war against Iraq. We have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying we’ve lost ground in Afghanistan. We have the director of the CIA saying that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself and poses as big a threat now as it did during the weeks preceding 9/11. This is a matter for serious concern.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: In my thirty years covering the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, I have not seen a bigger group of imbeciles than the current administration in the White House. What right do we have to say that Saddam is a menace to the United States right now when (A) he has no missiles that could reach us; and (B) even his neighbors don’t feel he is a threat? Every one of them — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iran — is opposed to this invasion.
SEN. ROBERTY KERREY: One of the reasons Iraq’s neighbors don’t feel he’s a threat is that for eleven years the United States and our allies have been waging limited warfare against Saddam Hussein in order to contain him. And our containment efforts are hitting the innocent people of Iraq much harder than the perpetrator himself.
What is the relationship between the war on Iraq and the war on terror?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Thus far, there’s been no connection established between Saddam Hussein and the atrocities of September 11th, 2001. Maybe there is something the president knows that he hasn’t shared with anybody else. But according to people who are on the inside of this and have looked at the evidence, apparently there is no new information to underscore the urgency.
POLLACK: Nevertheless, September 11th changed public attitudes toward an invasion of Iraq: It convinced many Americans that we need to actively seek out threats and destroy them before they can strike us. My sense is that the Bush administration has wanted to invade Iraq since entering office, but before September 11th, the American people never would have supported it. Today, he’s got over sixty percent approval. Same thing goes for our allies: No one wants to cross a wounded superpower.