Democracy by force. A U.S. doctrine of preemptive strikes against nations we don’t trust. And, perhaps, the death throes of future U.S. participation in the United Nations. Given the proposed March 17 deadline for Saddam Hussein’s disarmament, the bombing may have already started by the time you read this.
Let’s be honest on several points. Bush made it clear last fall that he had no interest in Iraq giving up its weapons of mass destruction. What he wants, always has wanted, is “regime change.” It wasn’t until this year’s State of the Union address that he talked of liberating Iraq in the name of Middle East democracy. Second, U.N. resolutions matter only when they suit our purposes. The U.N. has passed resolution after resolution calling upon Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and cease settlement activity subjugating and humiliating the Palestinians. To all this the United States has thumbed, and continues to thumb, its nose. And we wonder why the Arab world views us with such mistrust and even open contempt.
Barring some unforeseen miracle, all we can do is put down our protest banners, support our troops and hold Bush steadfast to every last promise he’s made about democratic reform in the Middle East. This is all about freedom, about deposing a tyrant? All right, then. Let’s do it. If Iraqi civilians are going to be bombed into oblivion, if U.S. servicemen and women are going to risk their lives, if our taxes are going to support years of occupation and rebuilding under Gen. Tommy Franks, let’s track our progress at every step—and hold Bush accountable. Meanwhile, let’s take on the tough questions.
• How could anyone so stupidly buy into Bush’s promise of Middle East democracy when every other nation we support in that region is led by some ruthless tyrant? How can we expect Iraq to turn democratic when even Kuwait failed to reform after its 1991 liberation? True. Egypt jails intellectuals and religious leaders, but we give them billions because they made peace with Israel. Kuwait’s still ruled by the Sabah family. No one’s spread militant Islam more effectively than Saudi Arabia, and they’re still our pals. In fact, despite that nation’s unquestioned record of persecuting religious minorities, the Bush administration removed them from a list of “countries of particular concern,” as drawn up by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. But remember: (insert ironic smirk here) this is about planting the seeds of Middle East democracy. If we remove just one despotic regime from the world, so much the better. Did we support Saddam in the past, even when he gassed Kurds and tortured Shiites? Regrettably, we did. All the more the reason, then, that we remove him.
• Why does Turkey insist on billions in U.S. aid—and a free hand with the Kurds—before allowing our troops on their soil? Because, as pointed out in Business Week, of all publications, we still haven’t paid them what we promised after Desert Storm. And because we’ve so few friends left in the world that all we can do now is bribe them.
• Isn’t this war all about oil? It is, and isn’t. Bush is concerned about Saddam hatching some terrorist attack on the United States or one of our Middle East allies. (What few we have left.) As everyone’s pointed out, that’s pure speculation. What we know for certain is that once Iraq is free and producing up to 6 million barrels per day, oil prices are sure to drop.
• So, what’s your point? We can’t stop the war. We can hold Bush accountable for his promises to bring democracy to the Middle East.