Can we back up
our claims?

by Jim Babka

Claim #7: One of our radio ads claims that Bush's plan to invade Iraq is not motivated by the "War on Terror." Can we support this claim?

There is no cause-and-effect relationship between the proposed war on Iraq and the "War on Terror." There is only a manufactured one, created by Bush after 9-11 to justify a pre-existing desire.

Our government has been committed to a policy of regime change in Iraq since 1991, long before the events of 9-11. It was the unspoken policy of the first Bush administration to maintain the sanctions against Iraq until Hussein was deposed. (See A World Transformed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.)

Then, in 2000, Secretary of State Madeline Albright became the first U.S. official to publicly state this policy, saying that the U.S. should oppose lifting the sanctions as long as Hussein was Iraq's ruler—even if he complied with UN weapons resolutions. (Source: Albright interview with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" January 2, 2000)

This should make it perfectly clear that the policy of regime change existed long before, and completely independent of, any war on terrorism. But that's not all. Bush speechwriter, David Frum, in his recently published pro-Bush book The Right Man, reveals that Bush, Jr. was already committed to deposing Hussein when he came into office, long before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

As Matthew Rothschild pointed out in the Los Angeles Times,

More than 30 times in the last seven months, Bush has used variations on a theme to describe the U.S. as vulnerable. For example, speaking to a conference of religious broadcasters in Nashville on Feb. 10, he said that before 9/11, "we thought oceans would protect us forever." The same day, at an informal press conference, Bush said: "The world changed on Sept. 11… In our country, it used to be that oceans could protect us—at least we thought so." Meeting with small-business owners in Georgia on Feb. 20, he invoked the oceans again.

But since Pearl Harbor, the oceans have not served as a buffer. And the intercontinental ballistic missiles of the Soviet Union kept the U.S. in a bull's-eye for 40 years, notwithstanding our vaunted seas.

But would deposing Hussein be helpful to the "War on Terror" anyway, even if that wasn't the original reason for the policy?

The answer is no—it would make the risk of terrorism much higher. The majority of the Iraqi population is Shia Muslim, the same religious grouping that dominates Iran. This is a major reason Hussein went to war with Iran in the 1980s—he wanted to keep the militant Shia regime in Iran from inciting Islamic revolution among his own Shia population. This problem still exists today. If we topple Hussein there is a very real chance that the Shia will come to power in Iraq and join with Iran to bring Islamic revolution to the whole region. In this event the potential for terrorist acts against the U.S. would increase dramatically. This danger is especially great if we use force to suppress the Shia majority in Iraq as part of our occupation of that country. Consider the current events in Afghanistan to get an idea of the kind of problems that could develop.

In addition, the current Muslim regime in Turkey is relatively moderate, and allied to us. But Turkey has a large Kurdish population bordering on Iraq's Kurdish population. If we topple Hussein there is a very real danger that the Kurds in Iraq will persuade the Kurds in Turkey to secede, and join them in forming a new Kurdish nation. This would mean civil war in Turkey, and create ripe conditions for extremist Muslims to gain power there. This would place a potentially terrorist nation on the doorstep of Europe.

But a policy of deterrence rather than war would avoid all of these risks. Deterrence would take advantage of Hussein's natural desire for self-preservation. Our government could simply say to Hussein, "Give weapons to terrorists and you die." Under a policy of deterrence it is much more likely that terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons from poor Russian scientists, or from an Islamist revolution in nuclear armed Pakistan, than from Saddam Hussein.

Finally, the idea that Hussein has any significant ties to either terrorists or militant Islamist groups of any kind is very poorly supported. It's important to remember that Hussein was our government's favored tool for containing militant Islamism in the region. He fought a war against the Islamist regime in Iran, with our encouragement, for just this purpose. (For a fuller analysis of Hussein's supposed links to terrorists see Claim #2.)

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