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Leave Iraq Alone

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Despite the fact that he is amassing an impressive display of military armament in the areas near Iraq, President Bush says that he still hasn’t made up his mind on whether to order an invasion of Iraq. That would imply that despite the array of intelligence and information that the president has in his possession, none of it so far has been sufficiently convincing for him to make up his mind.

Of course, there’s always another possibility: that the president isn’t telling the truth and that he secretly made the decision to invade Iraq long ago. But wouldn’t that mean that he has been deliberately deceiving the American people and the rest of world, even while reminding everyone that Saddam Hussein is a liar?

Since the United States, unfortunately, has now abandoned its constitutional requirement that the president secure a congressional declaration of war before waging war, in America the question of war now turns on the judgment of only one man, the president. President Bush himself emphasized this point when he recently scolded a reporter who suggested that war with Iraq was inevitable: “I’m the person who gets to decide, not you.”

Is Saddam as big and imminent a threat to the United States as the president now feels?

Bush began preparing people for the possibility of an invasion of Iraq after the September 11 attacks, which raises a troublesome question: If Saddam Hussein poses as big a danger to the United States as Bush says he does, why didn’t Bush make an invasion of Iraq the principal theme of his 2000 presidential campaign? Oversight? Mistake in judgment? If so, it’s not exactly the type of thing that inspires confidence, especially since Bush has wholly failed to support his newly found conviction with any objective evidence. We’re simply supposed to trust that his new feeling about Saddam is the correct one.

Among the many possible justifications the president has presented for invading Iraq is that Saddam Hussein intends to use weapons of mass destruction on the United States in the immediate future because he hates America for its “freedom and values.” That appears to be the most popularly accepted reason among the American masses and the mainstream press for supporting an invasion of Iraq. As a result of constant exhortations from administration officials after U.S. forces failed to capture Osama bin Laden, the fear that everyone had for bin Laden was transferred to Saddam. If Saddam is coming to get us, the argument goes, better that we get him first, even if that entails killing thousands of Iraqi people in the process.

But the president’s claim flies in the face of all the evidence, including that provided by both the president and his father, George H.W. Bush, who served as vice president from 1981 to 1989 and as president from 1989 to 1993.

As the mainstream media is now reporting, the Reagan-Bush regime delivered biological and chemical weapons and nuclear components to Saddam during the 1980s, including anthrax — yes, anthrax!

Ask yourself: Would Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush really have delivered such weapons to a person who hated America for its “freedom and values” and who intended to employ them against the United States? Not very likely. Neither Reagan nor Bush was that kind of person. Could they both simply have made an honest mistake of judgment with respect to Saddam’s character? Again, how likely is that, especially given the fact that the elder Bush had previously served as head of the CIA?

The critical question is: Whose judgment would you trust more — that of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush or that of Bush’s son, George W. Bush, especially when the latter presumably embraced the same judgment as Reagan and the elder Bush until after September 11 but has failed to provide any objective evidence supporting his change in judgment?

Moreover, if the elder Bush had truly believed that there was even a remote possibility that Saddam would utilize the biological and chemical weaponry against the United States that he and Reagan had delivered to him, don’t you think that he would have ordered U.S. troops to march all the way to Baghdad to capture or kill Saddam after ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991? After all, he had the perfect excuse to do so, since the United Nations (and the United States) was already at war against Iraq.

But instead, he left Saddam in power. Is that something a U.S. president would do with someone who intended to bomb American cities with biological, chemical, or nuclear weaponry? How likely is that?

And the truth is that despite the fact that all during the Gulf War (and before) Saddam obviously had the biological and chemical weaponry that Reagan and the elder Bush had provided him, he has never employed it against Americans, either against U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf War or here domestically through terrorist agents.

Keep in mind: Assuming that he still has biological and chemical weaponry, as the current President Bush maintains, Saddam has had more than 15 years to get those weapons into the hands of a terrorist agent to deliver to the United States and employ them against the American people. Yet he obviously has not done that. Why not, given the president’s claim that Saddam hates the United States for its “freedom and values” and intends to use his weaponry at any moment? Could President Bush’s current judgment about Saddam be wrong? Could his judgment at the time of the 2000 campaign and the judgment of both his father and President Reagan be the correct one?

That’s not to say that Saddam Hussein and, for that matter, all Iraqis don’t have good reason to hate the United States. They do, but it has nothing to do with America’s “freedom and values.” Instead, it has everything to do with the U.S. government’s bombs, embargoes, and interventions which are distinguishable from the “freedom and values” that most people think about when they think about America.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Gulf War never actually ended. It never ended because the U.S. government never stopped waging war against Iraq and has, in fact, continued waging war against that nation for more than 10 years.

First, there were the UN sanctions against Iraq, which were promulgated, pushed, and enforced at the instigation of the U.S. government. The impact of sanctions has fallen most heavily on the civilian population. While there are disputes over the numbers of Iraqi children who have died because of the sanctions, the estimates range from 500,000 to more than a million. What we do know is that at least three high UN officials resigned their posts because of a crisis of conscience over the large number of deaths resulting from the sanctions.

The U.S. government has tried to deny moral responsibility for the consequences of the sanctions by explaining, “The deaths of the children are Saddam’s fault because he’s using his ‘oil for food’ money to line his own pockets rather than feed his people.” Surprise, surprise. Didn’t U.S. officials know that dictators can be expected to behave as dictators, especially after 40 years of sanctions against Cuba? And how could U.S. officials honestly expect that a socialist, central plan such as “oil for food” would feed people, in the face of the total failure of socialism and central planning to feed people all over the world?

The truth is that both Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial rule and the sanctions have worked in concert to kill all those Iraqi children. While there wasn’t a formal partnership between the U.S. government and Saddam to kill the children, such as the one that existed between Reagan-Bush and Saddam to kill Iranians, the actions of both Saddam and the U.S. government nevertheless jointly operated as a vise that squeezed the life out of hundreds of thousands of (innocent) children and consigned their parents to continuous economic misery. Both the U.S. government and Saddam Hussein, jointly and separately, bear moral responsibility for the deaths and for the impoverishment of the Iraqi people since the technical end of the Gulf War.

Unfortunately, the American people, by and large, have yet to confront and come to grips with the moral implications of their own government’s furnishing anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons, nuclear components, and cluster bombs to Saddam Hussein for the express purpose of using them to kill others. If it’s evil to use such weapons against others, why isn’t it equally evil to furnish them with the intent that they be used in that manner?

And Americans have yet to confront and come to grips with the moral implications of the U.S. government’s contribution to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of (innocent) children. If it’s evil for a regime to fail to distribute food and medicine to starving and sick children, why isn’t it equally evil for a regime to prevent their acquiring food and medicine through black-market means?

Moreover, soon after the “end” of the Gulf War, the U.S. government illegally established “no- fly” zones over Iraq, which it has relied on as a justification for engaging in a continual bombing campaign that has lasted more than 10 years and that has killed hundreds of Iraqi people. It’s a bombing campaign that continues even to the present date.

Thus, President Bush is quite correct in saying that Saddam Hussein and, for that matter, the Iraqi people have reason to hate the United States. But the hatred is not rooted in America’s “freedom and values,” unless one considers bombs, embargoes, and weaponry provided by the U.S. government to be part and parcel of our nation’s “freedom and values.”

The biggest surprise was that there were no Iraqi citizens on the hijacked planes on September 11. That’s not to say that millions of other Middle Easterners are not also angry and outraged over the bombs and sanctions. They are, and they’re also angry and outraged over U.S. government indifference to the deaths of the Iraqi children, evidenced by former U.S. official Madeleine Albright’s announcement that the deaths of the Iraqi children had been “worth it.”

The point is a simple one: Yes, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, but despite more than 10 years of sanctions and bombing that have kept Iraqis on the verge of starvation and killed multitudes of them, he still has refrained from employing weapons of mass destruction against the United States. Even the CIA, which the elder Bush once headed, holds that Saddam is not an immediate threat to the United States.

Perhaps the current president and his advisors have concluded that after more than 10 years of bombs and embargoes against Iraq and all the deaths and misery they have produced, the hatred that Saddam and the Iraqis have for the United States is now irreversible.

But that flies in the face of the history of war. Once peace treaties are signed, anger and hatred begin to dissipate. That’s what happened after World War II. It’s what happened after Vietnam.

Compare those experiences, however, with that of World War I. For years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the victorious nations continued punishing and humiliating Germany with such political devices as reparations, war guilt, and the Polish Corridor, which produced a continual stream of anger and hatred among the Germans that ultimately gave rise to Adolf Hitler.

If President Bush truly has not made up his mind on whether to invade Iraq, an alternative course of action, one that would be much more in the interests of the American people, would be to negotiate a peace treaty between the United States (and United Nations) and Iraq that finally brings the Persian Gulf War to an end and permits the Iraqi people to once again join the people of the world.

Would such a treaty leave Saddam in power? Of course, but the world is filled with nasty dictators, including those in North Korea, Pakistan, and Cuba. The advocates of perpetual war and perpetually increasing budgets for the U.S. military-industrial complex, of course, would cry out, “Appeasement! We didn’t appease Adolf Hitler!”

But what they can’t deny is that the U.S. government has had a longtime policy of selectively appeasing dictators: Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (Iran), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan), King Fahd (Saudi Arabia), Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah (Kuwait), Sheik Hamad Bin Khaleifa al-Thani (Qatar), Kim Jong Il (North Korea), Jiang Zemin (China), Augusto Pinochet (Chile), and countless others. Let’s also not forget the U.S. government’s appeasing of one of the 20th century’s biggest dictators, Joseph Stalin, who killed many more people than Hitler. After turning East Germany and Eastern Europe over to the Soviet communists, the U.S. government left them alone (i.e., didn’t bomb or blockade them) for four decades until they were able to free themselves from the Soviet rattlesnakes. While life under communism and socialism had to be horrible, who’s to say that the victims of the Soviet Union would have been better off with U.S. bombs and blockades?

Establishing peace with Iraq would diminish international tensions, reduce anger and hatred for the United States, and decrease the risk of terrorism against Americans. Of course, that in turn might call for a reduction in the U.S. government’s role as international policeman, in military spending, in infringements on civil liberties, and in the increasing militarization and sovietization of American society, which unfortunately is a principal reason that some people would oppose it.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.