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War Logic

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The rhetorical case favoring an invasion of Iraq has gone on for so long that no one is really thinking about the reasons any more. We’ve moved on to more important things, like when the tanks will start rolling.

Though it might be far too late, it couldn’t hurt to do a little thinking before the bullets begin to fly and young Americans start coming home mangled and dead. A good starting point would be to stop seeing Iraq through the narrow view provided by the president, and instead place the actions of Saddam Hussein in the broader context of our bungled foreign policy of the last 50 years.

For instance, why do so few people seem bothered by the fact that the “Madman of Baghdad” was once — and not that long ago — our man in Baghdad? He was still a dictator back then, when the United States supplied him with biological and chemical weapons to kill Iranians. Back in the 1980s, Saddam was considered a great ally to have in the Middle East.

Then Iraq invaded Kuwait. Apparently, in the opinion of the American government, invading your neighbor’s sovereign territory because he is doing something you don’t like is wrong. Of course, we won’t talk about Panama.

But back to the dictator thing. Couldn’t it be that the invasion of Iraq is just a case of a noble American government coming to the rescue of the Iraqi people, who have been subjugated far too long under the yoke of Hussein’s tyrannical rule?

The trouble is, history is replete with examples of dictators supported by the United States, including, as noted above, ol’ Saddam himself. Lest we forget, the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century — Joseph Stalin — was “Uncle Joe” to FDR. And what about Chile’s Pinochet? South Vietnam’s Diem? The shah of Iran? Manuel Noriega? Sorry, we weren’t going to talk about Panama.

It would seem that the only real guideline that the U.S. government uses with respect to dictators is their relative usefulness for doing its bidding.

Which brings us to another point. At present, the “war on terrorism” requires the cooperation of a number of different countries, including some with rather shady pasts. Number one in that category would have to be Pakistan, which is ruled by military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who once supported both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Musharraf is also tolerating the presence of al-Qaeda training camps on Pakistani soil and brought the Middle East to the brink of nuclear war in a feud with India over the province of Kashmir.

Considering that the thrust of the case against Saddam Hussein rests on his alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, the threat to his neighbors, his supposed support for terrorists, and the possibility of his continued rule leading to a massive destabilization of the Middle East, no one is batting an eye over Pakistan’s perfect fit of all those damning criteria. In fact, Pakistan remains our “partner” in the “war on terrorism.”

On the other hand, Germany, a long-time Cold War ally, is no longer our partner, not because it supports terrorism, threatens its neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, or is ruled by a dictatorial regime, but merely because it refuses to play along with Bush’s plans for a preemptive war against Iraq.

Remember the Cold War? That was when the United States gave military and economic aid to brutal dictators who said they’d help fight the Soviet dictators who had been U.S. allies during World War II. This is all getting very confusing.

And let’s not forget Osama bin Laden. The mastermind of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks himself once had a close relationship with the U.S. government. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, bin Laden’s position in the mujahideen made him and his men prime recipients of American military training and equipment. The U.S. government loved watching Afghan guerillas attack Soviet aircraft. It wasn’t so funny when they began targeting Americans.

The current campaign to oust Saddam Hussein would be comical if it weren’t so deathly serious. Those who today are considered friends much too easily become tomorrow’s bogeymen. Iraq is a perfect example. Germany and France may be next, if they aren’t careful. For in the worldview of America’s foreign policy hawks, the globe is their personal playground, war is the biggest game in town, and logic is whatever arrangement of reality gets the tanks rolling fastest.

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    Scott McPherson is policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.