Disarming Iraq

by Priye Torulagha

The United States, more than any other member of the Security Council of the United Nations, is very determined to disarm Iraq and possibly effect a change of government. It threatens to use force if necessary to achieve Iraqi disarmament. As a result, the U.S. has been steadily deploying troops in the Persian Gulf, in preparation for war if Iraq refuses to comply, especially with UN’s Resolution 1441. President George Bush and his top advisers are convinced that Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, will never voluntarily disarm, as agreed upon, following the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

According to the US, since Iraq will most likely refuse to voluntarily disarm by destroying all its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs, it must be compelled to do so. As part of the reasons for possibly going to war and forcing Iraq to comply, the US charges that (1) Iraq is hiding its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs instead of destroying them, in accordance with UN resolutions, (2) Iraq is a major threat to the world and must be disarmed, (3) Iraq has repeatedly violated the No Fly Zones in Northern and Southern Iraq, (4) Iraq has repeatedly used biochemical weapons against its citizens and the Iranians, (5) Saddam Hussein must be removed from power because he has waged wars of aggression against his neighbors, (6) Saddam Hussein must quit or be removed from power because he is a brutal dictator, (7) Saddam Hussein must be removed from power because Iraq and Al Aqaeda are working together to spread terrorism and biochemical weapons, (8) Democracy must be established in Iraq, and (9) failure to enforce compliance would lead to lack of respect for United Nations resolutions and laws.

The charges leveled against Saddam Hussein and Iraq appear to be true. However, the world does not seem to agree with the context in which the US is trying to justify waging a second Persian Gulf War against Iraq.

1. Iraq is hiding its biochemical and nuclear weapons programs instead of destroying them as required by the United Nations resolutions.

There is an atom of truth to this charge. Iraq has not been forthcoming concerning disarming itself of the weapons of mass destruction, as was agreed upon, after the Persian Gulf War. It tends to cooperate with the United Nations investigators only when the United States threatens to attack. For instance, after it expelled the UN investigators in 1998, Iraq did not allow another team of inspectors to investigate its weapons of mass destruction programs until the US threatened to use force to ensure compliance in 2003. It refused to allow UN demand for U2 flights to monitor its weapons activities until it realized that the US might attack. Thus, Iraq tends to cooperate at the very last minute when it realizes that there is no other option left to avoid compliance.

Nonetheless, according to reactions from various parts of the world, Iraqi’s uncooperative behavior does not necessarily warrant or provide sufficient reason to justify attacking or going to war with it. The reason being that since there is a United Nations monitoring program in Iraq, many countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and Europe, including Belgium, China, France, Germany, and Russia want the UN investigative work to continue. These countries believe that Iraq’s appetite for mass destruction weapons can be contained through continuous monitoring, rather than through another bloody war that could kill hundreds of thousands of people and upset the balance of power in the Middle East. In fact, many countries in the Middle East believe that another war with Iraq would turn the region upside down. These countries and peoples believe that there is no need to rush to war while investigators are still on the ground. They point out that more Iraqi arms were destroyed through UN’s monitoring after the Persian Gulf war than during the war itself. Finally, they insist that if any war is to be fought, it must be carried out through a United National resolution or declaration and not through the unilateral decision of any single member state.

The United States and Britain seem to think that the countries which oppose a possible war against Iraq are either naïve or have something to hide about their own relationship with Iraq. They believe that this is the time to take out Saddam Hussein so that he does not become a greater threat later. They believe that Iraq will continue to play hide and seek with UN monitors, thereby incessantly prolonging the need to take action. The countries that oppose going to war wonder why the US and Britain are so impatient with the monitoring program when the last time around, it was monitoring that actually helped to uncover the multitudes of Iraqi mass destruction weapons.

Iraq finds the disarmament requirements to be very intrusive. This is understandable, since no state in the world, including the United States and Britain, would be quite willing to destroy weapon programs that it had spent billions to acquire. Likewise, if the principle of sovereignty is to be maintained, then Iraq finds it unacceptable for other nation-states to treat it as less than a sovereign entity. The No Fly Zones and the U2 Fly Program are truly intrusive and greatly threatens the sovereignty of Iraq, hence, the Iraqi hesitancy to be fully cooperative.

The rest of the world seems to understand the Iraqi sensitivity, hence, does not want to justify the need to attack Iraq on the basis that Iraq is not complying with United Nations resolutions. The reason being that Iraq is not the only nation that has violated UN resolutions. The Catholic journal, La Civilta Catholica (Catholic Civilization) stated that “Iraq has violated 91 U.N. resolutions, but Israel and Turkey, two U.S. allies, have violated 59 U.N. resolutions without prompting U.S. military intervention” (Florida Catholic, Miami Edition, 2003, January 23).

2. Iraq’s biochemical and nuclear programs are a major threat to the world.

While biochemical and nuclear weapons are generally a major threat to the safety of the world, people tend to rationalize that Iraqi possession of such weapons does not pose any more danger than the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, etc., having them. Therefore, it is not convincing to argue that Iraq must be disarmed because it poses a great danger to the world for having such weapons when other nation-states are also sufficiently armed with the dangerous weapons. Perhaps, the realization that other nation-states already have these mass destruction weapons, contributes to the universal opposition to attacking Iraq on the ground that it is producing dangerous weapons.

If the US strongly believes that biochemical and nuclear weapons are dangerous, then, as the only remaining super power, it should work toward universal disarmament. This means that the US and the United Nations should work together to debiochemicalize and denuclearize the entire world. Selective enforcement or disarmament, based on who is an ally and who is not an ally, does not eradicate the great danger that these weapons represent. Selective enforcement tends to arouse suspicion and distrust throughout the world. For example, if the U.S. insist that Iraq must disarm or face war, then what stops the Arabs and the Moslems to also insist that Israel must also disarm? If the U.S. insist on Iraqi disarmament and remains very quiet about Israeli possession of biochemical and nuclear weapons, suspicion is created in the minds of the Arabs and peoples throughout the world that the U.S. motive is selfish and directed toward the enhancement of its strategic interests and not the safety of the world. The Catholic publication, La Civilta Catholica, commented “There would be no reason to punish Saddam Hussein for possessing arms that other states – first among them, the United States in unsurpassable measure – possess and threaten to use in case of conflict with other states’ ( taken from the Florida Catholic, Miami Edition, 2003, January 23). It is understandable why the Belgians, French, Germans, and the Russians insist on further investigative effort rather than war.

The U.S. has not been able to convince the world that Iraq poses a greater danger to the world than the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, India, North Korea, Israel, and Pakistan which actually possess mass destruction weapons. Those who oppose a military attack against Iraq wonder why the US is willing to use force against Iraq and does not want to use force against North Korea, which many believe, poses a greater threat to the world than Iraq.

3. The charge that Iraq has repeatedly violated the No Fly Zones.

This reason for attempting to go to war is not convincing at all. By saying that Iraq cannot fly its planes in Northern and Southern Iraq, it means that Iraq cannot maintain its territorial integrity. The No Fly Zone is a direct violation of the principle of sovereignty. It is very doubtful whether any nation-state, no matter how small or powerless it is, would accept a rule which stops it from exercising authority over its territory.

The argument that the No Fly Zone is necessary in order to protect the Shiites in the South and the Kurds in the North of Iraq is not a very satisfying justification. The reason being that if the United States and the United Nations were so much interested in protecting the human rights of the Kurds, they would have vigorously worked toward the establishment of a Kurdish state. The world should be reminded that there are between 20 and 40 million Kurds. This means that the Kurds can thrive very well in an independent Kurdistan. Moreover, the Iraqi treatment of the Kurds is not necessarily worse than the Turkish treatment of the Kurds. In other words, Turkey is as guilty of violating the human rights of the Kurds in Turkey as much as the Iraqi violation of the rights of the Kurds in Iraq. Therefore, creating a No Fly Zone in Iraq without also creating a No Fly Zone in Iran and Turkey simply shows that the world body and US are simply grandstanding.

4. Use of Biochemical Weapons against citizens.

There is no doubt that Iraq used biochemical weapons against the Kurds and the Iranians in the 1980s. However, those weapons were used at a time when Saddam Hussein was an ally of the U.S. The U.S. actually assisted Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi/Iranian war, fearful of Iranian victory. The U.S. did not stop him from using the dreaded weapons at the time. Americans might not be very conscious of the Iraqi-American relationship during the Reagan presidency in the 1980s, however, non-Americans have a long historical and political memory. As a result, the attempt to influence world opinion on this ground does not attract much sympathy.

Although the Iraqi use of these dreaded weapons are very well known, nonetheless, it cannot be said that other leaders and regimes throughout the world have not used such weapons against their unsuspecting citizens and foreigners. People are quite knowledgeable about these things and cannot be easily persuaded.

5. That Saddam Hussein must be removed from power because he has waged wars of aggression against his neighbors.

There is no doubt that President Saddam Hussein caused the Iranian/Iraqi War in the 1980s and invaded Kuwait in 1990. He has been very hostile to Israel and would do everything necessary to attack it if he has the military capability.

However, this is not a sufficient reason to go to war and remove him from power. Within the last twenty-five years, it is an historical fact that other countries too invaded their neighbors. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and occupied it. Cyprus has been divided into Turkish Cyprus and Greek Cyprus for over twenty years. The U.N. effort to resolve the conflict has met with persistent failures. Neither the U.N. nor the U.S. has threatened to invade Turkey over the violation of the sovereignty of Cyprus. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in an attempt to install a communist government. The Soviet invasion caused innumerable destruction, death, and suffering to the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan people are still suffering. The Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance are products of the Mujahedden, sponsored by the U.S. to counter Soviet invasion during the Cold War (Hastedt & Knickrehm, 2003). Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and occupied the Southern part of the country for almost 15 years. Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (Malvina) with a view of incorporating it into its territory. The United States invaded Grenada and Panama. In the case of Panama, the head of state, Gen. Manuel Noriega was arrested, tried, and sent to prison in the United States on the ground that he was involved in illegal drug activities by allowing safe passage for international drug cartel members and helping to launder illegal drug money. Rwanda and Uganda invaded the democratic Republic of the Congo recently and helped to widen the civil war.

Thus, of all the cases involving the invasion of one country by another in the last twenty-five years, only Iraq seems to be subjected to the most severe form of punishment. The U.N. did not threaten others with a war. Twelve years after the invasion of Kuwait, sanctions are still in place and a threat of a second war is being proposed. In other words, Iraq is the only invader which must pay severely for the invasion of another, almost to the point of territorial invalidation of its sovereignty. Due to the severity of the punishment imposed on Iraq, people are questioning why is Iraq being singled out for severe punishment while other violators are ignored.

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