After the heinous, unprovoked attack on our nation last year, the target of an American response was clear — the Afghanistan terrorist camps where the fanatics trained and the overthrow of the Taliban regime that allowed al-Qaeda to operate.
That was a no-brainer. The entire world understood that military action was our only option. But a year later there is no precise victory and none is in sight.
Now, an impatient White House turns its attention to the contemptible Saddam Hussein as it contemplates independent, pre-emptive military action against Iraq. But there’s a significant difference between Osama bin Laden’s wayward terrorist organization and Saddam’s totalitarian regime. The former is not a government and has nothing to defend except their worthless lives. With no country to call its own, al-Qaeda attacked the world’s only superpower, knowing it could run to the hills and caves while America’s wrath fell upon the Afghanis.
Another difference is if al-Qaeda ever got hold of weapons of mass destruction, it would not hesitate to use them to kill as many Americans as it can, making the events of 9/11 seem like a skirmish.
The Iraqis, on the other hand, face limitations. When it comes to Iraq, America’s armed might has a deterrent value that it simply does not have when it comes to autonomous terrorist groups. However determined Saddam is, he knows it would be suicide to mount a terrorist attack against the United States.
We also must remember the U.S. government had a hand in creating this murderous thug, who, less than 23 years ago, was reluctantly considered an ally during the Iranian hostage crisis. (At the time we were more worried about petroleum supplies than terrorism. In 1987 we practically forgave Saddam when an Iraqi missile struck a U.S. destroyer, patrolling in Persian Gulf waters, killing 37 sailors.) Today, that former ally poses threats not only to U.S. interests, but more directly to its Middle Eastern neighbors — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and, of course, Israel.
It appears the president is simply exploiting lingering post-9/11 zeal to attack a patron of terrorism, thus diverting attention from its disappointing pursuit of al-Qaeda leaders. President Bush, however, has yet to demonstrate a clear and present danger to attack Iraq. In his highly praised speech to the United Nations last week he failed to offer any new evidence or postulate what will happen in Iraq after Saddam.
All of America’s power won’t mean a damn thing if Saddam finds himself cornered, increasing the prospect that he’d let loose whatever weapons of mass destruction are within reach.
Nevertheless, Iraq cannot be permitted to continue violating United Nation resolutions that mandate inspections for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. This week it appears Iraq has agreed to a firm deadline for the unconditional return of weapons inspectors, backed by the threat of multilateral military action. On the other hand, recent history has taught us to be wary of such assent. Nonetheless, patience should continue to be exerted before a hasty, deadly call to arms.
Despite a decade of defying U.N. demands, be-fore mounting an offensive without multilateral support, the White House must unmistakably demonstrate, to the world, and especially to its citizens, that any attack on Saddam Hussein will result in a sound solution. It won’t, in essence, bring an end to the very terror it set out to destroy. And what of Saddam’s successor? Will he make a bad situation worse?
Three previous administrations, and until recently the current one, have downplayed — or simply ignored — the potential danger of Saddam Hussein. Now, in the lingering aftermath and patriotic passion of September 11, President Bush feels compelled to exert our nation’s might without guaranteeing Saddam’s demise will have any constructive consequences.
Iraq must be held accountable for the danger it poses. If its defiance continues, action should be taken, under the auspices of the U.N. and with contribution from multinational forces led by a formidable U.S. contingent.
But remember, destroying Saddam Hussein only rids the world of one more thug. It will not end terrorism and may unleash weapons so deadly the world could suffer the effects for years to come.