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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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July 18, 2005

The Reason for the Iraq War

Reader Paul Conti, writing from Irvine, Calif., states the pro-war position well. Here is his entire letter. I'll comment on it later.

Please take a moment and let me explain why you're absolutely wrong about Bush's reasons for going to war in Iraq. I'm writing this to you because I believe there is a tremendous misunderstanding on the part of millions of Americans about why this is actually a legitimate and appropriate war that we are waging in Iraq. I admit, maybe Bush hasn't done a sufficient job of explaining his case to the American people. I've always said the world is divided into two groups of people: those who get it and those who don't get it, and the latter are mostly people who don't want to get it. So I'll take a moment to explain Bush's case for him, and hopefully you might just get it.

Many of Bush's critics have accused him of acting differently with Iraq than with other rogue states like North Korea, which has actually admitted that they possess the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear bomb. The reality is that since the early '90s we have always had legal authority, under the auspices of a United Nations resolution, to enact regime change in Iraq. No such resolution exists with North Korea. The resolution concerning Iraq was the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, which demanded that Hussein prove he had destroyed the weapons of mass destruction that the whole world knew he possessed, since he had used them against his own people recently. Throughout the Clinton Administration we thought we could "contain" Hussein with "no-fly zones" that we patrolled along with the British, and with weapons inspectors, who continued a pointless charade of searching for weapons with an uncooperative and deceptive regime unti l Hussein halted all their operations in late '98 and they were forced to leave the country. After many more U.N. resolutions leading up to Resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council (including France, Germany, Russia, China, and Iraq's ally, Syria) in late '02, we had a host of U.N. mandates that had created the unique situation where the burden of proof fell on the accused, not the accuser. In other words, Hussein had the burden of proof to demonstrate that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction; we didn't have the burden of proof to demonstrate that he did. His shirking of that burden of proof gave the civilized world the right to enact "serious consequences", as Resolution 1441stated, which clearly meant the use of military force, since essentially all other measures had been repeatedly exhausted.

Some critics may claim that Hussein was living up to his burden of proof by allowing weapons inspectors into Iraq again in late 2002, but again, that was a giant charade. The term "inspectors" is really a misnomer; how are even thousands of inspectors expected to comb a country the size of California, with about 24 million people, hoping to find weapons that could fit in small jars and vials and could be hidden anywhere? Those inspectors were supposed to be more like monitors, expected to take account of the documented destruction of those weapons, and actually see the records of their destruction, and all this could only happen if Iraq's Ba'ath regime was fully cooperative, which they absolutely were not. The difference between the relative complacency of the Clinton Administration and Bush's actions is that 9/11 taught us we could afford to be complacent no longer. It was obvious that it was too easy for our enemies to smuggle t hese horrible weapons to terrorist allies who could wreak havoc on our cities in America. In this sense, Bush is living up to his now-famous Doctrine, stated shortly after 9/11: "We will make no diffe rence between the terrorists and those who support them." Clinton-style police action against individual terrorists is not enough; 9/11 showed us that a thoroughly pro-active spread of democracy is mandatory in order to defend democracy. In this pursuit, war must always be the last option, and our futile efforts to enforce 17 U.N. resolutions over 12 years led us to this point. The Iraq war, in this sense, was clearly just the next theater in the War on Terror, which most Democrats and other left-leaning people fail to understand.

And so, we never had to, nor do we have to at any point, prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in order to legitimize our war in Iraq. He failed to live up to his burden of proof; we and the rest of the civilized world didn't have the burden of proof before we were authorized to enact regime change in Iraq, because of the many U.N. resolutions passed from 1991 to 2002. Hussein has to therefore take responsibility for the regim e change we enacted, not us. Bush and his advisors knew that removing Hussein and the Ba'ath regime and granting democracy and freedom to the millions of people in Iraq could be an important step in setting a powerful example with far-reaching consequences in the Muslim world. The consequences, if most of our actions are carried out correctly, can be a model of freedom, a beacon of hope, in the Muslim world, and a sanctuary for those wh o oppose terrorism, and become the end of a major chapter in the War on Terror. This is the same goal that we successfully achieved with nations like Japan and Germany with the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II. As evidenced by the Lebanese rejection of Syrian occupation and moves toward elections in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, these seeds are already gradually being planted in the greater Middle East.

And all this was legally authorized by unique resolutions passed by the United Nations, the entity that miserably failed to back up their ow n words with action, and once again, left the heavy lifting and sacrifice to the United States of America, led by President George W. Bush.

Respond to reader Paul Conti.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at July 18, 2005 10:53 AM



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