thinair Boulder, Colorado. elevation 5400 feet.

Leave Iraq to the UN, focus on al Qaeda

Even if you disagree with my position on Iraq, please voice your opinion to our leaders and to your own communities. Democracy is a participatory activity. Please speak up.*

To President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Representative Udall, Senator
Allard, and Senator Campbell

I strongly oppose war with Iraq. Although Iraq could eventually become a
threat to the United States, they present no immediate danger to our
country. By contrast, al Qaeda has demonstrated their capacity and will
to deeply harm us. Let the United Nations pursue more aggressive
inspections which appear to be gradually working. Let our nation's
attention focus on our real enemy: al Qaeda.

The alleged links between Iraqi leadership and al Qaeda do not make any
sense. If common faith and hatred of the United States were enough to
bring them together, why are the Arab nations so internally divided? On
the contrary, Osama bin Laden would loose all credibility within al Qaeda
if he were to collaborate with Saddam Hussein. He couldn't condemn the
Saudis for their abuse of power while collaborating with Hussein. It just
does not make any sense.

It does not make financial sense either. Economic insecurity is the most
immediate threat to American well being -- far more than anything Iraq
could muster. Please do not throw away billions of taxpayer dollars to
invade a second-rate threat. Spend those taxpayer dollars strengthening
our internal defenses and disrupting al Qaeda.

Nor does it make sense strategically. Since January of 2002 US foreign
policy has focused on the "Axis of Evil": Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
With our intelligence attention and resources stretched so thin we are
still vulnerable to attacks from al Qaeda. The new Department of Homeland
Security has a mammoth task just in re-organizing the operations of
twenty-two agencies. They cannot possibly be effective in securing the
country within the apparent timetables for war with Iraq. It doesn't make
sense to wage war half way across the world while leaving our homeland
defenses in their current state. We know for a fact that al Qaeda can hit
us at home.

Our military supremacy does not mean we can capture Hussein, or more
importantly, secure all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. We leveled
Afghanistan and yet failed to capture bin Laden. Moreover, Hussein's
dictatorship keeps the internal Iraqi factions in check. How can we keep
factions within Iraq from slipping away with whatever weapons remain? Let
Hussein continue to keep the factions in check and let the weapons
inspectors continue to scour Iraq. Redirect our military's attention to
al Qaeda.

Our real enemies are the sour economy and al Qaeda. It is a grave mistake
to distract ourselves in a war with Iraq.

* To encourage some participation, my blog is now open for comments in addition to trackback.

update: corrected spelling of bin Laden on April 9, 2003

Jeff Thomson commented

27 March 2003 at 12:39

Hey man, party line with your thoughts on the war. The thing that gets me is the EASE with which Bush and his gang have been able to shift the focus and NOBODY is calling him on it. Apathy is very frustrating...especially for a Canadian who can't vote! Drop me a line if you get a chance. Jeff

Isaiah York commented

09 April 2003 at 12:00

---Re: Let Hussein continue to keep the factions in check---

Hussein uses murder and genocide to keep the factions in check. Are you saying you actually support this?

The Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad alongside US troops today seem to disagree with you. It's almost as if they want freedom as much as we do. I'm glad we have a president who had the vision and backbone to believe in Arab liberation from tyrants. The American left, unfortunately, does not seem to share this vision.

(By the way, I do appreciate the ability to comment on your site. Thank you for opening it up).

eric commented

09 April 2003 at 15:15

Isaiah, thanks for your comments. (reposted 'cos I misspelled your name in the original -- apologies)

I guess it isn't self-evident that I don't support murder or genocide or Saddam. I'm a pacifist. I want to see non-violent solutions to problems. Murder and genocide are violent. So is war. All three are things I oppose. I don't believe that ends justify the means. I suspect that is our primary disagreement. Our secondary disagreement is probably about trust in this Administration.

Please keep in mind that at the time I wrote this letter the spin from the White House was about weapons of mass destruction and the implied threat that Saddam posed to the US. That implied threat was completely overemphasized as I think the progress of the war has demonstrated. As I said, Iraq was a second-rate threat at best. I still believe al Qaeda and bin Laden and the sour economy present real threats to this country and that the war in Iraq is a distraction and a grave mistake. I'm willing to be proven wrong about the grave mistake part, but only time will tell.

It wasn't until the war began that the spin emphasized Iraqi liberation. I was glad to hear that change in the tune. I cynically suspect that the American people would not have supported sending in the troops if the original spin had been about liberation. It was fear of big weapons in the hands of a scary tyrant that gave Bush the needed support. I have yet to hear of hard evidence of those weapons.

More thoughts about the war and violence are here:

Isaiah York commented

09 April 2003 at 20:31

Hello Eric,

I respect your pacifist position. My concern with the phrase "keep the factions in check", is that when it is taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to a strong contradiction of the pacifist ideal (e.g, keeping the Kurds in check in 1988 and keeping the Shiites in check in 1991).

Off the subject a little bit, I noticed that Rep. Kucinich called for a Department of Peace today. I think that is a great idea. If we could proactively and enthusiastically feed and help nations with no real expectation of return, then perhaps future would-be dictators would have no anti-American power base and we could avoid these no-win scenarios that crop up every 20 years or so. Maybe this is common ground that liberals and conservatives could both endorse. Wage peace today, avoid a war tomorrow.

-- Re: It wasn't until the war began that the spin emphasized Iraqi liberation.--

I disagree that this is recent "spin". Bush made the plight of the Iraqi people a prominent part of his speech to the UN last September. Here is the quote:

"In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state."

Good discussion. Thanks again.

eric commented

15 April 2003 at 23:24

I was also concerned about the phrase "keeping the factions in check." I agree that it conflicts with my pacifism. Thank you for challenging me on this point.

I was responding to my perception that the White House was using the threat of weapons of mass destruction to justify invasion of Iraq. In my experience moral arguments tend to degenerate into zealotry. I hoped a pragmatic argument would be more persuasive. Unfortunately, that choice had the consequence of ignoring the plight of the Iraqi people. As I said in my more recent post, I don't really know how to suggest liberation from tyranny in a non-violent way. Gandhi's example is instructive but also exceptional. Also, he opposed British rule in India from within India. That's decidedly different from the external intervention the US is conducting in Iraq. I'm not sure how the US could non-violently remove Saddam from power. There isn't any international body which can vote a despot out of power within their own country. And sanctions have been ineffective.

Spin and liberation. I still think the emphasis was on weapons of mass destruction and not on liberation. In September the spin was "regime change" and "disarming Saddam". My use of the word "spin" is intended to be descriptive not judgmental. "Regime change" and "liberation" both refer to US military action in Iraq, but they differ significantly in spin. It's not hard to challenge the idea of regime change. But who in this country would sincerely oppose liberation from tyranny? The difference is in the spin, and the difference is important.

Liberation of Iraq is a good outcome for this war. However we are now faced with one of the concerns I raised. Saddam's power has been broken and the weapons have not been recovered. Who has those weapons now? What's to keep them from slipping away just as bin Laden did in Afghanistan? Had we not taken Saddam down, his tyrannical grip on power would have kept those weapons under his control. That is until the inspectors eventually found and destroyed them. I seriously doubt he would ever have used them against the US for all the same reasons that USSR never did.

Our liberation of Iraq may have increased the threat those weapons present to the US.

Lastly, I really like the Department of Peace idea. That begins to get at the root causes of our conflicts. I also really like the "Sharing Alaska-style" idea (thanks to Chris Winters for the pointer):

Thanks for the stimulating discussion. It's been way more interesting than standard party-line recitations.