If the end is justified…

At a recent anti-war rally in London, Mayor Ken Livingstone said, “This war is solely about oil. George Bush has never given a damn about human rights.” I stopped to think, as I often like to do, and asked myself, ‘what if he is right? What if it is all about oil? What if President Bush is just a puppet for the oil industry who wakes up every morning thinking about how he can put thousands of American soldiers in jeopardy to increase its profits?’ As I pondered these questions, I suddenly realized that I don’t care.

If the end result of this war is that the Iraqi people are freed of years of oppression and the world is rid of the menace of Saddam Hussein, I really would not care if our only reason for going to war is that President Bush wants to gain access to the magical leprechauns that he believes Saddam keeps in the basement of one of his lavishly appointed palaces. I am not normally someone who believes that the ends justify the means, but in this case I find it hard to think of means that could possibly be bad enough to justify keeping Saddam Hussein in power.

Make no mistake: Saddam Hussein is an evil man. In its 2002 World Report, Human Rights Watch wrote, “The Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein perpetrated widespread and gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents and their relatives, routine torture and ill-treatment of detainees, summary execution of military personnel and political detainees as part of a ‘prison cleansing’ campaign, and forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk and other regions.”

In addition, this is a regime that has repeatedly sought to create all kinds of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and has even used some of these weapons on its own people. There is no sign that Hussein has any interest in changing his behavior.

Of course we are not going to war for oil. Only someone who is horribly misinformed, criminally cynical or both could believe so. If America wanted cheap oil from Iraq, we could have it easily without war. Saddam Hussein has no qualms about selling it to us as long as we remained willing to bankroll his regime and keep him in power. If you don’t believe me, just ask France, which currently has highly lucrative oil contracts with Iraq worth between $60-75 billion. Of course, I am sure the fact that a new regime would void these contracts has nothing to do with France’s nearly unilateral stance in favor of the status quo in Iraq.

Our reasons for going to war with Iraq are actually quite noble. We are doing it for defense and security, and to stop a madman from developing and using weapons of mass destruction. We are doing it to assure that U.N. resolutions have meaning and cannot merely be tossed aside and ignored by any country that chooses to do so. We are doing it to correct a mistake we made in 1991 in not removing Hussein from power out of fear that it would destroy our international coalition. We are doing it for the thousands of Iraqi people who have been tortured and killed because, in the interests of multilateralism, we allowed one of the most murderous police states in history to survive.

Even without these worthy motives, however, we would still be justified in fighting this war because the end result would be a better world. This points to one of the major problems with the anti-war movement, best exemplified by activists like Mayor Livingstone, who refuse to support the war because “George Bush has never given a damn about human rights.” If these people truly give a damn about human rights themselves, they would realize that they are fools.

By supporting peace unconditionally, they are condoning the tactics of Saddam Hussein and sentencing millions of Iraqis in future generations to a horrid dictatorship in which only one man has any human rights to speak of.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair put it well when he said, “The moral choice in relation to this is a moral choice that has to weigh up the moral consequences of war. But the alternative is to carry on with a sanctions regime which, because of the way Saddam Hussein implements it, leads to thousands of people dying needlessly in Iraq every year.” Continuing such a state of affairs in Iraq is unacceptable.

Peace is highly preferable to war, but Saddam Hussein has had 12 years and 17 U.N. resolutions following the Gulf War to clean up his act, yet has done nothing to either stop building weapons of mass destruction or bring human rights in his nation to an even passable level. And while thousands of Iraqis continue to suffer under the oppression of a brutal dictator every day, the anti-war crowd keeps telling us that maybe if we ignore Saddam he will go away.

This message has been echoed by a number of people, from the President of France to the Pope, who tell us that war should never, ever be perpetrated under any circumstances. Even our own Chaplain here at Williams has told us that he believes war would be a “moral catastrophe.” That means, for those keeping score at home, fighting a war to liberate an oppressed people and stop a dictator bent on developing weapons of mass destruction is a “moral catastrophe,” while turning a blind eye to a brutal dictatorship in order to uphold a peace that involves the death of thousands of innocents a year is morally acceptable.

I am afraid that just does not work for me. I am not prepared to ignore the suffering of an entire people, a suffering that will only grow to encompass more of the world if Hussein gets his way, in order to fulfill my human need for “peace” and happiness.

I simply cannot stand aside and ignore an evil as pronounced as that posed by Saddam Hussein. And if that means heading straight into moral catastrophe, then let’s roll.