National interest re-evaluated

The Pentagon has surpassed its deployment goal. There are currently more than 150,000 troops within striking distance of Iraq, and more are on the way. President Bush has clearly made up his mind. Why then is the rest of the world, including the citizens of our country and the people on this campus, still debating whether or not there should be a war? It is because there simply should not be one.

It is rather disheartening that when we speak of war we often do not recognize what it actually means. War means that out of those 150,000 plus Americans leaving in uniform, a significant number will return in body bags. Estimates of American casualties in this war range from a few thousand to tens of thousands. I urge you to think, ‘is it worth it?’

Despite what Washington says, I do not believe there is a direct link between Iraq and the events of 9/11. If Washington has so much undeniable proof of a connection, then why doesn’t the administration show it to the American people?

Instead, they resort to speculative connections based on evidence that bin Laden used the word Iraq in a sentence. Even FBI director Robert Mueller said, “The greatest threat is from al-Qaida cells in the U.S. that we have not yet been able to identify.” An invasion of Iraq would be a distraction from this more immediate threat and would create an anti-American backlash that could potentially result in a loss of support from Muslim countries in tracking down members of al-Qaida.

A less selfish viewpoint, one that does not invoke the security of our country and the lives of our soldiers, concerns the lives of the Iraqis themselves. The humanitarian impact of war cannot and should not be ignored. In a country where the entire economy is worth about 2 percent of the annual United States Defense Budget, where more than half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water, where up to 16 million people rely on food aid to survive, war would have devastating effects. It will undoubtedly ruin the lives of an already vulnerable people still suffering from the previous Gulf War and over a decade of sanctions. The Pentagon estimates that civilian causalities will surpass 10,000. If an assault on Baghdad occurs, this number could extend into the hundreds of thousands. Yet it is argued that the benefits of a war with Iraq would outweigh the human costs. Would you rather live with your family in impoverished conditions or watch them blown up in order to one day reap these so-called “benefits” of war?

The humanitarian emergency that would follow a war in Iraq is truly alarming. U.N. and humanitarian groups estimate that there are between 700,000 and one million internally displaced persons in Iraq and between one and two million refugees.

The U.N. predicted in December that war in Iraq could displace an additional 1.1 million people and create 900,000 new refugees. If we go to war and take control of Iraqi territory, we will have responsibilities under international law to meet the humanitarian needs of the inhabitants. The Bush administration has not demonstrated any preparation for this eventuality.

I do not believe that we should let the Iraqi people suffer under Saddam’s regime. I doubt that our administration’s actions, however, are driven by a genuine concern for the plight of the Iraqis since the benefits of a war would come at so great of an expense to Iraqi lives. When it comes right down to it, this war is not about a sudden urge by the United States to act as the savior of a struggling people. This war is about weapons of mass destruction.

Inspectors are currently in Iraq searching for weapons and they are pleading for more time. The previous inspections lasted seven years. Currently, we are only three months into the inspection process.

In spite of others supporting more time for inspections, the United States opposes it. Washington claims that Iraq is in material breach and that war is inevitable. However, we have no proof that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. Hans Blix said, “We must not jump to the conclusion that they exist.” The smoking gun has not been found. Going to war without proof, and therefore invading a sovereign state without justification, is an illegitimate act that violates international law.

A preemptive strike by the United States, the most powerful state in the world, would set a dangerous precedent. North Korea’s deputy director of foreign policy has already stated that “preemptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the U.S.” The United States would become the aggressor, and no longer the protector of international peace, while Iraq would become the victim of a larger power. We could not expect other states to uphold a higher moral standard and abide by international order without indicting ourselves with hypocrisy.

For the sake of international peace, the lives of our brave soldiers, the lives of innocent Iraqis and for the future generations of our country and this world, the United States should not go to war with Iraq.

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