The Iraq Dilemma
ABC (Australia): Lateline
TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Now to our Friday Forum on the Iraqi dilemma, with two formidable guests in the US.
Joining me now from Seattle is Daniel Pipes. He's one of the few analysts who predicted the threat of militant Islam. Daniel Pipes now serves on the Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology at the US Department of Defence. He's testified before many congressional committees, worked for four presidential campaigns. And he's now director of the Middle East forum.
And in New York is one of America's most distinguished historians, Professor Howard Zinn. Author of "People's History of the United States", he's still Professor Emeritus at Boston University. Professor Zinn was deeply involved in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. Now he's a trenchant critic of President George W Bush and his war plans for Iraq.
Welcome to you both.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN, HISTORIAN: Thank you.
DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Thank you.
TONY JONES: Howard Zinn, do you get impression that the administration may be now backing away from the pre-emptive war against Iraq?
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Well, I certainly hope so. I hope that the administration's listening to those voices around the world which it seems not to care about, voices which are suggesting that the US would be the aggressor nation, that the US would be violating international law and that the US would be, well, killing a lot of people in Iraq for very, very dubious ends. And I'm hoping that the administration begins to turn around.
But this is an administration that seems hell-bent on war, in violation of international law and violation of some of the basic moral rule of just war, which is that you do not initiate a war if you're attacked. You defend yourself, but you don't initiate a war which is what the US and the Bush Administration are proposing to do.
TONY JONES: I'll get further into that debate in a moment, if I can. But first, Daniel Pipes, can I ask you-we mentioned what Colin Powell told the US today, if Iraq is disarmed, you will have a different regime in power no matter who is in Baghdad. Is he saying now that the US can live with Saddam Hussein as the ruler of Iraq?
DANIEL PIPES: That is what he said. As the [Lateline] news report suggested earlier, that's an isolated statement that has not been repeated. I think it was more like a slip of a tongue than a major change in policy.
So I think things are going to proceed on the assumption that Saddam Hussein is irredeemable and he cannot be allowed to stay, that he is the problem, not the weapons. You can always get rid of weapons and they'll come back so long as the skills and intent are there to rebuild them. So I would not pay it a lot of attention.
TONY JONES: So what you're saying is you believe if Congress gives, as it's expected to, the President the power to go to war pre-emptively, unilaterally against Iraq that he will do so, if he has to?
DANIEL PIPES: Well, I'm not sure I agree with those terms about pre-emptive and unilateral.
This is not something that start add few weeks ago. We had a war in 1991 and then the US and Iraq reached terms that the Iraqis would allow for inspectors to come and dismantle their arsenal. And, as you know, for the next seven year-till 1998 -- there was basically a sham of inspections regime, which then ended in 1998. And there has been a serious infraction of these agreements reached in 1991.
So what the US is now proposing to do is to fix things and go back to those agreements and right them on the assumption that you can't work with Saddam Hussein. I don't think anyone-anyone-is going to say that Saddam Hussein is a reasonable guy and you can reach an agreement with him. He is a loathesome totalitarian thug who represses his own people and is hell-bent on building weapons of mass destruction and on using them one can presume, because he's used, for example, chemical weapons to kill 5,000 of his own people in one village at one time.
Let's be real, this is a huge threat-his getting his hands on nuclear weapons.
TONY JONES: Let me put that to Howard Zinn.
No matter what happens in the UN-as we just said, the Congress is about to give President Bush the green light to act unilaterally if he wishes to do so.
You say that violates international law and moral law?
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Yes. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant. Saddam Hussein is has oppressed his own people. Saddam Hussein may possibly possess at, some point in the future, one nuclear weapon. He probably possesses chemical and biological weapons.
But there are other countries in the world that are led by tyrants. There are other countries in the world that have weapons of mass destruction. There are eight countries in the world that have nuclear weapons.
DANIEL PIPES: Let me interrupt, we don't have agreements with them since 1991. Mr Zinn, they breached an agreement in 1991, doesn't that make a difference? There is a context for this. This is not out of the blue.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, I think the crucial question is whether Saddam Hussein, even if he possesses these weapons, is an immediate threat, such an immediate threat, that a war must be launched against him-a war which will kill many people in Iraq and, I think, which will bring down upon the US, the criticism of people all over the world.
TONY JONES: Howard Zinn, can I just interrupt for a minute? Can I get you to address specifically this question of international law?
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Yes.
TONY JONES: This at least is a solid discussion we could have.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Well, the UN charter does not allow for preventive war. The UN charter only allows for a war of self-defence, if you have been attacked. We have not been attacked. No-one has been attacked at this point by Saddam Hussein. And therefore-
DANIEL PIPES: Could Mr Zinn deal with the 1991 law?
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Excuse me?
DANIEL PIPES: Could you deal with the 1991 agreement.
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, I'll finish that point and come to you specifically to reply to it.
DANIEL PIPES: I want him to say something about the 1991 agreement.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Saddam Hussein has violated that agreement, yes, and the US will be violating the UN charter, which is even more fundamental than the agreement in 1991.
DANIEL PIPES: Why can't we fix the 1991?
TONY JONES: Gentlemen, we're talking over each other. I'm sorry about this.
Daniel Pipes, how can you make a case under international law for pre-emptive action if the UN does not give a specific authorisation to the US to go to war against Iraq?
DANIEL PIPES: Because this is the fulfilment of the 1991 agreement. The idea was Iraq lost, Iraq conceded that it would allow the inspectors, Iraq did not allow the inspectors. The inspectors have not been there in any form for over four years. Belatedly, we're going to fix things and saying to Iraq-you have stopped the inspections now we're going to take care of the problem. It is all in the 1991 context.
There was a very specific set of agreements and I wish Mr Zinn could stop talking about grand theoretical structures and start talking about 1991. That agreement has been breached repeatedly and completely by the Iraqis, so we have the right to respond. Very simple.
TONY JONES: Mr Zinn agrees it is not simple.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: The fact that an agreement has been breached by the Iraqis is not a reason to go to war. There have been many UN security resolutions which have been violated by members of the UN. I mean, Israel has violated resolutions of the UN.
DANIEL PIPES: We're not talking about a UN resolution. We're talking about a US-Iraqi agreement, not a UN resolution.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: But you don't go to war because an agreement has been broken.
DANIEL PIPES: Why not? Why not?
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: You don't kill a lot of-because you're killing a lot of people-
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, once again we're talking over each other. It's making it difficult to have a discussion.
DANIEL PIPES: Sorry.
TONY JONES: If we let Howard finish that point, I'm come back to you.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: I'm suggesting that, unless there was an immediate threat that we must act against, we would be launching a war which is going to do enormous amount of human damage in Iraq. We are going to kill men, women and children and that, I believe, is a human rights violation which cannot be tolerated by any decent person in the world. I believe the US, right now, is the most dangerous nation in the world. We have the greatest number of weapons of mass destruction.
We have used them historically more than any other country in the world, have done more damage to more people all over the world-in South-East Asia, in the central America-and we should have weapons inspections of Iraq and of the US and we should have weapons inspections everywhere, but we should not single out one country-however bad it is-and start a war against it when the reasons for going to war have nothing to do with his weapons of mass destruction. They have to do with oil, they have to do with political power on the part of the US.
TONY JONES: OK, Howard Zinn, let me go to Daniel Pipes to answer the legal question first of all. In the last Gulf War, the US went to the UN, specifically, to ask for a UN resolution to go to war. Now there are a whole series of other resolutions, including resolution 1284, which gives a mandate to UN inspectors to go into Iraq and to spend six months looking for weapons of mass destruction. If you're going to follow through with the process of UN resolutions, shouldn't you first follow through with that one? That's what the Russians and French have been saying.
DANIEL PIPES: Mr Jones, there are lots of resolutions, as you have pointed out and Mr Zinn has pointed out. I am very unimpressed by UN Security Council resolutions. I am interested in the fact that we, the US, reached an agreement with the Iraqi regime in 1991, an agreement which that regime has materially breached consistently. I am also impressed by the fact that Saddam Hussein has invaded two his his neighbours. I am most impressed by the fact that most evidence suggests that he is close to building nuclear weapons. He is an imminent threat.
I therefore conclude that we are in our rights to fulfil the agreements, or to impose the agreements, that we reached with Saddam Hussein in 1991. And I really am not going to pay a whole lot of attention to a lot of decisions made at the UN Security Council. I am focused the 1991 agreement that has been materially breached and I want to fix it.
I am not, as an American, going to allow the UN Security Council to decide my fundamental decisions of war and peace of national security. We have an agreement that we can fulfil.
TONY JONES: Howard Zinn, you've heard that position. It seems to be a position which has been clearly stated by hawks within the administration-that is the UN Security Council either does what we want or we'll ignore them.
PROFESSOR HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, that makes the US an outlaw nation in the world. That removes the UN-that removes the US from that group of nations which set up the UN and which said, "We are going to create a system of collective security, here nations, together, through the UN, are going to act against threats to the peace." It sets the United States up as the lone power of the world and I do not trust administration.
I don't trust any administration with so many weapons in its possession, with such a terrible record that the United States has of using these weapons, I do not trust the United States to act alone in the world against the wishes of other countries in the world and to act on behalf of human rights. I think, right now, the United States path to war is dangerous to human beings in the Middle East and dangerous to people in the US.
It is taking the wealth of the United States and using it for war and meanwhile there are 40 million people in the US without health insurance. There are people in the United States who are homeless. And the United States Government is using the wealth of this country to expand its military power, to expand its control of oil over the Middle East. I do not believe in the intentions of the United States. I do not believe in the motives of the Bush Government. I think behind it is the perennial question of American imperial expansion in the world. I think that is what is behind all of this preparation for war.
TONY JONES: Let me go quickly, Daniel Pipes-we're really running out of time. A final right of reply to you, if you like. Can I put it to you in the form of a question-there are voices in Washington at very high levels, right now, saying the United States should start behaving in an imperial way. Do you agree with them?
DANIEL PIPES: No, we're not imperial. The key question, as Mr Zinn put it, whether you're going to trust the UN or the Government of the US. He's made clear his viewpoint, the UN whose source is morality and legality and I would say the UN has a wretched record a miserable, miserable record of decision making. The United States, on the other hand, is the country that defeated the Germans in World War I, the Nazis in World War II, the Soviets in the Cold War has an extraordinary and moral record over two centuries and more.
And this is where I put my trust. In a more fundamental way I put my trust in the sovereignty of states.
TONY JONES: On that point I have to wind it up. We are really out of time. Daniel Pipes and Howard Zinn, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.
Reader comments (46) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes