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A Case for War and Regional Transformation

Reader comment on item: What If the United States Had Not Invaded Iraq

Submitted by Aidan Maconachy (Canada), Sep 13, 2005 at 10:43

There are a great many unanswered questions with respect to the status of WMD in pre-invasion Iraq. There are also a great many loose ends and suspicions that continue to linger about the extent to which Saddam colluded with Islamic militants. Some authors such as Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard have even gone so far as to posit definite links. Nonetheless, there are many "mysteries" ... some of which may be cleared up over the course of time.

While I regret the loss of life suffered by Iraqi civilians and the losses incurred by the coalition forces, I do believe that this war was justified for the following reasons:

Despotic governments, particularly those existing in the flash point of the Middle East (as opposed to those say in equatorial Africa), have shown a tendency to become safe zones for terrorists, and moreover to actually aid and abet terrorist activity. This is an important consideration. Of course some such as Ted Kennedy will immediately offer an objection and assert that Saddam wasn't engaged with terrorism. This view is naive in my opinion and not supported by the facts. We certainly know for a certainty that Saddam promoted terrorism by offering "bonuses" of some $25,000 to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers. This is like operating as the terrorist equivalent of a godfather in the region; a terrorist-enabling Al Capone. Imagine the incentive for dirt poor Palestinians to sacrifice their children given the sure belief that they would reap a small fortune from the hand of "uncle" Saddam. This money was also accompanied on occasion by "certificates of merit". Clearly an attempt on the part of Saddam to institutionalize terror.

Saddam also offered a safe house in Iraq to one of the most notorious terrorists ever to appear on the international scene - Abu Nidal. Another terrorist who found safe haven in Iraq was Abdul Rahman Yasin. He was indicted by the Clinton administration for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. There is evidence that Yasin enjoyed financial support from the Iraqi regime and that he was a welcome guest in Baghdad. Another notorious presence was Abu Musad al Zawqari, the present leader of the insurgency in Iraq. He was not a late arrival after the American invasion, but had already established the Ansar al-Islam terrorist training camp in northern Iraq.

Aside from connections to numerous terrorists, there is clear evidence that the Iraqi regime sponsored terrorist training on its own soil. Reports to this effect come from dissidents, reporters and even from United Nations weapons inspectors. It is estimated that there were at least three major terrorist training centers in Iraq, the largest of these being Salman Park, fifteen miles southeast of Baghdad. Here operatives were instructed in car bombing techniques, plane hijacking, the "art" of planting bombs in urban areas and other terror techniques.

There are a number of books such as "The Connection" by Stephen Hayes that explore the clandestine connections that appear to tie the regime to Al Qaeda. After the 1993 World Trade Center incident, Saddam would have been extremely cautious about how he handled any such connections, and certainly wouldn't have been in the business of advertising them. Nonetheless many tantalizing leads make it impossible to go along with the blithe assertion that he had no connections whatever with Al Qaeda.

Quite aside from the threat posed by Iraq on the terror front, Hussein had shown a willingness to attack nearby nations and commit acts of gratuitous genocide against segments of his own population, both Shi'ite and Kurd. He was capable of disrupting the flow of oil, and capable of launching pre-emptive missile strikes. The proximity to Israel was always a source of great danger because given the mercurial nature of this man, there was no guarantee with respect to long term security.

In arguing in support of the war, I would look beyond Iraq to the larger Middle East. There are young democratic movements developing across the region, but they are opposed by a culture that has been conditioned by centuries of dictatorship. The political process alone, I believe, will not be sufficient to allow democracies to flower in this region. I found it interesting that as a result of the invasion of Iraq we have seen Moammar Ghadaffi disarm and take a more peaceful approach; we have seen Syrian troops withdrawing from Lebanon; elections in Saudi Arabia and other demonstrations of a changing mindset. No doubt many in these nations harbor deep reservations about Bush and his agenda, nonetheless the psychological impact in the region of seeing a strongman like Hussein go down, along with his empire is enormous. It is like a massive shock with ongoing reverberations. In this sense the war will act as a catalyst for change.

I recently read an article by Christopher Hitchens that appeared in Vanity Fair. It described the experiences of Hitchens in Iran. He spoke of visiting the holy city of Qom and meeting with, Hossein Khomenei, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomenei. This grandson (now a cleric in his own right) told Hitchens that he hoped America was serious in its role as liberator and he intimated that he would welcome intervention in Iran. This is remarkable, coming as it does from the mouth of Khomenei's grandson. His exact words as quoted by Hitchens were ...
"Only the Free World, led by America, can bring democracy to Iran.".

This is a region undergoing a process of profound transformation, and the Iraq war is but one aspect of this ongoing process. Despite the negatives that came with the war, I believe that over the long haul it will help to accelerate the momentum for change in this region, and help to take it out of the dark days of despotism and repression.
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