See No Evil, Hear No Evil
It is time that we put the Iraqi question in some perspective. There has been a lot of hand wringing and sweating recently since President Bush has decided to force Saddam to comply with the 'demands' of the international community. Saddam was encouraged in the 80's by the United States and was given logistic support for his war with Iran. Iran was the archenemy of the United States following the debacle of Shah of Iran and the hostage crisis (thanks to Jimmy Carter, who assured the end of Shah's regime, only to usher in the heinous Ayatollah Khomeini). The Shiite Iranians and the Sunni Iraqis were at it for eight years in a war where Saddam gained experience in using his chemical weapons. Silence on the part of United States only encouraged Saddam until his blunder in Kuwait, claiming that piece of land and its oil fields always belonged to Iraq. His next step would have been to attack Saudi Arabia and rule over a large oil empire (he thought with the blessings of the United States) and control the Middle Eastern sheikhdoms like puppets. But he had miscalculated the concern of United States as well as the neighbors of Iraq in his eagerness to expand Iraqi territory. And the rest is history with the success of Operation Desert Storm.
The mother of all wars, promised by Saddam fizzled out and his famed Republican guards were hunted like desert rats as they were scurrying around trying to find a hole to hide in. Saddam's life was spared as per the advice of his Arab neighbors who feared Iran might emerge as a dominant force in the region and become a stronger bully. Mistake on the part of United States? Perhaps. However, at the time in the chess game that appeared to be the right move. Saddam, as a condition of his surrender agreed to unfettered inspection by the United Nations and promised to destroy his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
Over the next seven years the regime in Baghdad was busy duping and obstructing the inspectors in doing their job. They had some initial success but Saddam found a way to delay and distract the inspections and eventually, in 1998, was able to make them vacate his country. President Clinton made some noise at that time and sent a few missiles as a token of threat. Operation Desert Fox, as it was called was a joke. The Congress and the United Nations passed new regulations and sanctions against Iraq. And then, inexplicably international community stuck its head in the sand wishing the problem would simply go away. Saddam also won the diplomatic war and after showing suffering Iraqi population on television screens (which he blamed on the sanctions imposed rather than his brutal regime depriving the people of basic needs of food and medicine) and the international community agreed to allow him to sell some of his oil on the open market provided the money earned went directly for the welfare of the people of Iraq. Of course, it was impossible to verify this by anyone. Meanwhile, France and Russia started doing business as usual with Saddam, all the while passing tough resolutions and sanctions in the Security Council in the United Nations, of which they both are veto-bearing members! They and many other countries bought his oil in the black market. The unfinished business of disarming Saddam as terms of the surrender after the Gulf War was totally forgotten. Meanwhile, Saddam earned 2 billion dollars a year for his private coffers and program of weapons of mass destruction went unhindered. Chemical and Biological weapons were neither destroyed nor depleted. His insatiable appetite for acquiring nuclear weapons became apparent.
And then September 11 happened. The threat of spread of terrorism originating from the Middle East opened the eyes of the international community. Talks about increasing threat of biological and chemical weapons used by the terrorists hit the airwaves daily. Then the tin army of Afghanistan fell. The search of the al-Qaida headquarters in that country revealed preliminary plans for nuclear weapons and evidence of animal experiments with chemical weapons. The world was aghast (for a while anyway). The threat of mass destruction of innocent people just because they do not agree with the terrorist's way of life or their thinking, served as a wake up call for civilization.
There are three sources for the menace of weapons in the region. Iran, Pakistan and Iraq. These three countries with their fanatical thinking will not hesitate to put the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of willing suicidal terrorists. Pakistan, at least for the time being is controlled with the American involvement and the fight against al-Qaida. Iran is to be deterred and hopefully the people of Iran will bring about a regime change with internal revolt. That leaves Iraq.
The hope of regime change within Iraq by its people has been given ample time and there is little hope of this happening. Saddam has successfully decimated the opposition with his brutality. Now he is close to obtaining nuclear power according to all intelligence reports. His biological and chemical weapons are ready to be deployed on missiles. His contacts with terrorists in the last decade are established facts. If the world does not wake up now to this threat, especially after September 11, when else would they?
If Bush does not force Saddam to comply and come clean now with the help of the international community, that day will dawn on us when disaster will strike us again. Perhaps it is inevitable but it is our duty to see if attacking the source of known evil can avert it. Complacency on the part of world community as well as the United Sates in the last decade, perhaps, is what got us to this point. There were warning signs and terrorist attacks, which were largely ignored. The first World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombing in Africa and the attack of USS Cole were responded in a meek manner by America Some charade of token bombing of tents in Afghanistan looking for the perpetrator, Bin Laden or bombing of aspirin factory in Africa were our answers. These acts are no different than the United Nations passing feel-good resolutions with not follow-up action if not abided by Saddam. These timid acts only have emboldened the terrorists and Saddam. The perpetrators of the Trade Center bombing were caught and put through public trials where real strategy for destroying the WTC was openly discussed. There is speculation that the subsequent attack and destruction of WTC was as a result of what was learnt in these open trials. This does make a compelling case for secret trials of terrorists as proposed by the administration now.
Now we have new acts of terrorism committed in other parts of the world. The island of Bali was the latest venue. Anyone who does not belong to the radical, fanatical Muslim group is a victim. Are we going to fight this menace or bury our heads in the sand wishing this threat would go away? The terrorist, I assure you, will not rest until his goal of wiping out civilization is met. We can fight back now or wait till half the population is wiped out before doing so. The threat will not go away by peace negotiations and appeasement. Only by striking at the heart of their source of money and weapons will make this world a safer place to live. Iraq could serve as an example to warn other rogue countries that encouraging terrorism can be detrimental to their security as well. It will serve notice to these regimes that harboring terrorist is as much a crime as committing acts of terrorism.
No one said this war is going to be easy or short. We all can choose not to see the evil or hear the evil. But capitulation in this early stage will result in this evil winning over the entire civilization. The Armageddon could be at hand sooner than we hoped for.
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Dr. Neria H. Hebbar
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