Women pray for peace in Baghdad
during the first Friday of Ramadan. Reuters photo by Akram Salah
Does the world really need a war in
Surely no one will deny the tyranny of the current
dictatorship in Baghdad, a proven user of chemical weapons against its own
people, a warmonger amongst its neighbors, and yet another case of a
corrupt ruling family that plunders its nation.
The dictatorship, regrettably one of many throughout the
world, is currently contained via economic sanctions and military patrol.
Since 1992, Iraq is constantly checked by American and British warplanes
for any repeated aggression against the Kurds in the north, along with the
Shiites and the Kuwaitis in the south. Weapon inspectors from the United
Nations have returned to Iraq, as mandated by Resolution 1441 passed by
the UN Security Council on 8 November 2002, which warned of "serious
consequences" if Iraq does not immediately rid itself of weapons of
If the regime of Saddam Hussein and his sons can
indeed be replaced with a more enlightened, accountable government, it
will be good for the Iraqi people in the long run.
Like Hitler, Mao or Castro, Saddam has become such a
cult of personality for more than two decades that, for all the misery he
has caused his people, they will support him to the end as a matter of
patriotic pride. Witness their absurd yet telling referendum in October
when "100%" of 11,445,638 eligible Iraqi voters granted their
president yet another seven-year term. While the long-term merit of
ousting the tyrant is certainly appreciable, the short-term trauma to be
inflicted upon his conquered subjects will have a most devastating effect.
It is doubtful that an Anglo-American campaign in Iraq
will bring peace to the Kurds of northern Iraq, whose lack of a nation is
one of the lasting ills of Western colonialism during the past two
centuries. With no more crackdowns from Baghdad, a civil war is now being
fought unabatedly between the the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the
militants of Ansar al-Islam. All sides are wary of danger coming not just from Saddam or themselves, but a
much more ancient adversary to the north. Turkey will insist upon sending
troops along with the American forces to preserve its
territorial integrity, keeping at bay the sizeable number of Kurds at both
side of the Turkish-Iraqi border.
It bodes well for the free world to secure the
planet's second largest petroleum reserve.
So long as the rest of OPEC, the Black Sea and the North
Atlantic remain accessible, the West has no fear for an oil shortage.
8 November 2002: The UN
Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1441, calling for Iraq's
disarmament. (AP photo by David Karp)
threat of war, even trusted friends will be obliged to look after their
own priorities, to the detriment of a global standard in dealing with any
||So much for reason. Since 11
September 2001, America and Britain have reclaimed the initiative for
action, and they are not about to relinquish it. Once they do go to war to
disarm Iraq, even without the immediate approval of the UN or a better
half of their own citizens, their overwhelming superiority of arms shall
make it a rather swift affair.
The trouble is that, while it is fairly certain they can
win this war in military terms, there is very little assurance that the rest
of the world will be all the better because of it.
There will be even less hope for peace between the
Israelis and the Palestinians once the US unilaterally violates the
sovereignty of a presently non-hostile Arab state. Islamic extremists and
other anti-American militants will be even more incensed to attack Western
civilians at home and abroad. As the cycle of violence continues, al-Qaeda
and its sympathizers worldwide will have found yet another raison d'etre.
Upon the threat of war, even trusted
friends will be obliged to look after their own priorities, to the
detriment of a global standard in dealing with any international crisis. The United Nations, ever succumbing to American might,
will slide ever closer to the brink of irrelevance.
France and Russia, who have yet to see any returns from their
investments in Iraqi oil, are desperate to preserve their deals with Baghdad,
lest they be
undone by American and British interests. So long as the latest government in Berlin stays in power, it will keep
its 2002 election promise of not getting involved with Iraq, for good
or for ill.
After the tragedy
in Bali last October, the Anglo-American alliance are counting on
Australia to join the fight. While this is a safe bet, it should not be
taken for granted without respecting Canberra's own concerns. The Aussies, hurt
and angry as they are, do see that the proven menace of Islamic radicalism
is coming from much closer to home. Canberra's focus on national security
will remain on its two most immediate neighbors: Indonesia, whose restive
Muslim population is the world's largest, and East Timor, whose nascent
statehood was defended by the Australian armed forces at the expense of
offending the Indonesian militants.
At the risk of being trite, let me add the
following postscript for the sake of this online
travelogue: Let's have some peace on earth already. Not all ugly
Americans wish to travel abroad with guns, gas masks and freeze-dried
rations; some of us prefer to tote cameras,
shopping bags and dine locally with new friends.
Charles Weng, 8 November 2002