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Saturday, October 30, 2004

The War in Iraq: What Are The Benefits?

The Iraq War has caused a massive split of opinions within the American society. The Administration attempted to bind it to the terror attacks of 9/11 and,- at least on the emotional level,- those attempts were largely successful. I myself must admit to the sense of fear when I heard the pre-war intelligence data indicating that Iraq had a capability to launch an attack with a weapon of mass destruction on a 45 minute notice.

Given that such intelligence has since been proven to have little basis, if any, I share blame for being too uncritical and too given to blind trust in what the government says. Such weakness is all the more reason to listen to those who, like Jacob G. Hornberger have made an eternal distrust of government part of their credo.

In this article of his, Mr Hornberger takes a look at how America may have benefited from the war in Iraq. In it, he asks two key questions regarding the issue.
In determining whether the invasion of Iraq has been in the interests of America, two questions naturally arise:

One, has the invasion made Americans safer from terrorism? and

Two, has the invasion made Americans freer with respect to their own government?
The answer to both questions, in Hornberger's opinion, is a resounding "no".

Firstly, he asks why Americans are hated in the Middle East and elsewhere.
When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Americans were horribly angry, despite the fact that most of them did not personally know the victims. This phenomenon of empathy, sympathy, and anger was actually shared by people all over the world.

On 9/11, the immediate response of U.S. officials, which they have steadfastly maintained since that day, was that the terrorists attacked America because of their hatred for America’s “freedom and values”—the First Amendment, Wal-Mart, and rock and roll.

As three years have passed, most Americans are coming to the realization of how truly nonsensical that position is — that actually terrorism against the United States is rooted in hatred of the U.S. government’s foreign policy, specifically in the Middle East, including the support of brutal, unelected dictators such as Saddam Hussein, to whom the United States delivered those infamous weapons of mass destruction, and the current unelected military dictator of Pakistan.

The invasion of Iraq is simply a continuation of that U.S. foreign policy.

The invasion has taken the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including ordinary Iraqi soldiers — innocent in the sense that they had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

What is fascinating about U.S. officials is that they cannot fathom the notion that people in Iraq and surrounding countries become just as angry when their loved ones, relatives, friends, and countrymen are killed as Americans and others around the world become when innocent Americans are killed. It’s a blind spot that afflicts the minds of U.S. officials.
In a sense, this is an invitation to think along the "how would you feel?" lines. And, given that, according to some estimates, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the US-led invasion, the picture is not rosy.

While I fully support the notion that a dictator like Saddam Hussein is fully illegitimate and his removal from power is a welcome development, one must be aware that this is not a benefit to be obtained at any price. The data regarding the repression under Saddam's rule suggests that about 15,000 Iraqis were being killed by the regime every year. If it is true that over a 100,000 died after the invasion began, than the occupying authorities have thus far managed to kill Iraqis at the rate six times that of Saddam.

Now, let us take a look at what the effect of this war has been at home.
No one can deny that we now live in a country where the ruler has the omnipotent power to send the entire nation into war by attacking any sovereign and independent country for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all.

“That ruler has weapons of mass destruction. Or I think he does. Or he might. He surely is thinking about it. He’s got children contemplating it. He is dangerous. Order the attack, even if it kills tens of thousands of innocent people in the process.”

That type of omnipotent power — the power to both declare and wage war — has been associated with the biggest dictatorships in history.

Why is this important? Because as Madison pointed out, war is the biggest threat to our liberty — the liberty of the American people — because it encompasses all the other threats of liberty. War is the parent of armies, militarism, centralization of power, unrestrained government spending, taxes, regulations, debasement of the currency, bureaucracies, and bureaucrats.

The Framers tried to protect us from that omnipotent power. They divided the power to declare war and the power to wage war. In the Constitution, they vested the power to declare war in the Congress, not the president, and the power to wage war in the president.

That constitutional provision, as everyone knows, is now knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally ignored. And a congressional resolution that unconstitutionally delegates the power to declare war to the president is no substitute for the congressional duty to determine whether war should be declared.

Why is that important? Two reasons:

One, the Constitution is designed to protect our liberty — the liberty of the American people, and it is the supreme law of the land, the law that we the people have imposed on our government officials.

Two, make no mistake about it: When government officials are permitted to ignore one constitutional limitation on power, they will ignore more.

Did you ever think you’d live in a country where the military, following in the footsteps of their counterparts in Argentina and Chile, would actually claim and exercise the power to seize any American and foreigner anywhere in the world, including right here on American soil, and send him to a military brig for the rest of his life, claiming that no federal court had the power to interfere with such operations, denying the accused habeas corpus, right to counsel, and due-process principles that stretch all the way back to Magna Carta? Or even worse, subjecting the accused to torture, sex abuse, or rape? Or more ominously, claiming the power to ship the accused in the dead of night to a secret military base in Cuba to be put on trial before a Cuban-style, Soviet-style military tribunal before being executed?

Our judicial system now has secret court proceedings, secret search warrants, secret courts, redacted court pleadings.

These are all the attributes of some of the 20th century’s greatest dictatorships.
I think this pretty much sums it up as far as the current state of affairs in the US as a result of the current policy. And the only way out of the trap is for all of us to openly think of what is being done in our name,- and whether or not this is truly what we want.

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