August 27, 2003

The destabilizing effects of the Iraq war

    Wednesday, August 27, 2003   No comments



By Ahmed E Souaiaia
August 27, 2003
In one of his most recent remarks, President Bush acknowledged that "terrorists are gathering in Iraq ” and he argued that “the more progress we make in Iraq , the more desperate the terrorists will become."  At first glance, there may appear to be some intelligent logic in that assessment of the situation in that part of the world.  However, when taken into the context of how we arrived where we are now, that statement can only be construed as an alarming admittance of failure and short-sightedness. 
A year ago, around this time, Iraq was bowing to the threat of military action if they did not disarm. Access to suspected banned weapons was granted, Samud missiles were being destroyed, so-called mobile labs were tested, and information gathered by spy satellites and other intelligence means were analyzed. Had the West kept the pressure on the regime under the UN umbrella, the world community could have extracted Saddam’s consent to protect and honor his international commitments to human rights or risk war that will remove him from power.
Four months after the unilateral action undertaken by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, the weapons of mass destruction are nowhere to be found. And the scary part of this is: if this administration was correct in its initial assessment of the existence of such weapons, by now, these weapons may have already fallen in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if these weapons did not exist in the first place, then the premise of sending troops to the killing fields becomes non-existent as well.  Every day a life is lost in that war zone, the administration must face the reality of stopping the loss of the next by doing the right thing, not by spinning it.
This war was premised on disarming Iraq and putting an end to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While WMD’s are yet to be found in Iraq , the danger of proliferation became more and more real as states who wanted to possess them accelerated their quest. After all, it is only rational that regimes would learn from past experience: compliance with disbarment demands did not guarantee Saddam’s political survival but having a nuclear weapon could as the crisis with North Korea shows. Because of this slow-acting administration, we will see a new race for “weaponizing” and that would include the acquisition of dangerous weapons.
Four months after the launch of this costly war, Saddam had the Qaeda-type militants cornered and limited to the Northern small area controlled in most part by the Kurds. Today, and according to the administration officials and military leaders, al-Qaeda itself, or its representatives, are roaming the streets of Baghdad and killing at will.
Four months ago, the war on terror was taken to the opponents’ backyard with the support and blessings of the world community. This administration inherited an overwhelming post-911 legacy of sympathy that could have propelled the US to an unprecedented moral leadership. Since the launch of the war, it would appear that Bin Laden has recruited more members and affiliates than this administration’s allies. Additionally, the real-estate that was shrinking under the feet of the opponents in Somalia and Afghanistan , miraculously expended to include Iraq and soon, very likely, neighboring states like Saudi Arabia and Jordan . The international outrage over the killing of innocents in New York turned into an outrage against the arrogance and unilateralism of this administration even from historical allies like France as a result of hasty decision to go to war. Never in my imagination, could a state transform itself from the victim that earned the sympathy and support of the entire world into a demonized bully in this short time. This administration blindsided the grieving American public to carry out a counter-productive mission.
Four months ago, the reach of the brutal spy and security personnel trained by Saddam to kill his enemies was shrinking due to the watchful eye of world and the presence of numerous international organizations. This week, the Interim US Administration in Iraq decided to enlist the services of these same elements to fight the resistance; it must be a painful memory-jolt for Iraqis who are asked to believe that old ways are gone with Saddam.
What is most alarming is that this war is indirectly expending the definition of terrorism to levels that would render terrorism legitimate in the eyes of many. It seems that this administration is labeling anyone attacking the US troops in Iraq as a “terrorist”. In doing so, the US runs the risk of blurring the boundaries between terrorism and legitimate resistance.  Just as there is a legal context for the US occupation as defined in international law, resistance movements, misguided as they may, have the legal protection as well. If the administration insists on not making the distinction even in a sensitive situation like this, then it will run the risk of legitimizing terrorism per se.

Ed Isr

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