To the Editor:
In his editorial on Nader and the anti-war movement (“Three years later, Nader is more wrong than ever,” 2/12), James Kirchick ’06 seems to have missed the point.
His claim that “bombing the nation will remove the tyrant responsible for the starvation” of the Iraqi people is simplistic thinking at best. First, the United States was intimately involved in Saddam Hussein’s rise to power by recruiting him with the Iraqi Baath Party to assassinate Abdul-Karim Kassem in 1963 and later supplying him with arms in the fight against the Ayatollah in Iran. Second, the United States has arguably contributed to the starvation of the Iraqi people by supporting economic sanctions, which are widely regarded by human rights groups as contributing to severe shortages on basic necessities while doing little to sway the tyrants in power.
The central question really is: Are we bombing to make way for democracy in Iraq, or to contain what is presumed to be a threat to global security?
If we are bombing to make way for democracy, then I find it problematic that the United States is relying on the most undemocratic means to achieve this objective, by ignoring the planet’s one institution that most closely resembles global democracy: that old “useless authority” the United Nations. On top of this, externally imposing a democratic system through violent means in a clan-controlled region known for its anti-American sentiment does not strike me as fulfilling the “most likely to succeed” category.
If we are bombing to contain a threat to global security, it seems likely that, were Saddam Hussein truly a threat to his neighbors or to the world, Israel (as the most likely geopolitical target) would have already obliterated both their weapons and their delivery systems capacity. (Incidentally, Israel made fast work of destroying a one-fifth-completed nuclear power plant outside of Baghdad in 1981.)
I must also add that, contrary to Kirchick’s view, anti-war does not equal pro-Saddam. The anti-war movement is exactly what it says it is, a movement that opposes the use of war for unjustified reasons. It is a movement that opposes not the removal of a cruel dictator, but an unnecessary turning point in U.S. and world history: the doctrine of pre-emption. As argued by Sen. Robert Byrd, the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense, and may destabilize the interdependence of the entire global community. Given its exorbitant economic and human costs, not to mention its likelihood to further erode an already fragile relationship between the United States and the Arab world (and can’t you just hear Osama licking his chops), war should be not the first, but the last resort.
I do agree with Kirchick on one point: descending into the petty rhetoric of calling the president a chickenhawk makes Nader, well, kind of petty. To me, it is a lesson for all of us to avoid relying on insults to get our political views across; in the end, justice will speak for itself.
February 13, 2003
The writer is a graduate student in Epidemiology and Public Health and African Studies.