As I See It |

As I See It

Watching the mounting frenzy of rhetoric coming from the White House, and from vice-president Cheney, attempting to convince (read that “con”) the American public and the world, that we have no choice but to take out Saddam Hussein, I sense a growing frustration with their inability to sell their message. What greatly concerns me is the real possibility that the Bush Administration may encourage or create an “incident” with Iraq as a means of inducing public support for an attack on that country.

That is exactly how we were dragged into the 9-year-long Vietnam War the last time we had a Texan in the White House. The American people were fed the line that we had to stop the North Vietnamese from overrunning the South, or all of southeast Asia would fall to communism – the so-called “domino effect.” When that argument failed to convince the public that what happened in southeast Asia posed any threat to our national security, a minor incident between some Vietnamese gunboats and two U.S. destroyers was blown out of proportion to justify American involvement in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. First we tried bombing, then support troops to bolster an ineffectual South Vietnamese army, until eventually we were involved with a force of more than 500,000 of America’s young men and women.

The reason given for attacking Iraq is to get rid of Saddam Hussein before he can develop atomic weapons. Except for the United States, which created the first atomic bomb during World War II, all the other atomic powers have developed atomic weapons as a defense against a perceived threat – Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France against Russia and China, India and Pakistan against each other, and Israel against its Arab neighbors. Iraq and Iran have been keeping a nervous eye on each other and would like to have nuclear capabilities for the same reason as India and Pakistan. Our current threats to invade Iraq can only add to Saddam’s sense of urgency to have an atomic arsenal for his defense against any such attack. He well knows that if he were to use them as an offensive weapon, by so doing he would assure the obliteration of his own country. This is the reason almost every other country in the world is unconvinced that Iraq is the threat we are trying to make it out to be, especially since we have yet to produce any firm evidence to support our claim that Saddam is an immediate nuclear threat.

Another result of the belligerent attitude of the Bush Administration which greatly alarms me is what it is doing to our reputation as a nation. Going back to World War I, and especially after World War II, the United States was generally regarded as the bastion of freedom, saving the world from oppression, generous in aid to countries devastated by wars and natural disasters. Most importantly, we had no desire to occupy other countries and supported the right of self-determination for native peoples who had been under colonial domination for decades if not for centuries, and we were respected for those policies.

Because of Bush and Company’s belligerent attitude, the United States is more and more seen as a bully, trampling over other countries in the mad pursuit of our own selfish interests. The Bush Administration’s siding with the Israelis against the Palestinians is not doing our reputation any good, either.

Is the Bush Administration blind to what is going on in Israel? Can’t they see that by turning his overwhelming military might on the Palestinian people and destroying their homeland, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is sowing the seeds of hatred, from which he will reap a harvest of increasingly violent terrorism? This should give us a clue to the effect an invasion of Iraq could have on the entire Middle East.

We are at a very delicate point in the balance of opinion in the Muslim World. At the present time only a small minority of Muslims are extreme fundamentalists who support terrorism. The large majority of Muslims are moderate and nonviolent. The war against terrorism is a struggle to win men’s minds, and our current foreign policy is destined to fail in that struggle. Our threats to invade Iraq, our military presence in Saudi Arabia, and our one-sided attitude in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only serve to turn the moderate majority of Muslims away from us and into supporters of the terrorist fundamentalists.

As Americans concerned over the future of our country, we need to stand up against the warmongers in our government and restore the United States’ reputation as a friend of the world – not an enemy. If we spent a fraction of what militarism and security are costing us on foreign assistance to help build viable economies in impoverished countries, we could once again become the guiding light of the world, and gain international respect.

P.S. Of course the threat to invade Iraq may only be a political ploy to divert our attention from the weak economy, and the failure of our invasion of Afghanistan to get rid of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida, and to establish a stable democratic government. Especially with an election only a few weeks away.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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