As I See It
There is no question that the United Nations inspection effort to find and destroy any weapons of mass destruction which may exist in Iraq has turned into a cat and mouse game between the U.N. and Saddam Hussein, which could go on for months or even years unless our President decides to send American troops into the country.
So what’s the hurry? Why rush into a war of unknown costs and consequences? What is wrong with continuing the U.N. inspection program? “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
“What have the inspections accomplished?” you ask. Although the process to date has been slow and the results far less than hoped for, there has been piecemeal progress as Saddam has reluctantly acquiesced to U.N. demands. Most recently he has been forced into the destruction of missiles whose range exceeded U.N. limitations.
More important than what the U.N. inspections have accomplished is what they have not produced.
They have not resulted in perhaps tens of thousands of American battle casualties, and potentially many times that many casualties from exposure to chemical and biological agents.
They have not resulted in massive Iraqi civilian casualties, or the total destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure, or setting fire to Iraq’s hundreds of oil wells.
They have not resulted in the destruction of Iraqi society, requiring years of foreign occupation to establish order out of chaos.
And they have not alienated the governments and people of other Arab countries in the Middle East or of the other United Nations and NATO countries.
In addition to the horrible cost in human lives which could be avoided, continued U.N. inspection, even if it were to go on for ten years, would cost a pittance compared to the incalculable cost of an all-out war of unknown duration, plus the cost of rebuilding a country destroyed by war, plus the cost of an occupation force which could go on for up to ten years – maybe even longer.
We’re comparing millions of dollars for inspection, paid for by the United Nations, with many hundreds of billions of dollars for war and its aftermath, mostly coming out of the United States.
Does it make sense either in lives and human suffering or in the enormous economic burden on this country to choose war now over continued inspection?
Furthermore, as long as inspectors are swarming all over Iraq, they are in a position to know what is going on in that country and could blow the whistle if Saddam shows any signs of mobilizing forces or weapons for any sort of aggressive action. And who knows, if we give him enough time he might even be dead.
Granted, it is undoubtedly the threat of invasion of his country that has caused Saddam Hussein to make the limited concessions he has made so far, but he has been successful in exploiting the unpopularity throughout the world of George Bush’s impatience to start a war to divide the U.N., NATO and the American people. Our insistence on rushing into war merely plays into his game plan.
What we need to do is change the motion we are getting ready to present to the U.N. authorizing an immediate attack on Iraq to one which continues the inspection process until such time as a preponderance of the U.N. countries are in agreement that no other option is any longer viable and that in that case they would unite in a war with Iraq with both troops and money.
In the meantime our troops could come home and be reunited with their families and reservists could return to their jobs, many as firemen and police officers essential to homeland security.
Or is it our purpose in destroying Iraq, to also destroy the U.N., which would fulfill the dreams of a radical conservative element in this country? Then we could really “go it alone” and would find ourselves totally alone in the world.
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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