January 27, 2003
Iraq: This Time It's Different
by Donald G. Mashburn

Administration critics, including opportunistic Democrats, are beating the anti-war drums. They oppose the Iraq policy of the United States, and they want to create problems for President George Bush. But in opposing the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, they ignore history and the record of the Iraqi dictator.

They seem to forget it was that father of all bluster, Saddam Hussein, whose invasion of Kuwait caused the Persian Gulf War of 1991. It was Saddam who ordered the barbarous killing of his own people, and the invasion of Kuwait. Now the Bush critics quail at the thought of action to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the bloody hands of Saddam Hussein.

In 1991, war opposition gained little traction. A few members of Congress played to the demonstrator gallery, but the invasion of Kuwait unified the world, and gave war a face: the face of Saddam Hussein. No faceless enemy; no unsavory government to prop up. Just the dark, caricature of evil we could easily pin a name on: “Saddam.”

That war also had victims – the helpless Kuwaitis, ravaged and brutalized by the Iraqi invaders in a way the world hoped it would never see again. The eyewitness reports of brutality gave added credibility to reports of Iraqi atrocities in killing thousands of Kurds by poison gas and other weapons of terror.

Before the war, we viewed Iraqi actions through a lens blurred by distance. But the lens became focused when Iraq invaded Kuwait. When Iraqi troops made their bloody sweep through the defenseless country, followed by an occupation unprecedented in its brutality, the war die was cast.

Also, the Arabian Peninsula had some two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves and productive capacity. So when Saddam turned his attention south toward Saudi Arabia, which has more oil than any other nation, the world paid attention. With control of most of the world's oil at stake, Saddam’s actions took on global importance.

Even pacifists could understand such control carried with it the power to dictate terms to the rest of the oil-exporting countries. And the economies of the West would become Saddam's personal yo-yo, to go up or down as the whim moved him.

This time the economic realities are similar. Islamic nations in the Middle East still have most of the world’s petroleum, but increased oil flow from Russia and other nations has reduced our dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The major difference this time, however, is Saddam’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – biochemical and nuclear. This terrifying prospect seems to be understood most clearly in Great Britain and the United States.

Some politicians, notably President Jacques Chirac of France, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, ignore the documented efforts of Iraq to acquire WMDs. They seem to be clueless in reading Saddam Hussein's record. Memories of Iraqi atrocities seem to have “gone with the simoom,” a hot, sand-laden wind of the Arabian Desert.

Seemingly forgotten are the Scud missiles launched toward Tel Aviv, Haifa, Dhahran and Riyadh to kill civilians. Scuds are little more than a rocket-propelled pipe bomb that can exact a heavy toll in human lives and public buildings, including schools and hospitals. They are notoriously inaccurate, and often land anywhere in a 60 square-mile area.

The anti-war factions gloss over Saddam’s murderous acts, and the potential horrors of WMDs in the hands of the Iraqi army. But these groups have never been accused of deep thinking or objectivity. They are mainly anti-Bush, anti-Republican and anti-American oil industry.

Their cause is enhanced by the exposure their signs and sloganeering get on television, courtesy of kindred spirits at the networks. Saddam's record of inhumane treatment of Iraqi and Kuwaiti civilians gets lost in slogans like, "No blood for oil," and references to "Bush's war."

This time around, with the Democratic presidential nominee field looking liking a veritable Political Panderers Gallery, the anti-war rhetoric isn’t likely to change. Nor are Saddam’s motives, which are as they were in 1991: evil, and naked of any believable justification.