Mything in Action
"I'm just trying to get people thinking."
So spoke one of the thousands of students who turned out for
anti-war protests in cities worldwide on March 5.
Good idea. There's nothing wrong with a lively debate on when or
whether the United States should take military action to force Iraq
to disarm. But let's all operate from the same set of facts.
Five myths are clouding the entire discussion. If we can get past
those, we can at least make rational judgments.
Myth #1: We need a smoking gun.
This is a classic
catch-22. Unless and until the United Nations inspectors find a
"smoking gun" -- weapons that Saddam Hussein has failed to disclose
-- we must assume Iraq has nothing to hide, and we have no reason
to go to war, critics say. If inspectors do
prohibited weapons, it proves that inspections work … and we
have no reason to go to war.
But the inspectors aren't there to find
there to verify that Saddam has disclosed all his illicit weapons
and to oversee their destruction. This works only if he cooperates
fully. Clearly, he hasn't. At the end of the Gulf War in 1991, we
knew Saddam had 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of
botulinum toxin and 500 tons of mustard, sarin and VX nerve gas. He
was required, under the terms that ended that war to destroy them
What happened to those weapons? They weren't mentioned in the
12,000-page report Iraq presented to the United Nations. It's a
shame so many trees had to die to provide the paper for that
report, with its useless and outdated information.
Myth #2: Americans oppose a war.
generally support President Bush's efforts to disarm Saddam. They'd
like assurances that Saddam has broken agreements, possesses
weapons of mass destruction and has left us no option but war.
They'd be happier if every nation joined in or at least supported
the effort. But most Americans trust their leaders to act with
their best interests at heart -- and realize that the United States
can't put its own security in the hands of international
Myth #3: We shouldn't launch a war with international
public opinion set against us.
First, not everyone opposes
our comply-or-face-the-consequences stance. Yes, Britain stands
with us. But most of Saddam's neighbors (who presumably know him
best) have agreed to help; Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman, for
example, have offered basing rights. Those who know what it's like
to live under oppression seem especially willing to sign up, even
if that means -- as is the case with several central and eastern
European countries -- jeopardizing their chances to join the
But even if all the world stood against us, we need to remember
that President Bush is ultimately answerable to only one group: the
American people. And those who fret about "public opinion"
elsewhere should reflect on what it's like in one country in
particular: Iraq, where the people, as Asla Aydintasbas, a writer
for the Turkish daily Sabah
, noted in a recent op-ed for
, can't wait for the day
of their liberation to arrive.
Myth #4: President Bush just wants to use nuclear weapons
He won't renounce their use, the critics
say. So he must intend to use them.
Nonsense. Nuclear weapons can serve as a powerful deterrent, but
only if opponents perceive their threat as credible. What's worse,
this is said of a president who has directed his military to limit
civilian casualties as much as possible and to prepare for the
humane treatment of the thousands of Iraqi soldiers likely to
surrender as soon as they can find an American.
Myth #5: It's about oil.
This one makes for a good
placard. But, frankly, if we wanted their oil, we could just buy
it. Saddam has indicated repeatedly that he'd be glad to sell his
oil to U.S. firms.
We want to steal it, some reply. But ask the Kuwaitis how much oil
we took after we liberated them. Ask the French and Russians, who
have been assured that we will respect their leases and their
financial claims on the post-war Iraqi government.
The truth is, we can't let Saddam keep developing weapons he could
give to terrorists to victimize us. Our vulnerabilities are too
many, our import controls too thin. We have to go to the source.
And Saddam is the source.
Jack Spencer is a policy analyst at the Davis
Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire