Sunday, November 20, 2005

Morality and the Iraq War

The issues surrounding the Iraq war is something I've given a great deal of careful thought and research to. For this post I want to leave aside all the issues of WMD, terrorism, and legality—not because these issues aren't important, they manifestly are. I leave these issues aside to focus on only one aspect: the moral aspect and my personal feelings in regards to this aspect.

I've been an ardent proponent of regime change since back in '91 when, as a soldier serving in Operation Desert Storm, I saw first hand the results of Saddam's regime. The argument that the Iraqis should have deposed Saddam themselves misses entirely how utterly ruthless and depraved that regime was, and how utterly repressed the Iraqis were.

Saddam's regime was first and foremost, a danger to Iraqis. The most conservative count of people who were outright executed under Saddam is 300,000—other counts go much, much higher.

The UN conventions on genocide automatically authorize force to halt genocide. It is this fact that compels countries to perform logical and linguistic acrobatics to keep from declaring that genocide is in progress: they don't want to get involved. The fact remains that Saddam, under the eyes of the whole world, committed genocide against the Kurds for their uprising after the first Gulf War. It was only with the imposition of the no-fly zones by the US that the Kurds were able to withdraw to their mountainous redoubts and fight Saddam to a stalemate. Given the fact that further genocide was likely if the US were to cease the no-fly zones, it is arguable that the US had the right to force a regime change to end the no-fly zones at a time in a manner of its choosing.

The butcher's bill isn't fully totaled yet, for Saddam can be credited with the dead Iraqis from the Iran-Iraq war—a war started by Saddam. Once again using a very conservative estimate, and only counting the Iraqis killed (roughly 3 times more Iranians were killed), we can add another 200,000 dead to the total.

The horrible truth doesn't stop there. Sanctions were imposed after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, which he had the power to end simply by fully cooperating with the UN inspection teams. Saddam first blocked, then mismanaged and pilfered, offers of food and medical aid. All the while, infant mortality shot up as a direct result of Saddam's actions. So the sanctions were killing people, but without the sanctions Saddam most certainly would have been pursuing WMD (see: the Duelfer report).

Every month with Saddam in power was another month that sanctions killed thousands of innocent Iraqis. Yet those are the very same sanctions that war opponents like to claim made the war unnecessary, because they were keeping WMD out of Saddam's hands. The only way to end sanctions without allowing Saddam WMD was to end Saddam. Still using a very conservative count we can add another 350,000 dead as a result of "keeping Saddam in his box".

That's minimally 850,000 Iraqis dead due to Saddam and his regime. That doesn't include the number of Iranians killed during his unprovoked invasion of Iran, and completely leaving out the deaths of Iraqis and other nationalities as a direct result of his unprovoked invasion of Kuwait.

It's tragic when the innocent die, it's more tragic when we stand by and do nothing—as we did for all of the 90s, even though we had the military force in theater, multiple UN resolutions authorizing force, and casus belli in Saddam's actions. Even using the most over-inflated casualty figures for the war and occupation, America has a LONG way to go before we can ever be said to match the carnage Saddam wrought on the Iraqi people.

The implication of the anti-war movement is that Iraqi deaths don't matter as long as Americans don't have to see it on TV, or have to face the uncomfortable reality that even a just war kills innocent people. That America has killed civilians is terrible; that some would have left a far more prolific butcher in place to salve guilty consciences is much, much worse. Saddam's killing is only in the past because we made it that way—far more people were likely to have died over the long run if we did nothing.

Bottom line: Saddam's regime was flat out evil. Not merely bad, but evil. Every day with Saddam and his demented half-wit sons at the driving wheel was another day of guaranteed theft, rape, torture, and murder. That's what he'd do to his own people, and what he exported to neighboring countries.

Indifference to the justness of this war is indifference to true evil, and is sadly self-centered. To do nothing is taking a side.

There is NO WAY, having seen the things I saw with my own eyes, that I could have opposed this war. Deposing Saddam and dismantling his regime was the morally right thing to do.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
–Edmund Burke


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