Volume 96, Issue 64
Thursday, January 23, 2003

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War and the unknown

Chris Lackner

"We must never let fear of the unknown stop us from defending our nation with force."

Ah yes, "fear of the unknown" – the perfect rationale for the impending war with Iraq, a conflict that could lay a black mark on the 21st century. I'd like to personally thank Jay Armitage (deputy to United States Secretary of the State Colin Powell) for delivering those soothing words on Tuesday. They've made a solid contribution to my recent nightmares.

So, we find ourselves on the brink of the seemingly inevitable battle between our jolly, gun-toting friends to the south and the charming tyrant Saddam Huissen.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people held peace rallies around the world in the attempt to put public pressure on the American government. While I applaud their intentions, in the end, Bush will plow headlong into battle against the "unknown," with his sabre rattlin' and Cheney's gut a- wigglin'.

The length of an American war on Iraq has garnered much debate. Most pundits say Baghdad (the Iraqi capitol) would fall in under 10 days. The invasion could also break down into streetfighting in Baghdad, prolonging the battle and escalating both civilian and military deaths. In the end, the body count and length of battle are arguable, but an eventual American victory is not.

It's the ramifications of the war which should keep us all awake at night.

The poverty, civil unrest and anti-American sentiment contained within large pockets of the Middle East could be pushed to the boiling point with an Iraqi war, and lead to widespread violence and political instability across the region. The possibility of Israel getting drawn into the conflict poses even greater dangers.

In addition, no better advertising could possibly be delivered into the hands of al-Qaeda. Want to hand Osama evidence, whether true or untrue, to convince Joe-terrorist that America is the enemy of the Muslim world? How about an unprovoked and internationally condemned attack on a heavily Muslim nation, in which numerous civilians are killed and the government is toppled? I think many Joe-terrorists will be ready to sign their martyr contracts to wage an indefinite war.

Is Saddam a good guy? No. Is America sincere in its desire to "free" the Iraqi people? Don't bet on it.

An honest attempt at rebuilding and democratizing Iraq would cost the U.S. billions of dollars. What's on the tab? The development of a functioning civil service, legislative system and political institutions; infrastructure for social and health care; a sustained military presence that could last well over a decade, which would be widely resented by terrorist factions and surrounding nations.

Bush will topple Saddam and go through the pretenses of wanting to help rebuild the nation (how often have you heard the word "Afghanistan" in recent months?). Soon enough, another tyrant will take control of Iraq and we'll find ourselves back at square one.

Saddam is a thug – a street bully – content to rule over his little fiefdom. Iraq's next dictator may have loftier aspirations.

The fear of the unknown indeed.




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