Common sense from Dan Greenberg in the MetroWest Daily News (thanks to Nicolei):
It has become almost impossible to have a detached discussion — one that takes historical considerations into account — about the war on terror, and the position of Iraq in the context of that war. Here, I would like to do my best to contribute to such a discussion.
Let’s begin with some basic facts. First, for some time now, radical Islam has engaged in a brutal war on Western culture, seeking to eliminate all vestiges of that culture within the Muslim world and to undermine its existence in the Western world. This is a no-holds-barred attack, governed by none of the so-called “rules of war” that supposedly civilized nations claim to have put in place. There are no distinctions made between belligerents and non-belligerents; any and every person in the West is a target, apparently including even Muslims who live in the West or are at peace with the West.
Second, there is no single coordinated command structure to radical Islam. New terror groups form, old groups disband, but all have a common goal, and all applaud each other’s successes and support each other’s efforts. They try to infiltrate official Islamic governmental structures and, where this does not succeed, they gain cover and support through the threat of violence.
Third, these groups use a broad range of tactics and strategies to achieve their goals. They employ unfettered physical violence; they take advantage of people’s greed in order to purchase their weapons and influence; and they use normal diplomatic means to insert themselves into international power politics.
Fourth, these groups gain succor from willing supporters and unwitting fellow-travelers in all countries, who aid them in achieving their goals.
Finally, the radical Islamists have gained strength and momentum in more recent years, thanks to the increasing availability of sophisticated weapons having far greater destructive power than any before. With each passing year, it has become easier to create or purchase weapons that can disable planes and tanks, that can spread disease and toxic chemicals, and even those that can create a nuclear disaster, either in the form of “dirty bombs” or in the more sinister form of atomic warheads.
For years, the terrorists have been refining their tactics and preparing for ever more destructive operations. Israel has been a fertile proving ground for them, and continues to be. Throughout the world, they have experimented with hijacking and destruction of planes and ships, bombing embassies and military bases, and individual assassinations of opponents.
Sept. 11, 2001 was distinguished from other days only in that it was a clear, unambiguous declaration of global war, just as Dec. 7, 1941 differed from preceding days and years in that it made Japanese intentions of world conquest manifest to everyone.
We are dealing with an insidious, cruel enemy that has spread its tentacles throughout the world. We are also dealing with particular places that are havens for these terrorists. It took no genius to identify Afghanistan as one such place, and the operation to neutralize that haven has indeed eliminated it as a safe base from which terrorists could operate unmolested.
Iraq was a much more insidious focal point, because in that country, the ambitions of a monstrous dictator coincided with those of the terrorists. Saddam Hussein was open about his intention to dominate the entire Middle East — a new Babylonian empire, in his eyes — and control Western access to its major source of energy, oil.
Using his own vast resources, he converted his plans into action, first by trying to conquer Iran, another major supplier of oil, and then, when that did not succeed, by turning south to conquer Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In the process, he supported radical terrorists operating against other governments in the Middle East, including Israel, and operating against the West in general.
He was assiduous in developing or obtaining every dangerous weapon known to man. He was the first Muslim ruler to develop a program for atomic weapons, which the Israelis were intelligent enough to hamper by destroying his main nuclear reactor 20 years ago. He developed chemical and biological weapons that he perfected by using them against his own people, and then against the Iranians.
When he was defeated in Kuwait by a wide coalition of powers, including many Muslim governments who felt threatened by him, he continued with his development programs throughout the 1990s, openly defiant of agreements he had made and repeated demands made by the United Nations Security Council.
To say that this regime was not a direct menace to the United States and to world stability in general is to bury one’s head firmly in the sand. Perhaps we shouldn’t have gone to war against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, but only sought to find and prosecute in a court of law the bombardiers who dropped their bombs and torpedoes on the American ships. Indeed, why did we fight the Axis powers — Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary — at all? All they did was make a paper declaration of war on us in 1941; they didn’t actually attack any American troops or cities.
Notice that I am not talking about Saddam Hussein being a “bad person.” I am not even addressing the question of whether one should use military force to rid the world of horrendous mass murderers, of whom he ranks as one of the worst in history. We don’t seem to have reached any sort of consensus on that question.
We certainly didn’t go to war against Hitler or Stalin when they slaughtered their own people, or against the Hutus in Rwanda (or any of the other mutually murderous tribes in Burundi and the Congo). We intervened in the Balkans, ostensibly to prevent further “ethnic cleansing,” but that reason was hardly plausible; the numbers involved there were far from comparable to those that were killed in other places, even during the same years.
No, the world has not decided that mass murderers have to be eliminated, nor have we in this country reached that point.
But we are certainly clear that we will do everything necessary to defend ourselves against declared enemies who have taken overt actions that threaten our safety and security. Radical Islam is top on the list, and Iraq was far and away the most dangerous and menacing official government that actively promoted the same belligerent goals.