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Ten Questions for Bush Before War

Nicholas Johnson
The Daily Iowan, Guest Opinion
February 4, 2003, p. 6A

Want to see other writing by Nicholas Johnson about the Bush Administration's approach to war with Iraq? Check out:

Capitalists Can Help U.S. Avert War with Iraq

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Tell the Rest of the Story

Search for Better Response Than War: Don't Reward the Terrorists, But Understand Their Interests

Rethinking Terrorism

As a university community we don’t just “support” or “oppose” the war in Iraq. We value data and reasoned analysis. We ask questions.

Put aside the nukes in North Korea. Put aside the emotionally charged arguments. Not that they’re irrelevant. But just consider these 10 questions you might want to ask your public officials, academic colleagues, any presidential candidates you happen upon – and yourself.

1. Al Qaeda is alive and well, just over the Afghanistan border and in 60 countries. Why start a new war before resolving the last? How is "homeland security" improved by diverting focus from Al Qaeda?

2. Global Muslim support is essential to a successful war on terrorism. Threatening war with Iraq increases Muslims’ hatred – and terrorists’ recruiting. What benefits from war in Iraq exceed the costs of increased terrorism here?

3. Iraq war or not, our arrogant, go-it-alone saber-rattling has squandered valuable post-9/11 global good will. Our worldwide economic, democratic, military and human rights efforts require allies. How does alienating them serve our national interest?

4. President Bush says Saddam might use weapons of mass destruction. The President may be wrong; but especially if he's right, why fail to heed the CIA's warning: Saddam's most likely to do so only if attacked?

5. The administration’s inherited budget surpluses have become deep deficits. War with Iraq adds billions to our grandchildren’s national debt. Why abandon our relatively low-cost policy of containment? Why now? And, if so, why not increase taxes to pay as we go?

6. The Administration’s policy of global military domination and preemptive wars reverses 200 years of American policy, violates international law, the UN Charter, NATO Treaty, and possibly the U.S. Constitution. China could use the theory to justify attacking Taiwan. How is national security improved by setting back 50 years of progress in international relations?

7. Once the dogs of war are unleashed, there’s no controlling where they go. If we let the dogs out, minimally we lose Middle East stability. Worst case, we start World War III. How does risking either serve our interests?

8. What’s “war” in a city? We can level Baghdad, as we did Dresden and Hiroshima. That’s lots of “collateral damage.” We can send in ground troops. But even a weakened Hitler was able to kill the 10,000 Russian soldiers who tried that strategy in Berlin. What military strategy makes a Baghdad war “winnable” – with acceptable levels of  civilian and U.S. casualties?

9. Assume the improbable: a war that’s quick, cheap, decisive and contained. What then? Why will Saddam’s successor be better? How can he prevent civil war among Iraq’s factions, let alone Middle East chaos? Our man in Afghanistan is still under attack even in Kabul. Why will our man in Baghdad do better? What will it cost us to rebuild Iraq? Will we keep bases there forever? Or will we abandon Iraq for wars elsewhere – as we’ve done in Afghanistan?

10.  Iraq sits atop the world’s second largest oil reserves. How much of this proposed war is about oil? How will U.S. occupation of Iraq affect the interests of U.S. oil companies -- and consumers? Which campaign contributors profit from this war?

Washington hasn’t, yet, provided satisfactory (to me) answers to these and other questions. Maybe we can find them in Iowa City.