THE AQUIDNECK INQUIRER'S MARCH 19, 2003 EDITORIAL :::::
FIRST PUBLISHED ONLY HOURS BEFORE THE INVASION OF IRAQ WAS LAUNCHED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES -------- AND REPUBLISHED TODAY::::: FEBRUARY 21, 2007 ++++++++++
EDITORIAL: (first published on March 19, 2003 in The Aquidneck Inquirer) STEP BACK, MESSRS. BUSH AND HUSSEIN
The situation today among the United States, Iraq and the members of the United Nations Security Council has become most difficult and is on the way to reaching critical mass.
The prospect of war looms.
President Bush spoke about 48 hours ago and issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq; and yet the Security Council has not authorized armed force.
President Bush has sent a letter today to the Congress stating that diplomacy is at an end and that the President definitely has the legal authority to start the war.
We respectfully disagree.
Hussein has said, since the issuance of the 48 hour deadline, that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and that he will stay and fight (likely from a bunker surrounded by his bodyguards and his doubles); and yet reports are coming out today that Saddam is moving chemical and biological weapons capabilities weapons around his country.
There are over 200,000 American men and women over there ready, willing and able to act at the order of the President of the United States. These people are at risk. Others in the area are at risk.
Iraq continues to be in material breach of U.N. resolutions, including, and as expressly stated in, UN Resolution 1441 ("1441"), and is thus in violation of international law.
But, the United States and the United Kingdom, acting with a coalition of over 30 nations, arguably do not have a legal basis for commencing the use of force under 1441 and other relevant UN Resolutions. In addition, it does appear that the United States Congress abdicated its Constitutional role last Fall.
But, it is also strongly arguable that the resolution of the United States Congress that was passed last Fall does not grant authority to the President to do what he has stated he now intends to do, to wit: the President has expanded his "mission" to include "regime change" in, and a full and complete post-war rebuilding of, Iraq.
"Regime change" and "nation rebuilding" are not part of 1441 and thus are arguably beyond the scope of the authority granted by the Congress last Fall.
We would suggest that the Congress act to immediately to underline this view and take up the consideration of a new resolution as to whether the President can act beyond the scope of 1441.
Otherwise, the President's proposed action may be illegal under U.S. law and may be a violation of the UN Charter. (We have heard reports this afternoon that now Rep. Pelosi (D-Cal) and Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass) have interestingly agreed that the President does have full legal authority to act.)
Of course, Saddam Hussein is, without question, in violation of the UN Charter and guilty of war crimes and unspeakable human rights violations.
We do not in any way state or imply that there is any legal or moral equivalence or comparison between the situations in which the United States and Iraq currently find themselves in. There is none.
But, we strongly suggest, that, even now, before any invasion is started and before any hostilities are commenced by either side, the leaders of both nations take a step back, assess their respective legal and political difficulties and resume dialogue.
We suggest that the President of the United States keep the channels of diplomacy open - wherever they may be found.
We suggest that Saddam Hussein immediately comply with 1441 and, in the best interests of the people of Iraq, immediately agree to an internationally supervised free election process for the leadership of Iraq and for members of the legislature.
We suggest that Saddam take up the offer of Bahrain, made today, to immediately go into exile there together with his two sons.
The consequences of a war are unknown - but there is good reason to believe that the consequences may be dire in the United States and in and around the theater of operations.
Further, as stated above, it may be that President Bush and the United States will be acting illegally both as to the United States Constitution and as to international law and the United Nations Charter if he launches an attack.
Again, the basis for that position is that 1441 does not include regime change and nation rebuilding and that the Congressional resolution of last Fall only authorized the Presdient to enforce UN resolutions.
Hussein is liar, a murderer and a thief and will, as he has done before, do anything if a war is started.
We have no doubt that Hussein wants us to attack.
There is no reason why the United States need lower itself to his unspeakable level.
We have in past years led by strength and moral suasion. We can still do so.
The possibilities for untold disasters are present.
Our Defense Department has refused to give even a ballpark number as to the cost of this operation or as to the cost of the aftermath.
A war could spark conflicts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.
So, to Messrs. Bush and Hussein, we suggest that you step back, resume and continue discussions in any an all advisable and appropriate venues (including, even, bilateral discussions, if possible), resume inspections and conclude this crisis with the full disarmament of Iraq as required by 1441 and all relevant U.N. resolutions, and do so without a war.
The ultimate responsibility here is on Iraq, as the European Union recently stated in a resolution.
But, we do not wish to see the credibility and reputation of the United States further weakened by taking action that is currently not advisable and which may be illegal.
The use of force is the last resort.
We have not yet reached the end of diplomacy and the issuance of an ultimatum need not change that.
The last detailed comments in this publication regarding this matter were last Fall in a commentary in which we analyzed the crisis and compared it to the actions and developments during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
At this point, the encirclement of Iraq with military forces is not unlike the quarantine.
We would suggest that we maintain our forces in the theatre for the foreseeable future since it is clear that Hussein would have done nothing (to the extent that he has done anything since last Fall) but for the buildup of forces in the region.
Of additional great concern today are reports that Iraq is preparing to use bio-chem weapons against coalition forces. Even France has stated today that, if that occurs, such action would change France's position in this matter.
So, for all of the foregoing reasons, we hope that President Bush and Saddam Hussein take a step back while there is still time.
But, we doubt that Saddam has the mental capacity to do that - he has shown in the past an incredible capacity for making stupid, selfish and deadly decisions.
And, we doubt that President Bush, at this late moment, will step back.
But, we would hope that back-channel discussions begin, and that respected members of our House and Senate confer urgently with our President.
Even after the 48 hour deadline passes, it will not be too late to avoid armed conflict if some creative positive thought is put to the problem.
The regime in Iraq is a clear and present danger and must be disarmed pursuant to the UN Resolutions, including 1441.
We hope that our government at least will seek further paths here before launching any attack.
The risks and possible results here of miscalculation are so great that those risks and possible results weigh heavily in favor of prudence and further attempts at a peaceful resultion of the crisis.
If we seek further quick roads to solve this crisis, our friends will stay with us and our adversaries will be unable to criticize us for doing so.
Our men and women in the area, and others there, will be spared the death and destruction of war. We are strong enough to try.
We pray that our President shall try.
And, we pray for the safety and welfare of our troops in the theatre of operations and for their families here who wait on every piece of news in this crisis.