War Notes, part 1
Saddam Hussein had it coming.
There’s no mistake about that. He’s had it coming since he decided to invade Kuwait, maybe even before. It’s hard to say. Before Kuwait, we never really heard much about the guy.
I’ll go on record here and tell you that I was against Operation Desert Storm, as we called it back then. Now we call it the Persian Gulf War, or just the Gulf War, but I suppose we’ll have to come up with a new name, like GW1. Before that, it was Operation Desert Shield, but I digress. Desert Shield consisted of blockades and embargoes and sanctions that were supposed to spank Saddam Hussein for being a bad neighbor. It was my opinion at the time that all we needed to do was wait him out. His government would collapse and the Kuwaiti flag would fly again, with the additional bonus of minimal loss of life on either side. We’ll never know if I was right.
The flip side to my opinion was that if we went in, we had to go all the way. No stopping at the border with a slap on the wrist. Saddam was a troublemaker and if we committed to military action we had to take him out or we’d regret it later.
Well, it’s later, and here we are again. When the fighting started in 1991, there was a rush of adrenalin all around. It was like the cavalry coming over the hill. We were the good guys (and gals), taking on the evil Iraqis in the black hats. Riding in the name of freedom for all the oppressed, it was a scene straight out of a John Wayne movie. Even those of us who were against the war could feel a surge of pride as our proud Patriot missiles fought off the vile Scuds.
Now, I’m not so naive as to think that the liberation of Kuwait was done for purely altruistic reasons. There have been plenty of hot spots in the world that we did very little about — places that weren’t floating on an ocean of oil — but it felt good to be doing the right thing, no matter what other factors may have been involved.
This time, it doesn’t feel good at all.
This time, our army is wearing black hats.
We’re finally going in, doing what perhaps we should have done 12 years ago, but it isn’t the same. For one thing, as evil dictatorships go, Hussein’s has been relatively quiet for the last decade. Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that he has violated the UN sanctions. I’m sure he sprinkles anthrax in his coffee and brushes his teeth with chemical weapons. But he hasn’t invaded anyone lately. He hasn’t even lobbed any missiles into the Sea of Japan. If you start to think I find him sympathetic, please reread the first line of this essay.
But it does make me wonder why we’re invading Iraq. Because that’s what this is — an invasion. I know the president was on TV calling it a “disarmament,” but invasion is the proper word. We’re disarming Iraq by moving thousands of soldiers and a large percentage of our military hardware into it. On the way, we’re hoping to topple the government and replace it with one more friendly to us. For security reasons.
I know, terrorism is the real reason behind this. More precisely, the fear of terrorism. It seems to be the reason we do everything these days. The theory is that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. The terrorists, Al-Qaeda in particular, want weapons of mass destruction. They both hate us, so it’s logical to assume that Hussein will give his weapons to them for use on us.
Sounds good, but experts on fundamentalist Islam like to point out that if there’s a runner-up to the United States on Al-Qaeda’s “most-despised” list, it’s secular leaders of Muslim countries like Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, Hussein isn’t likely to give his precious weapons away. He’d much rather save them for use on his neighbors or those pesky Kurds.
So, it comes down to this. I have no idea why invading Iraq suddenly became such a priority. Well, I have my opinions, but it doesn’t really matter any more any way. For better or worse, the invasion has begun, and it will just have to play itself out.
The point is, history shows us that it takes years to figure out all the ramifications of complex events like this. Who would have thought that the CIA encouraging Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan during the eighties would ever spin out of control? You remember Afghanistan, don’t you? The Soviet Union invaded it. For security reasons.