As the war in Afghanistan winds down, the argument over Iraq is heating up.
The Bush administration has dropped some heavy hints about the need to rid the world of the Saddam Hussein regime. In response, some are denouncing this prospect. Their dissenting views, which fall under six main rubrics, need to be taken very seriously.
Catastrophe: A "great catastrophe" will follow if an Arab country is hit, predicts Jordan's King Abdullah II. Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara warns of "endless problems" if any Arab country is struck.
Sounds ominous - but these two leaders forget to explain just why ousting Saddam would be so terrible. Or why it would be worse than leaving him in power. Khidhir Hamza, former head of Iraq's nuclear program, estimates that his old boss will have "three to five nuclear weapons by 2005." Given Saddam's well-established viciousness and aggression, this would be the true catastrophe, not his losing power.
Coalition busting: "Striking against any Arab country will be the end of harmony within the international alliance against terrorism," says Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League. Gernot Erler of Germany's Social Democrat party is more specific: An attack on Iraq "would certainly mean the end of the broad political alliance against terrorism."
To which the sensible reply is - So what? The attacks on Sept. 11 were against the United States, not Egypt or Germany. The U.S. priority is to win the war against terrorism, not make new friends.
Further, the coalition is window dressing. Only one country is actually needed to launch an attack on the Iraqi regime, says former CIA Director James Woolsey. "Operating from Turkey and from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf," he notes, should generate more sorties than was possible against landlocked Afghanistan.
And Turkey appears to be on board: Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu recently said that his government might reconsider the "Iraqi question," indicating Turkey's possible willingness to help America.
Destabilized Arab regimes: "Arab regimes will be considerably weakened if they are incapable of preventing operations against Iraq," finds French analyst Gilles Kepel. "This would be highly destabilizing."
Really? More likely, ridding the world of Saddam will stabilize every Arabic-speaking country, as they no longer worry about his depredations and can loosen up. Better yet, the Iraqi National Congress (waiting in the wings) gives signs of setting up a democratic government and the Kurdish government in the north of Iraq (in power) has already done so.
Collateral damage: An attack on Iraq would cause civilian casualties, Britain's Foreign Ministry and Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki bin Faisal both tell us. True, but collateral damage pales in comparison to the damage Saddam inflicts on his own people, whether gassing 5,000 of them on one day in 1988 or assaulting the Shi'ites in Iraq's south for over a decade.
As in Afghanistan, an attack on Iraq would be a humanitarian operation that the local population will celebrate.
Strengthens Saddam: Attacks on Iraq may only "bolster Saddam's position in Iraq and make the people more supportive of him," warns Prince Turki. That's ridiculous.
Saddam will not be stronger after the United States gets through with him for the simple reason that he won't be around at all. One President Bush left Saddam Hussein in power after defeating him in war. The second will not.
Saddam innocent of 9/11: Lord Robertson, NATO's secretary general, last month told US Senators there is "not a scintilla," of evidence linking Iraq with the 9/11 attacks. Columnist Robert Novak concurs that there is "no Iraqi connection."
Not so. Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. Two of his co-conspirators met with Iraqi intelligence officers in the United Arab Emirates. Bin Laden aides met with officials in Baghdad. Further, Saddam may be behind the recent military-grade anthrax attacks, suggested by the presence of bentonite, a substance only Iraq uses for this purpose.
Thus does every argument against targeting Iraq collapse. Saddam Hussein represents the single greatest danger to the United States, not to speak of the rest of the world. Today, with Americans mobilized, is exactly the right moment to dispatch him.