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Response to Douglas Lain
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Well, since nobody had any comments on Douglas Lain's response to me concerning my comments on the Writers and Artists Petition Against War on Iraq, I'll go ahead and respond here, and mail my comments along to Douglas.

Mr. Lain,

Thanks for taking the time and energy to reply to my critique of your petition. I'll begin by making the assumption that we are both concerned for the welfare and respect for human life worldwide, and that we both want to see as little death and suffering as possible on all sides. If this assumption is wrong, please let me know. Otherwise, I assume that what we differ on are the facts regarding past suffering and animosity, who is most responsible, and what action to take in the future.

You begin, for example, by implying that the war on terrorism is a farce, presumably because in your estimation the U.S. is a terrorist state. Part of the problem is settling on reasonable consensus regarding the definition of terrorism, but without tackling that, I'd say we're probably off to a bad start.

If you're incapable of making the moral distinction between the political structure, intent, and policies of say, the United States and Iraq, then it is doubtful our discussion will make much headway.

Nevertheless, I'll try to address some of your points.

You say that we're not justified in threatening Iraq with military force because Saddam is not an immediate threat. This implies that a country must be an immediate, direct threat, or have already attacked us, in order to justify military action.

Do you then consider the Gulf War to be an unjust war? Iraq attacked a sovereign country, an ally of the United States, Kuwait. They were not an immediate threat to us, and we had not been directly attacked. So was action taken to oust them unjust? The point is, there are a number of justifications for the use of force. The use of force should always be the last resort, but it should not be ruled out as an option if all others fail.

You say there is no credible evidence that Iraq is in cahoots with Al Qaeda, and I think you're right. But this isn't the only danger from Iraq developing nuclear weapons. I am staunchly opposed to nuclear proliferation. Are you?

I think it's abhorrent that North Korea has been secretly developing nukes, with the help of permanent Security Council members like Russia and China. This is disgusting, as well as dangerous. Not because North Korea poses a direct threat to the United States. Critics should perhaps think a little more globally. They threaten our allies, most especially South Korea and Japan. But more dangerously, we've moved from a Cold War era into one in which small, highly-motivated, non-state organizations and individuals, such as Al Qaeda, have become much more empowered. The real danger of either North Korea or Iraq developing nukes is the large probability that they will sell either intact weaponry or knowledge to either other states or non-state entities. Iraq might very well be willing to sell nuclear secrets or weaponry to either Libya or Syria. Nuclear proliferation can not be left unchecked. More should have been done to prevent countries like India, Pakistan, North Korea, and yes, Israel, from developing nuclear weaponry, by force if necessary.

Many critics want to downplay the possibility that Iraq could develop nukes. I happen to think it's dangerously stupid to assume the best. I also think it's dangerously stupid to insist that unless Iraq is pointing a nuclear-armed ICBM at Washington, that we have no vested interest. I truly wish these critics would apply their thinking a little more broadly and a little more long-term.

You say you feel strongly about the food aid issue. Do you honestly think that the people of Afghanistan are better or worse fed now than they would have been at this point in time under the Taliban? And upon what are you basing this assumption?

You at least offer an alternative suggestion to what was done (which most critics don't), but I'm confused about your suggestion of a "police action". Are you talking about actual police, or about a military action under the euphamism of "police action". If actual police, then are you seriously suggesting that a jeepful of Interpol agents should have driven up into the mountains of Afghanistan and tried to arrest Osama bin Laden?

And if you're talking about military action, how would you have done it differently? The fact is, we eliminated an oppressive regime that was warned that we would not tolerate them harboring terrorist. They did not comply, and for it they were rightly ousted. In doing so, our military tried, to the best of its ability to mitigate civilian deaths.

You also spout the Chomskian line that we're (And who is the "we" here, anyway? The U.S. alone? The U.N.?) responsible for killing half a million Iraqis. Do you sincerely think that the U.S. and U.N. have a vested interest in killing Iraqi civilians? And to what end? What possible conspiratorial explanation could lead anyone to such a conclusion? We're sadists?

Why do you not place the majority of the blame for suffering and death on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime? Do you refuse to believe credible reports that the Iraqi government has been skimming money from the Oil-for-Food income, that they've been involved in illicit oil trade over the past ten years, and that much of that money never goes towards much needed health care, food, or education? Why are you willing to cut a guy who has multiple opulent palaces while his people are apparently in dire need, so much slack? I simply do not understand this tortured logic.

The only thing you seem to agree with me about is the idea that force is what brought Iraq onto the path of possible compliance. You say that the fact that inspectors are in country right now is proof that not all diplomatic efforts have failed. Are you suggesting that this is diplomacy? The suggestion is laughable. We're holding a gun to their head, and that is the only reason they've let the inspectors back in. I wouldn't call substantive threats diplomacy. Perhaps you do. Either way, the credible threat of force was the only option left. The use of force will follow if Iraq so much as blinks. And it shouldn't be any other way. There is too much at stake.

I truly believe that if our government had not pulled the security council toward passing yet another resolution (but this one with actual consequences), then Iraq would eventually develop the deadliest weapons know, and that the likelihood is that they would contribute to proliferation by selling weaponry or technology to others. I think unchecked, Iraq's deception and noncompliance would result in a much less safer world, and would result in the eventual use of nuclear weaponry, which is perhaps inevitable anyway, unless world governments, ALL world governments, begin to get serious about stemming the nuclear tide.

No doubt you disagree, but I would argue it is because you are applying shortsighted and naive standards to the threat posed by Iraq, not only to us, but to our allies and others in the region.

Derek James

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