Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 30, 2002
Might does not give the right
Many have criticized Israel for its strong military reaction to attacks on Israel and its citizens by Palestinian suicide-bombers. But the Israeli reaction - as contrary to the path of peace as it is - is minor compared with the intentions stated by U.S. President George W. Bush in a Sept. 20 document.
For months, Bush has been talking about bringing about "regime change" in Iraq. He argues not that Iraq has attacked and deserves to be punished, but rather that it might attack the U.S. and thus should be militarily disemboweled and its government overthrown. This is a justification for war unworthy of respect in a civilized world.
Nations have a right to self-defence against a clear and immediate military attack. Nothing of the sort exists in the case of Iraq. Certainly, Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator who has attacked his own people and used chemical weapons in his war against Iran. That ought never to be forgotten.
Nor should it be forgotten the UN sanctions imposed after the Gulf War have led to the death of more than one million Iraqi civilians and the virtual impoverishment of the country. The U.S. and its allies have continued the sanctions even when the enormous human cost was apparent and it was also apparent that the sanctions did nothing to loosen Hussein's grip on power. The sanctions have proven to be nothing more than a sustained, aggressive act on the Iraqi people, an act it is hard to imagine those people soon forgetting.
Now Bush is talking about a pre-emptive right of self-defence, a right he seems to believe exists for the U.S. government, but not for other peoples who have been affected by its actions. One could only imagine what the world would be like if all nations exercised a pre-emptive right to self-defence. Paranoia itself would become the justification for armed conflict and the world would be covered with warring nations.
Bush's so-called pre-emptive self-defence is, of course, nothing other than a highly aggressive military policy, one that will brook no cautionary words from the United Nations or other Western nations. It represents a major shift from the policy of containment and nuclear deterrence that marked the Cold War era.
"In the new world we have entered," Bush wrote, "the only path to peace and security is the path of action." There, one should read "military action" because that is the road on which he is leading his nation.
Sadly, while acknowledging the existence of shadowy terrorist organizations, Bush's strategy has not found a way to deal with them effectively. He can bomb nations, but the U.S.'s strong shift to satellite technology for intelligence gathering has severely hampered its ability to find and stop "shadowy" organizations before they strike.
Bush should listen to the Catholic bishops in his own country who have urged him "to step back from the brink of war and help lead the world to act together to fashion an effective global response to Iraq's threats." He should listen to Pope John Paul who says history shows "the recruitment of terrorists is more easily achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon and where injustice is part of daily life."
To many people this sounds like hopeless idealism. But the alternative to such idealism is barbarism. The world needs to be vigilant, to be sure. But if we are to build a future of peace, nations cannot go to war over every real or imagined threat.
Dialogue among peoples doesn't make great headlines, but such slow painful dialogue is the only way to overcome the barriers among people. A more equitable sharing of the world's resources is a necessary step to overcoming resentment among peoples. Sustained efforts to both economic growth and a better environment are the only way to a livable world.
The last word belongs to Pope John Paul: "Shadows are not dissipated with weapons; they are thrown back by igniting beacons of light."
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