The Bush administration, with the help of the U.S. media, has skillfully tapped into this unquestioning primal war mentality with respect to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But in the age of nuclear weapons, the primitive and clumsy tool of war is too perilous to use. We should abandon it like we abandoned slavery 150 years ago. As the world's oldest democracy, we must act from bedrock national principles of civic courage and intelligence, mutual respect, and promotion of international peace.
Our country has traditionally shunned the idea of "preemptively" attacking another sovereign nation. Hitler did that. We have always tried to prevent such actions by others. It will be a terrible precedent for the world if the U.S. strikes Iraq without clear and direct provocation. Such unnecessary violence by the world's military giant could justify, as examples, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or a Russian obliteration of Chechnya.
Moreover, an attempted U. S. conquest of Iraq, like all wars, has unpredictable consequences. To quote retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, head of the U.S. Central Command from 1997-2000: "`T`he Middle East ... is explosive; it is the worst I've ever seen it ... Almost anything could touch it off." In an October, 2002 speech before the Middle East Institute in Washington, Zinni listed several Mideast policy initiatives which should take precedence over an Iraq regime change, including restarting the Israeli peace process; supporting the Iranian "reformation or moderation;" completing our commitments to Afghanistan and other central Asian countries; and reestablishing good relationships with the region's other governments and people. (By such peaceful initiatives in the Muslim world, we would also advance our so-far failed efforts to bring Al Qaeda to justice.) Zinni recalled for his audience heroic peace-making by great American generals like Marshall, MacArthur, Grant, Lee, Washington, and Eisenhower. Zinni concluded: "Like those generals, who were far greater than I am, I don't think that violence and war is the solution."
We citizens should fulfill our First Amendment free-speech duties and demand of our representative and senators, who hold the war-funding power, that the U.S. lead the world in Middle East peace-making, not war. Iraq, its armed forces now one-third their 1990 size, can be contained without the huge costs of war; it has never had the world-threatening military might that Hitler had. We have the power; we must use it responsibly to prevent, not cause, international violence.
Darby Riley is a San Antonio attorney and member of the Environmental Democrats.