Is the World’s Policeman Caught Between Iraq and a Hard Place?

By Intisar Rabb and Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer Undried Ink

It’s up to Saddam. In the Nov. 13 Washington Post, President Clinton referred to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, saying that “[he] has it within his hands to end this crisis.” Really? Suddenly, the most powerful nation in the world has its hands tied? The only remaining superpower is powerless?

The American people have consistently decried the assumed role of the US government as world policeman. Part of the contention lies in the fact that America likes to send just the right number of troops to deal ineffectively with any given situation – be it Somalia, Bosnia or Iraq – and pulling back whenever it sees fit, not necessarily whenever the problem is solved. And then again, American troops will be forced to be sent to address the same problem a few months down the road, wasting more of American taxpayers’ dollars and more lives of loved ones. But then again, maybe troops won’t be sent, because the second time around, the US just might decide the cause isn’t worthy enough. It realizes that not enough of its interests are at stake (i.e. there is not enough money involved). Another side of the issue lies in the fact that the US’s sloppy dealing with such issues comes as an affront to respected principles of international law. International bodies such as the UN exist for a reason, but when dominated by the US, the Security Council becomes a tool for one sovereign to exert authority over another. Nevertheless, Sammy insists on playing cop, and he’s at it again. Case in point: Secretary of State Madeline Albright claims that one of the goals for the measures taken against Iraq is to protect its neighbors from the imminent danger that Hussein threatens.

But the main goal is to stop Iraq from constructing chemical weapons. Yet, the Clinton administration acknowledges that the effect of the attacks will only be to partially destroy Iraq’s weapons capabilities. And so, in another couple of months, we will be at the same point. Again.

If we bomb, what will the immediate results be? It doesn’t seem like a whole lot of progress will be made. Saddam is not going anywhere. Neither are the weapons. The people of Iraq will not get fed. Thousands of children will continue to die. The countries in the region will not feel any safer – the story will continue. And the U.S. will still feel obliged to play a role in the sequel.

The United States planned an attack on Saturday, Nov. 14. (We won’t mention the fact that just Friday, it was reported that it would be eight to ten days before anything would start.) But before the operation was fully carried out, Saddam managed to have an urgent letter delivered just in the nick of time to the boys in New York. Iraq’s UN Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon quickly read the letter, stipulating that UN officials could resume inspections of sites that have been blocked. As an addendum, Iraq would think it grand if the UN would kindly review what progress it has made, and potentially reward it by lifting sanctions. “We offer this chance not out of fear of the aggressive American campaign and the threat to create a new aggression against Iraq, but as an expression of our feeling of responsibility in response to your appeal,” declared Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in the letter. Responsibility?

Ironically, the U.S. has a lot more in common with Iraq than it may think. The U.S. also claims to be acting out of some sense of responsibility to save the oppressed minorities of Iraq, its threatened neighbors, and the terrified world. Iraq claims to be complying with UN resolutions in order to save its people through a lifting of international sanctions (imposed since the end of the Gulf War). In reality, the actions of neither state has eased the suffering of the common Iraqi citizen.

Now let’s talk about “human rights.” What profit is it for the world to be on the verge of a 50-year celebration of the UN Declaration of Human Rights if the world leaders are going to consistently violate people’s basic rights? The United States claims to be deeply concerned with human rights. The sanctions were intended to punish the Iraqi government, but because they had negative effects on the people (i.e. people are starving, and dying), the oil-for-food program came about. However, the U.S. acknowledges that millions of dollars are not reaching the intended destination, but are being diverted. The Iraqis claim to be concerned about human rights in wanting to ensure the welfare of their people. Yet every two weeks, they kick out another UN inspection team, and have their people live under the fear of U.S. air-strikes, and prolong the lifting of the sanctions.

The U.S. says it’s up to Saddam, and Saddam says it’s up to the U.S. Neither Clinton nor Saddam is starving, so maybe they can afford to play these psychological games. Yeah, we’d say the two have a lot in common.

The leaders involved have it within their power to take proactive measures to end the continuing crisis in Iraq. The fact that it has lasted this long is a travesty and speaks ill of all parties concerned: Iraq, the US and the remainder of the International community. It’s not just in “Saddam’s hands” as Clinton would have us naively believe. The U.S. is very powerful, and much of it is in its hands. So in terms of what we can urge our government to do, we must realize that it’s up to Billy, Sandy, Maddy and all of the gang to act responsibly to ensure that America will achieve the high standards that its citizens and the world at large should rightfully expect of it in dealing with this situation.

We don’t yet know if Iraq is playing blind man’s bluff or will ultimately act responsibly to end this situation. Likewise, the final judgment on the U.S. has not been passed, for while it can be blamed for the deaths of hundreds of thousands children, and it would clearly be a mistake to bomb the country, the U.S. has the lingering potential to halfway redeem itself. For now though, that potential seems to be stuck between Iraq and a hard place.

Undried Ink appears Tuesdays in The Hoya.

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