Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Test Is in the Aftermath

Try thinking about things a little differently. Take some of your focus off of the U.S., the Bush administration and domestic politics for a moment and think of the Iraqi people on whose behalf you are supposedly camping in Red Square. Think of Saddam’s torture chambers, the acid baths and the systematic rape of dissenters. Think of the Iranian POWs who were the subjects of chemical and biological weapons tests. These gruesome crimes are all well documented (https://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGMDE140082001). This is the fate that awaits thousands every year under Saddam. Over 200,000 have disappeared in Iraqi prisons, and nearly 1.5 million have died violently at the hands of the regime during the last twenty years. Four million now live in exile. Iraq has been in a near constant state of war with its neighbors since 1980. Sixty percent of the population is dependent on UN food aid. Think of how this dysfunctional existence has impoverished Iraqi society. How will leaving Saddam in power bring peace and justice to the Iraqi people?

War is a terrible thing, but not the worst thing. Yes, civilians will die in the war, but the war will end. Civilians are guaranteed to continue dying if the Ba’th regime remains in power.

Many of you are wary of the Bush administration’s motives because of its utter failure to make the case for war. Indeed, the legitimacy of war is impugned when nations fight over objects and not humans. When the administration decided to go to the UN and use weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for war, the debate lost sight of the human consequences of war. The war and the criteria for waging it were perceived by many people to be a debate over quantifiable objects. How many weapons of mass destruction do they have? Can inspectors find them? Other dictators have weapons of mass destruction, so what’s the big deal? Will Saddam give these weapons to terrorists? How many terrorists will be stopped by ending this regime? It seems that we cared nothing about the lives of the Iraqi people and only about the numbers in some inspector’s book.

This war is only partially about those numbers. Yes, the security threat is real, and our government has an obligation to protect us. September 11 showed that terrorism had grown from small acts such as car bombs and suicide bombers in which maybe a dozen people were killed or injured to large-scale attacks in which thousands of people could be killed, but the security threat is only an immediate cause for war.

The real reason for this war is that Sept. 11 revealed an utter failure in U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. U.S. policies were, in fact, the root cause of Sept. 11. It was a “blow back” on the grandest scale caused by years of running a political slum from Riyadh to Baghdad to Islamabad, propping up autocratic governments who repressed their own people. We didn’t mind so long as they kept oil prices stable. This created a poisonous environment of widespread corruption, poverty and economic stagnation. Dissent under these repressive regimes was channeled to mosques where the frustrated and hopeless were taught a corrupted form of Islam that combined anti-modernism and a nihilistic worship of violence. These dissenters, unable to overthrow their own repressive governments, turned their anger against the Western powers that supported these regimes in exchange for stability and cheap access to oil. This is where the Sept. 11 hijackers came from.

The people of the region deserve much better than what U.S. foreign policy has created for them, and now we have the power to correct past wrongs and begin the region on the road to a better future. It won’t be easy, and we will pay for it with our blood and treasure, but we can’t afford not to do it. By removing Saddam, we would eliminate a brutal murderer and create more regional stability, yet we shouldn’t only be interested in “stability” as the narrow-minded foreign policy “realists” would have it. We need to be interested in the character of the regime because that is what counts in the end – not only for us but also for the people who live under it. We need to realize that no meaningful change in the lives of Iraqi citizens will take place until the poison of Saddam’s pervasive Ba’th party is gone. Without this tyrannical regime, a prosperous democracy in the heart of the Middle East would serve as a model of a distinctly Muslim democracy. A democracy would pressure other repressive regimes to implement reforms. Indeed, many students, progressive Iranians and Arab liberals want exactly that because a U.S. troop presence coupled with a democratic neighbor would aid them greatly in their cause. Of course the transition to democracy will not happen overnight. Of course it will be a long and difficult process. But the least we can do is demand that our government aid the Iraqi people in this process.

So here is the challenge to those of you in Red Square: the war is now raging and the debate has changed. Will you demand that the administration stay committed to the reconstruction of Iraq with the same energy and vigor you opposed the war, supposedly on behalf of the Iraqi people. Will you use that energy to aid in building peace? Demand that the administration support democracy. Here is a chance to truly live up to our principles as Americans and bring something decent out of this mess, will you seize the opportunity?

David Baker is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.

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