Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and American warmongering
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
by Daryle Hendricksen
(A response to the Vox Populi entitled, "Have the Powers Granted to the Prime Minister and President led to them becoming a threat to the Democratic Processes?")
First of all, I would like to compliment Mr. Berg-Andersson on his excellent responses to Laura Stormont. I always enjoy reading his comments (though they can be a bit long!), and find it nearly impossible to disagree with anything he has to say. A good friend of mine has said that Mr. Berg-Andersson is "as unbiased as The Weather Channel", and I believe he hit the nail on the head with that one!
I would just like to reply to a couple of Ms. Stormont's comments myself. First off, as regards the title of her dissertation, I must say that I agree with her premise that our President (and presumably her Prime Minister) have managed to seize enough power so as to be a threat to our Democratic Processes. I only say this because our Constitution does NOT grant our President the right to wage war without a formal Declaration from Congress, which we haven't bothered getting since World War II! While I confess that a President who wages war without the consent of the governed will not remain President for long, I feel that a formal Declaration is more than a mere "formality" that can so easily be dismissed. What's so hard about asking for a Declaration? Sure, I can understand why basic defensive operations shouldn't require the approval of Congress, but military strikes should always require Congressional approval!
Having said that, I would like to make some comments on the following quotes from Ms. Stormont:
1) "They [France and Germany] are listening to their people who are saying they do not want to go rushing into a war before getting all the evidence about Saddam and his weapons and have decided that it would be wrong to act without the UN."
No one is "rushing into a war"! How long have we been discussing Saddam Hussein? Since the end of the Gulf War, more than ten years ago! President Bush has been taking this very slowly, which I dare say does not bode well for his own re-election bid next year! Politically speaking, it would have been better for him to have "rushed" (as many people EXPECTED him to do last Summer) into a war with Iraq, rather than allow the war, and our economy, to sit on hold until the next election. Bush will continue to be extremely ineffective as a leader domestically until he can get his foreign policies in order! This looming war isn't helping him one bit (in spite of his high but sagging approval ratings). Also, consider the number of "last chances" Saddam Hussein has been given. Here is a selection of articles from CNN's archives:
"http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9801/27/iraq.latest/index.html" "Hussein will be given "a last chance to comply before he gets clobbered," The New York Times on Monday quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying." (January 27th, 1998)
"http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9802/18/iraq.un/index.html" "Annan admits Iraq trip could be last chance for peace." (February 18th, 1998)
"http://www.cnn.com/US/9812/16/clinton.iraq.speech/index.html" "Clinton: Iraq has abused its last chance" (December 16th, 1998)
"http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/12/18/sproject.irq.us.iraq.war/index.html" "But Saddam has 'missed his chance,' White House says" (December 18th, 2002)
"http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/02/18/sprj.irq.brussels.ap/index.html" "Future European Union members endorsed a joint declaration Tuesday warning Saddam Hussein he has one last chance to disarm" (February 18th, 2003)
Just how many "last chances" are we going to afford Mr. Hussein? Just how are we "rushing" into war?
2) "...before getting all the evidence about Saddam and his weapons..." How much more evidence do we need? What more do we need to know about Mr. Hussein and his weapons programs? I see no point in going into a long discussion about the evidence our intelligence has on Saddam Hussein, evidence that has been shared with Prime Minister Tony Blair. I will merely point you to the White House web site, which details their arguments for war with Iraq:
I will admit, of course, that the White House website is a biased point of view, and that there are opposing view points. However, there will always be opposing viewpoints concerning war!
While I am not old enough to remember the events leading up to World War II, I do remember enough from my History lessons to know that these exact same issues were discussed back then. People in Europe wanted to "give peace a chance"! Why strike Adolph Hitler before we have "all the evidence"? People didn't believe that Germany even HAD the capability of launching a global war, given their stunning defeat in World War I! The United States decided to sit out of that one until we got our butt kicked at Pearl Harbor. We don't want to make the same mistake again! I think it's scary how similar these situations actually are!
One final note: I am not condoning action without United Nations approval. Thus far, President Bush (and Prime Minister Blair) have not acted without UN approval! They have been working very hard to get UN approval! There is nothing wrong with lobbying for UN approval. There is nothing wrong with saber-rattling and there is nothing wrong with letting Mr. Hussein know that action without UN approval is an option. As an independent nation, we are allowed to act in our own self defense. Yes, I would prefer that we work with the UN on this, and I prefer that Bush exercise good judgment in respect to our options. Thus far, I believe he has exhibited a great deal of patience towards France, Germany, and the United Nations!
If we are going to criticize President Bush for "unilaterally" attacking Iraq, let's at least wait until he has done it.
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
First of all, I want to thank Mr. Hendricksen for his kind comments about my work for 'The Green Papers'. I try to be as unbiased as I can be in both my Commentaries, as well as in my responses to 'vox Populi' (though whether it matches the lack of bias found on The Weather Channel, I can't say!). If I'm fair the vast majority of the time (regardless of what any particular individual who happens to be reading this might think of my views... or, for that matter, my fairness), then- as far as I am concerned- I have done my job hereon to the best of my ability (while I am not at all egotistical, nor naive, enough to think that there are not those out there who might be able to strongly disagree with my own assessment of my "job performance").
Secondly, all I can add to what Mr. Hendricksen has written (my own views re: many of his points have already been stated elsewhere on this site) is that I am not all that overly concerned (though, yes, it obviously does bother me a bit) about the lack of a Declaration of War before military action commences as a potential threat to the democratic processes here in the United States (nevertheless, I- of course, since I have spent a lot of time and verbiage already saying so- think President Bush would be most well advised to get one, not only out of respect for the requirements of the Constitution [no matter how long these requirements have been ignored] but also for the more overtly political reasons I have already well outlined elsewhere on this site). One of my good friends has often stated that "our Constitution allows us to survive bad Presidents". Now I'm not going to here opine re: whether or not George W. Bush might be a good President or a bad one: the only reason I here bring up this aphorism of my friend's is to accent my contention that, so far at least, any President who might be seen as bad by the "bell curve" of the electorate is
a. either eventually called to task for it by the People (in the form of this "bell curve") in some form or fashion (impeachment, if not subsequent removal from office-- or, at least, the threat of impending impeachment [see 'R.M. Nixon: August 1974']; significant losses in the President's Party's seats in each house of Congress in Midterm Elections; outright loss of his office in a re-election bid, etc.)
b. or a President's bad policies themselves prove to be survivable and the constitutional system of America continues on unabated after that particular President is, quite literally, history.
I remember, back in 1980, all the dire predictions from many of my liberal friends and acquaintances about how positively "Orwellian" the country would be in a matter of only a few years were Ronald Reagan to be elected President. Of course, there are those many Americans who happen to think that Reagan was not only a good- but a great- President; but those who did not- and, to this day, still do not- so think have been able, since Reagan left office back in 1989, to pretty much go about their everyday business relatively unfettered. For those who think that Reagan was not so good a President: well, they can't complain that America- and its Constitution- did not survive the two terms of Ronald Reagan! Likewise, there were similarly dire predictions in 1992 from many of my conservative friends and acquaintances that Bill Clinton's election was virtually the functional end of the American Republic; two terms of Clinton later, the Republic still functions (and, of course, those who thought- and think- Clinton was actually a good President have very few complaints about the Presidency during the years 1993 through 2000 to begin with!).
In each of those cases- whatever Reagan's and Clinton's respective detractors might have thought (or still think)- the "bell curve" of the national electorate kept each man in their High Office for two full terms: to this "bell curve", then, neither man- as disparate as their respective policies and core supporters were (Reagan biggest supporters tended to be future Clinton-bashers; Clinton's most loyal supporters tended to have been former Reagan-bashers)- was necessarily perceived as having been all that bad! (Reagan and Clinton, along with Dwight Eisenhower, are the only Presidents since the 22d Amendment [which restricts Presidents to two terms maximum] took effect to- so far- have been elected to both their terms of office with at least 2/3 of the Electoral Vote-- no mean feat [given the still largely sectional and regional nature of American Party politics] and one that George W. Bush, assuming he is re-elected in 2004, can already not match.)
Democracies are remarkably resilient political entities and seem to be able to survive perceived excesses (with the caveat that one person's "excess" is another person's "justifiable exercise of proper authority") on the part of their leaders pretty much intact. There is, of course, always the danger of going over the edge (as the German Reich of the Weimar Republic once did): the only cure for this potential problem is eternal vigilance on the part of the citizenry. In the end, Democracy is only as good as the People who live under it: thus, it is often not the leaders who are the principal threat to the democratic processes so much as it is the attitude of the led.