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Editorial: The case for war in Iraq

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Over the last three months, and especially since his forthright speech to the United Nations earlier this month, it has become increasingly clear that President Bush has resolved on a course that is leading to war with Iraq.

The coming military action has an explicit goal: A regime change that topples the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

The president deserves broad support, both from Americans and this nation's allies, in his firm resolve to rid the world of this dangerous and lawless mass murderer. The alternative is that Saddam Hussein will continue to sponsor death and mayhem against innocents abroad and here at home.

Support for the president's coming war can and does rest on both moral and legal grounds.

Saddam Hussein is a dictator who launched a war against neighboring Iran that, during the 1980s, killed a million people. He followed that with his lawless invasion of Kuwait in 1990, an action reversed by the precision strikes of the U.S.-led Operation Desert Storm. Since then, he has murdered thousands of his own people, gassing many of them, and he has tried to assassinate the former President Bush, the current president's father.

In the ensuing 11 years, the United Nations has passed no fewer than 16 resolutions targeting Saddam Hussein. He is in violation of each and every one. And here is where President Bush made one of his boldest points in his U.N. speech, warning the assembled delegates that if the United Nations is to be anything but a dead letter, it must act to enforce its own resolutions that have been so brazenly ignored.

The precedent here, cited by the president, is the utter failure of the League of Nations to act when Benito Mussolini's Italy brutally invaded hapless Abyssinia, now the nation of Ethiopia. Throughout the 1930s, the league stood by fecklessly, as indeed it did regarding the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. With these ominous developments, the nations of the Fascist bloc were emboldened as the war clouds gathered, preparing the way for World War II, which Sir Winston Churchill called the "unnecessary war." Yes, it was unnecessary -- and incomparably the bloodiest war in history, with 50 million dead.

The question for the United Nations and for the international community is whether or not the United Nations will be as ineffectual as the League of Nations was 65 years ago.

And the question for members of Congress is twofold:

Will they wait who-knows-how-long for the United Nations to act before authorizing the action the president is requesting?

Or will members of Congress grasp the essence of what is plainly America's own national-security interest -- and, indeed, the security interest of the entire civilized world -- and re-authorize U.S.-led, multinational action whether or not we have U.N. sanction?

Last week British Prime Minister Tony Blair released his 50-page dossier revealing that Saddam Hussein has mobile -- and essentially undetectable -- biological and chemical weapons capability and is working on his long-sought nuclear program. More evidence rolls in that Saddam Hussein is trying to acquire enriched uranium to make bombs. And evidence is mounting of direct connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, our mortal enemy in this war on terrorism.

Still, the antiwar faction says, "But there is no evidence of Saddam Hussein's specific threat to America." These timid voices echo those who said the same thing about North Korea just a few years back when the intelligence community forecast that Pyongyang was three to five years away from having a deliverable missile capability. North Korea successfully launched a missile six months later.

We can't wait for Saddam Hussein's next major success. That's why President Bush is right to follow this course. He must be backed in the next few weeks by overwhelming congressional majorities.


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