Protestors have an absolute right to speak their mind. So let’s listen to what they say.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees us the right to assemble peacefully.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Over this past Presidents’ Day Holiday the anti-war movement made their opinions known. To their credit, most demonstrators conducted themselves peacefully. Violence was the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, let’s not dismiss their position out of hand, but rather listen to their points. Surfing around the Internet, one find various anti-war pages. Here’s what some of them say:
- Isn’t Hussein Crazy?
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is certainly no sweetheart. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. He started and fought a long, brutal war with Iran, before invading Kuwait and prompting the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War of 1991. But Hussein’s actions are on par with those of other violent world leaders. Iraqi Crisis AntiWar Homepage
- What Else is Going On?
Saddam Hussein is not the only world leader with weapons of mass destruction. There are plenty of countries with even more lethal nuclear weapons including the U.S., Russian, the Ukraine, China, France, Britain, South Africa, India, and Pakistan. Most notably, Israel has also undertaken a nuclear program and they certainly have a small arsenal with missiles capable of reaching Iraq. Iraqi Crisis AntiWar Homepage
- Unjust, Immoral, and Illegitimate
We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do — we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to RESIST the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. Not In Our Name
- The Human Cost
Contrary to the growing perception around the world that Americans do not care about the lives and limbs of the Iraqi innocents, they do. It is Iraqis who will bear the greatest casualties in a US bombardment from the skies over Iraqi cities. The Real Cost of War
- Poor Use of Scarce Funds
We believe that it is unconscionable to send young people in the U.S. armed forces into combat in an illegal war that serves only the interests of Big Oil. Instead of spending $200 billion of taxpayers’ money on another war in the Middle East, the funds should be used to create jobs and finance education, housing, heathcare and other vital human needs. Vote No War
That is not a complete list, but it is fairly representative of the current anti-war position. Essentially, we can sum up their opinion by with the following: Why shouldn’t Iraq have Weapons of Mass Destruction?; The war is a poor use of our scarce funds; The human cost is too high; And war is always immoral, unjust, and illegitimate.
OK, let’s talk.
Why shouldn’t Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? The United States recognizes that some people are dangerous. We have laws that deny convicted felons the right to possess a firearm. We even deny felons the right to vote.
Saddam Hussein is certainly in the same category as a dangerous felon. Not only is he dangerous, he has been found guilty of aggressive warfare by the United Nations. The ‘then’ majority leader, Tom Daschle, made that exact case on the Senate floor while debating the resolution for use of force last October. That is why the UN voted to require Saddam to disarm as part of the negotiated cease fire after he illegally invaded Kuwait.
Yes, there are other countries who are dangerous and have weapons of mass destruction, too. And when the UN votes to disarm them, we should also consider the use of force if the don’t comply. If the United Nations has changed its opinion regarding Iraq, and now feels that disarmament is not the right approach, they should meet and craft a new resolution to say so. But the one thing to not do is demand disarmament and then not enforce it.
Why risk the human cost? Use of force is always the most unpleasant, least desirable option. No one wants to see others hurt or killed. But it takes two hands to clap. Iraq is a member of the United Nations. It is also a signatory of various nonproliferation treaties regarding WMD. If it has a case to make for reconsideration of its previous agreements, it should voice them in the UN. Until then, Iraq can stop the violence by honoring its commitments under these agreements and voluntarily disarm.
And the financial cost? That argument follows closely with the human cost. Everyone would prefer to spend that money on almost anything other than a military intervention in Iraq. If we have no intention of enforcing the UN resolutions, then maybe we shouldn’t vote for them in the first place. For that matter, if the UN has no enforcement maybe the United States should not spend any money there at all. Currently, the United States funds roughly $4 billion (25 percent) of the UN budget. What do we get for that investment if we can’t trust the member nations to honor their own commitments? Four-billion dollars would buy a lot of health care and prescription insurance for our seniors.
Those are all counter-arguments to the anti-war position. But it is not enough to just be against war. To have credibility, you have to offer a viable alternative. This is the weakest part of the anti-war stance. It is what they do not say that is the most damning. How do we really ensure Iraq will stop developing WMD? Inspections? Not likely! In dealing with Iraq, inspections have proven completely ineffective for two reasons. Saddam Hussein avoids inspection in too many ways. Some we know (ie mobile labs) and some we don’t (Syria?). And as they progress, he constantly negotiates the inspectors into a position of less and less effectiveness. First they negotiate all of Hussein’s palaces are exempt. Then he negotiates the same exemptions for mosques, cemeteries, schools, and others.
The protestors’ demands were all one sided. There is no demand that Iraq cooperate. Protestors want the United States and the United Nations commit to not using force. If they do, it puts Iraq in a no-lose situation and rewards further cheating. If they can continue development they are not punished. They can only be caught and stopped. But there is no risk to try again, and again, and again until they are successful.
In all the demonstrations I saw, I did not see one demand (or even request) for Saddam to cooperate. No one asked the question why Iraq needs WMD. Is Iraq threatened by Al-Qaeda or maybe Iran? What is the human and financial cost to Iraqi citizens to maintain these WMD programs? It is completely unreasonable to demand the US and UN relent to maintain peace. As I said earlier, it takes two hands to clap.
THE PUBLIC VIEW