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Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 18:59 GMT
Iraq crisis: Is war inevitable?
We discussed the diplomatic situation as the rhetoric grows toward war with Iraq in our weekly phone-in programme, Talking Point. Click on the links above to watch or listen to the programme
United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has warned Iraqi leaders that the current situation concerning Iraq's weapons programme "is very tense and very dangerous".
Mr Blix called on Baghdad to substantiate its claims that it has destroyed banned weapons, or risk a US-led war.
"We feel that Iraq must do more than they have done so far in order to make this a credible avenue," Mr Blix told reporters ahead of his return to Baghdad at the weekend.
His comments come as leading US officials increasingly appear to talk up the possibility of military action.
The United States and Britain have dramatically accelerated the build-up of troops in the Gulf, with thousands more being sent to the region over the past week alone.
Is war now inevitable? Or can a compromise still be reached over the Iraq crisis?
Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails is published below.
Guiseppie, Bronx, USA
I am an American citizen who has lived and taught at Japanese Universities for over ten years. Watching my country over the last year it its dealings with Iraq has been a sad and shameful experience.
This is also true when it comes to watching Blair, the prime-minister of the country where I grew up, in his almost unqualified support for the warmongers in the Bush government. I have a mailing list of over 100 friends and teach over 250 globally aware young students. I can say with certainty that nearly all of those whom I know are opposed to a war with Iraq. Surely it is time to find a peaceful resolution to this issue and to stop buying into the propaganda of those with a vested interest in war such as the oil companies and the military industrial complex.
Let's get reasonable, folks. Saddam is in no position to attack anyone, and in 11 years hasn┐t even managed to shoot down a manned aircraft. He is no position to export WMD, and therefore NOT an immediate threat to the US. The threat he poses to the US is probably less than our own home-grown terrorists, and certainly much less than a nuclear North Korea. So where┐s the problem?
Another year for inspections? What for? To continue looking for a pretext to make war? I don't think that Iraq, the Middle East, Russia and China are going to stand for it. After 27 Jan. Iraq is going to say 'bye'-bye' to the inspectors. If the Anglos want to make something of it, let them. Iraq has won this round, hands down.
I think that above all else we should try and settle this dispute diplomatically. Why rush to war? Saddam has had almost 11 years if he really wanted to use his weapons of mass destruction against us. I am not saying that I am in favour of him and his cruel regime, but who are we to say that he can't have those things when we have so many ourselves? Let the inspectors do their thing and if / when the proper amount of time has elapsed then consider war. We should not have to send our husbands, sons, and brothers and friends to die in a war that we cannot whole heartedly support.
At 60 years of age, I have been the silent majority for most of my life. Although I only vaguely remember the second world war, I am well versed in the events leading up to it. Without quoting chapter and verse of Neville Chamberlains exact words of 'Peace in our time', the synopsis of what he said after his negotiations with Adolf Hitler was, that if we ignored the situation it would go away. The rest is history, but let us not forget how wrong he was. We are now in a situation where the circumstances are very similar. The BBC, in their infinite wisdom have run a poll on whether we should go to war with Iraq and have come to the conclusion that around 70% of the population think we should not. However, I would like to pose the question "Do the instigators of this pole not realise that if we take no action, and we are subjected to weapons of mass destruction, that the same 70% would want to know why our Government did nothing to avoid it happening?"
I would like to respond to the criticism about Bush. We don┐t know if war is inevitable. Saddam Hussein needs to be honest with the UN arms inspectors. If there aren't any mass destruction weapons, then fine, but Saddam Hussein has lied in the past, so the question is "would he lie again"? I have heard this talk about this war is only for oil, I don┐t accept that. Try telling that to Kuwait. And this isn't a war against Islam, it is against Saddam Hussein. But this my own opinion and I do respect peoples opinion even if I don┐t agree with it.
First of all, people who lament that we are putting ┐our soldiers┐ in harms way do not know what they are talking about. I do. Because I am one of those soldiers who might possibly be sent to the Gulf. And let me tell you it would be an honour and a privilege to go fight against such a tyrant as Saddam and defend the liberties of the Iraqi people. And I am prepared to die for what I believe. We train our whole lives for the moment in which we go fight the battles that others are unwilling to face up to.
Although there is no doubt that the US's goals are not just about weapons of mass destruction, Saddam must be removed. Although the US is following other agendas, which is wrong, they have a point. Anyone who tests chemical weapons on his own innocent citizens, is dangerous. He attacked Kuwait and Iran. The US made a mistake installing him, but there is nothing that can change that fact. The only thing we can do is remove him
M M Allam, Bangalore India
The world will never be a safer place whilst the US puts interests ahead of principles, and all this in the name of democracy according to them, well I think the democracy in this case only applies in the US, for the rest of the world they act like dictators, having their own way. What sort of democracy is going against the UN security council? What example will this make to other nuclear powers like China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, etc. What will stop these countries to breach international law? It's a dangerous game the US is playing and the only reason I don't feel the world I live in is safer is due to the US politics.
Even if one goes along with the US position, is US policy creating more safety for Americans and other world citizens? Israel have tried full confrontation for a long time, seemingly not attaining their goals. It's a sort of Medusa syndrome - cut off one head and three new ones grow out.
To all of us, not the least the troops in the Gulf: Good luck and may God bless you!
A wise man named Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948), one day said the following thing: "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" War should only be the last solution, and not the first. In this case, everybody seems to want this war so badly it's frightening.
The UK and USA know well that Iraq have WMD, and have convincing evidence for it but they are not na´ve to present it to UN now. They will show it at the last moment when the deployment is completed. If they show it now, knowing that the war is inevitable, Saddam will use his missiles as soon as possible.
Our Prime minister refuses to be bound by the UN and its decisions and yet is prepared to go to war with Iraq for "defying the will of the world community". This is apparently because he knows he and Bush are right despite any evidence to back their case. So world, don't do as we do, do as we say. How long will we tolerate these double standards from our Prime minister?
Please note that we keep returning to discussions centred on dictatorships, never liberal democracies. Only when every country in the world has a liberal democracy will things get sorted out properly and peacefully. Be thankful if you live in one, and ask yourself how it got that way.
The question of who can be trusted with weapons of mass destruction becomes pertinent when "democracies" like the USA and UK pursue policies that were not part of any election mandate and, against unmeasured but obvious opposition, are adamant in pursuing threatening and aggressive policy.
Jack, Herts, UK
I am surprised that most of the people on the forum criticized American policy instead of being grateful for doing the difficult work to make this world a better and safer place without Saddam. Europeans seems to lack the ability take care of themselves - they could not even solve the Kosovo crisis without American help
The US is committed to war. When the puppet you help install stabs you in the back, you don't want other future puppets to think they could get away with things as well. So you've got to make an example of Saddam. Secondly, war stimulates the economy and provides work. Thirdly, the US does not want to lie awake at night wondering whether Saddam is providing terrorists with WMDs. Saddam certainly would and would never openly admit it. Lastly, the American people are just not getting enough fuel to put in their fleets of SUV's, and we are tired of not being able to buy oil from Iraq. I just wished my government would stop telling people that it is going to war to get rid of a tyrant. Hypocrites are easy to spot, and the world, in general, isn't stupid.
The US went to war in Vietnam because of "communist paranoia" at home, now they will go to war in Iraq because of "terrorist paranoia" at home. Just as the McCarthy era must have been terrifying for anyone with even slightly liberal views, the "war on terror" era in the US is becoming terrifying for anyone of Arab origin. How quickly the "Axis of Evil" has replaced the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union. The US government wants to keep the masses in constant fear, because they are much easier to manipulate and control that way.
Small war now, or big war later.
The last thing we want to do is wait.
As a currently non resident UK Citizen it is fascinating to read the comments on this page. Probably this sounds naive, but how, in a democracy, can war be inevitable? Personally one of the most terrifying aspects of this 'war' is the fact that citizens of so called democratic countries are unable to change the actions of their government, even when the majority are profoundly opposed to its policies. Also, living in a post conflict society I am fully aware that wars can acquire a logic of their own, leaving normal citizens caught up in it. I am beginning to feel that the true 'rogue' state is the one that can avoid accountability to its own people, as well as to the laws of logic and humanitarian principles.
Richard, Toronto Canada
It seems that everyone has forgotten so much. The fact that Iraq was behind the siege of the Iranian Embassy in London, used gas against the Kurds in his country, women and children. He has tortured his opponents, rigs his elections and yet we are supposed to believe he is not a threat to us. He has already attacked Iran and Kuwait - where next? As for weapons of mass destruction, you only need a small lab to pump out biological and nerve agents and it isn't that difficult to hide a few labs in a country the size of Iraq. They only need to produce a small amount and give it to a dissident group for many people to be die. As long as a regime so hostile to the Democratic rule of law exists it will be a menace not only to the US and Britain but also to the Arab states that border them. He has done it before and if we do nothing he will do it again.
The United States thrives on war; every time there is an economic problem they stimulate the economy by bombing another country. Bush is doing this for all the wrong reasons instead of trying to make the world a better place he uses his power to try to secure re-election with complete disregard for human lives.
Lavaughn Davis, Denver, USA
I despise Saddam Hussein, but Bush's mass troop mobilisation and war-footing rhetoric before the outcome of the UN inspectors mission is known, is unduly provocative. It also implies both that war is inevitable, and that a hidden agenda exists (many suggest oil). His stance on the Israel and Palestine crisis also reinforces the notion that Islam is being singled out here. I normally approve of our support for the US, but not in this case I'm afraid.
It is good to see the diversity of views expressed on this board. I hope that the rest of the world understands that there are millions of us in the United States who do not believe that invading Iraq makes sense when there is no evidence that it presents any clear and present danger to us. We wonder why our "popular wartime president" spends so much time talking about Saddam Hussein while Osama bin Laden seems to have disappeared permanently from his memory. We worry about our sons and daughters who will die in a war that we secretly suspect is more about oil than weapons of mass destruction. We worry about having jobs and money to retire but those concerns are overshadowed by the call to war. This is the other America, the one seldom seen on CNN or Fox News.
Darren Murphy, London, UK
War was always inevitable because the US is a huge war machine. The US has been emotionally charged since 9-11, and what happened was terrible, but I have never felt confident that enough information was ever present to take any kind of response action.
The USA and Britain do not have the legal or moral right to invade Iraq in the absence of clear evidence that Iraq represents a big threat to the rest of the world. Iraq could as well justify attacking Israel or the USA itself - from their point of view both of these countries possess "weapons of mass destruction", which they might use against Iraq at any time.
War should never be inevitable. This is (should be) common sense. I am not convinced that the "bad" regimes in the world are unable to negotiate peace. It is a matter of good will that some times for their own reasons the "good" regimes do not show.
As far as the accusations of imperialism are concerned, do people really believe the US is going to plant a flag on Iraq soil, make it a colony and start charging taxes? This is not going to happen. We are going to set up a democratic government that can be trusted controlling a large portion of the world's oil supply. Oil that fuels the world's economy, not just the US's.
The UN inspector in charge of the search for nuclear weapons has just announced that "there is no smoking gun" and there is, as yet, no evidence of any nuclear weapons in Iraq and nothing to show that the Iraqi declaration was untruthful. Will that satisfy the Bush administration? Of course not. This war was planned months ago and has little or nothing to do with WMD and everything to do with oil. Prepare for the worst.
I find it unbelievable people are just resigned with the fact that the war is inevitable. Of course it can be avoided. The Bush Administration fears only one thing; a possibility of not being re-elected. If there is enough dissent, Bush will reconsider.
Once accomplished, the Bush administration can put pressure on the remaining Arab dictators to loosen their grip on the local populations without risking a loss of the world's oil supply. Without Iraq, the US is hamstrung because it risks loosing Saudi Arabia, which has the world's largest oil reserves, to Islamic extremists who will not necessarily do what the West wants them to.
What justification is there for the USA to bomb a country because of a leader that they themselves installed and supported? How about bombing Israel since it is the only country in the Middle East which has forcefully expelled inhabitants from their homes and pushed them into refugee camps? With such blatant double standards which have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, should we be surprised to see another Sept 11 type attack?
I can't believe that the whole world has decided to just sit idly by while the United States prepares to attack Iraq without any justification whatsoever. It would be understandable if reports coming out from Iraq (from UN inspectors) stated that they were being obstructed in carrying out their duties or they are discovering WMDs. However we all sit and wonder when the war will begin rather than if the war will begin. Is the issue to oust Saddam or to ensure the world is safe? Shame on us all!!!!
While war doesn't seem to be inevitable, it still seems likely. There seem to be little rational cause for one, though. Saddam may have disposed of his WMD before the inspectors arrived, or he might have stashed them somewhere in the desert. Each possibility seem equally plausible to me. In any case, Saddam is not like Hitler. In the past, he has proven that he likes to live, and while his cruelties against his people and others is clear, the cost of ousting him seems to be too high. Saddam is, at the moment, a contained problem, and the best approach would be to keep it that way. Bush, however, may not be able to back down.
Saddam Hussein's regime has been given many chances over the past 12 years to disarm and fulfil its obligations under the ceasefire that ended the 1991 Gulf War. He has chosen not to take those chances. Therefore the war that is coming is his fault. The fault in western policy has been not backing up the rhetoric about inspections with real teeth before this. Then war might genuinely have been avoided.
If Bush and Blair insist on war in the face of UN inspectors not finding what they wanted, let them don their fatigues, pick up their weapons and go after Saddam themselves. Not my son for oil. The price is too high.
I'm dumbfounded by so many people bashing Bush and Blair on this site. The same people would probably of criticised Churchill and FDR in their stance towards Hitler. Thank God we have leaders that have the courage to stand up against threats to the very freedom that was fought so hard for in the past.
Alan Hall, UK
So, the Iraqis say they have no weapons of mass destruction, the inspectors have failed to find any weapons of mass destruction, and the chemical weapons that Iraq has supposedly stockpiled will have passed their shelf life and turned into useless goo? Seems to me like the Americans have an agenda other than to protect the rest of the world from Saddam Hussein - did I hear someone mention oil?
What is more menacing to the world? The hypothetical biological weapons of Saddam or the very concrete US refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol and control the industrial emissions of gases that warm the planet? Bush wants to protect us against Saddam. Who is going to protect us against Bush? Does the US administration allows independent experts to inspect its biological weapons? No, they don't! They even refused to support the International Criminal Court. Does anyone believe they really have any concern about international welfare?
Exactly what are the US and allies trying to achieve here? Going to war without a clear objective is a dangerous business. I hope they get their goals clarified before launching the assault. Inevitable? You don't send out 100,000 troops for no reason.
T Blue, Waterford, Ireland
With a trillion dollar arms industry to satisfy it is almost inevitable that somewhere along the line the US is going to look for an opportunity to use the huge stockpile of weapons it has amassed before they become obsolete. This clears the way for the arms industry to continue to supply bigger, better and more destructive ways of killing people.
I believe that this war is inevitable and that the US/UK forces will emerge the victors, however, given that Saddam is known to have body doubles to protect him from assassinations how will we know if we have deposed the real dictator? Like Osama Bin-Laden, Saddam may escape the invasion and retreat into deepest Iraq leaving us to guess if he is either alive or dead.
Funny that after ten years of bombing Iraq anyway they suddenly want to call it a war - is it some kind of tax dodge? Bush is acting like a total hypocrite, Blair is worse for standing by him.
As established in two world wars, it is the duty of the US military to crush thugs and tyrants and to implement the benevolent hegemony of American peace and justice on a global scale. The rest of the world has proven repeatedly that it cannot take care of itself.
What if we don't want American justice, are you going to force it on the rest of us? Most countries had justice before the USA was a nation! Kerry needs some "real" history lessons, ones that have not been taught through rose-tinted Hollywood glasses!
People seem to forget about what went happened on Sept 11. Do we have to wait for another 3,000 people to die before anything is done? The US and the UK need to act now to stop this once and for all.
I do not agree that attacking Iraq is right the right thing to do at this time. What we as Americans need to be doing instead of wasting billions of the taxpayers' hard earned dollars on Saddam, is to close our borders, curtail foreign aid, and take care of our own problems before we take care of the world's problems.
I am tired of seeing billions of dollars go to other countries just so they can degrade us afterwards. And besides, you all must realise that there are two separate entities in the United States: the government and the people. The people do not, and cannot have a say in government policies, foreign or domestic.
In response to Dave (USA). You say that the people of a democratic nation have no say in what their Goverment does. Does this not in itself put us all in the same category as the Iraqi people? A subdued nation under the dominance of dictators. You hit the nail right on he head. We need to look at our own "leaders" before deciding to depose others.
Sadly, a lot of the men were convinced they wouldn't risk their lives for oil but for getting rid of the threat of Iraq. The day I was discharged from the military I told my comrades that if they do go to war not to fight to win but to fight so they could come back home alive.
I am disgusted that Blair is following Bush down this perilous road, the rest of the world seems to have more sense. The losers in this fiasco are going to be the innocent and oppressed people of Iraq.
07 Dec 02 | Middle East
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