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Who Will Put Humpty Dumpty Back Together?
Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.

There are conflicting voices both inside and outside of the Bush Administration with regard to launching a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are advocating for an attack. Secretary of State Colin Powell, GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey, Senate Foreign Affairs ranking minority member Richard Lugar, and former President Bush advisors Brent Scowcroft, Lawrence Eagleburger and Jim Baker are cautioning, not so fast.

I too am against a pre-emptive action against Iraq at this point. There are too many unanswered questions. We need to fully assess the situation and our options.

Even the issue is unclear. Is the Bush Administration trying to stop terrorism? Bring about a "regime change"? Or keep Saddam from using biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons on his neighbors and possibly us?

The administration tried but failed to make the connection between Iraq and terrorism, including 9/11. So we're dealing with a nation-state, not terrorism or Iraqi terrorist cells spread around the world.

Dealing with a nation-state leaves us with two broad options: a pre-emptive strike or containment. A pre-emptive strike against a sovereign nation raises moral, precedent setting, and international legal issues. Nelson Mandela protested to the Bush Administration that "No country should be allowed to take the law into their own hands." It is precisely because the U.S. is the only superpower in the world that we must use our power wisely and judiciously, not arrogantly.

On the other hand, containment worked with the Soviet Union when they possessed tens of thousands of nuclear weapons aimed directly at us. It's working with regard to North Korea - part of Bush's "axis of evil." And United States-imposed no-fly zones, economic sanctions, restraints on technology transfers, and the deployment of U.S. forces around Iraq has worked for eleven-plus years against Saddam. So what has changed?

Vice President Dick Cheney says what has changed is "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use them against our friends and against our allies and against us." While everyone agrees with the analysis that Saddam's a bad fellow and remains a potential threat, the administration offers no concrete evidence to back up the Vice President's claim that that threat is imminent.

In fact, a pre-emptive attack may even bring about a consequence we say we're trying to avoid. Isn't Saddam - who seems to be primarily interested in personal survival - more likely to use all of the weapons we fear if backed into a corner with a pre-emptive attack? If there is no doubt, why is there so much doubt among our friends and allies closest to Iraq, who would be even more vulnerable than the U.S. to any Saddam adventures? If there is no doubt, why is the administration unable to convince any of our allies, with the possible exception of Great Britain, that what Vice President Cheney is saying is true - or at least true enough to constitute a clear and present danger, and to justify a pre-emptive invasion of another sovereign nation? If there is no doubt, why is there so much doubt within the Bush Administration and among former high level U.S. officials?

Even if we launch a pre-emptive attack and succeed in a regime change, ending the Iraqi threats, and even impeding terrorism, will it be worth the cost and proportionate? What will it cost in American lives and treasure? In innocent Iraqi lives, including women and children? In potentially destabilizing the region? In reconstructing Iraq? Will there be an American presence in Iraq for 10, 20, or 30 years trying to reconcile the Kurds in the North, the Shiites in the South, and the Sunnis in central Iraq? And if we choose to "go it alone," what will be the cost of lost U.S. respect and influence in the world for failing to have a decent respect for the opinion of mankind?

Finally, would our "recovering" economy be able to withstand the likely spike in oil prices and resulting negative economic impact at home as a result of such an invasion - such as even higher budget deficits, slower growth, and higher unemployment for a longer period of time?

A year from now I hope we won't be changing the words to the old children's rhyme about Humpty Dumpty as follows:

Saddam Hussein sat on a wall,
Saddam Hussein had a great fall,
But all the U.S. soldiers and money we send,
Couldn't put Iraq together again.