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World opinion resists U.S. rush to war

The recent weekend demonstrations attempting to preempt the preemptive strike on Iraq planned by the Bush administration provided the latest evidence of the growing chasm between the United States and the rest of the world.

In Washington and capitols of other countries that we would otherwise consider allies, the numbers of voices and the rhetoric keeps escalating against the war.

Yet the Bush administration seems intent on plunging headlong into war regardless of the thinking around the globe.

In an embarrassingly simplistic attempt to put a moral spin on the intent to go to war, the administration on Jan. 22 released a 32-page report titled “Apparatus of Lies” that purported to document the ways in which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has deceived his people and the rest of the world. Many who reported on the document said it contained nothing that has not been known for a long time.

To hang this war on a moral campaign against the injustices of the Baath regime in Iraq is an untenable rationale because it immediately calls up inconsistencies in U.S. dealings with other brutal regimes and the U.S. complicity in keeping Saddam Hussein afloat as dictator during the 1980s.

If this impending war is not born of high moral purpose, then what? The most cynical assessment was advanced in a chilling report that high ranking Russian military officials had learned that the United States had already taken the decision to invade Iraq and that the operation would begin in the second half of February

Reuters described the news agency distributing the report, Infax, as one that “has generally authoritative contacts” in the Russian military and political establishment.

At one level it seems ludicrous to even be entertaining the question at this point of whether this war will be fought over oil. Clearly, if Iraq were not perceived as a threat to the flow of oil from the Middle East, the United States would not be amassing 150,000 troops in the region.

At the same time, should we decide to unilaterally invade Iraq, the war will be immediately about much more than oil. It will be about the United States, how we perceive our role in the world and how willing we are to completely set ourselves apart from the conversation and the dreams and aspirations of the rest of the world.

It is difficult to make the argument, as the Bush administration has been desperately trying to do in recent weeks, that the rest of the world should join us in an unpopular military adventure when for the past two years we have been systematically removing ourselves from major arenas of cooperation. The record is distressing.

Jesuit Fr. Robert Drinan pointed out in an earlier NCR column that in the past two years, the United States “has more and more isolated itself from international law and from the accumulated wisdom of the arms control community.”

Most recently, the United States spurned worldwide objections to take up development of the ill-advised “Star Wars” missile defense scheme.

That happened just months after President Bush announced the United States would withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and resume nuclear explosions.

The United States, during the current administration, has also:

  • Walked out of the biological weapons convention agreed to by 143 nations;
  • Refused to sign the treaty barring antipersonnel land mines even though almost every other country in the western hemisphere had signed it;
  • Withdrew from the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty agreed to by 178 other countries;
  • Refused to ratify the International Criminal Court.

In addition, America continues to be the number one manufacturer and purveyor of weapons, from small weapons to weapons of mass destruction.

We are, beyond any doubt, a superpower, the only superpower remaining. The haunting question, however, is to what end will we use that power?

National Catholic Reporter, January 31, 2003