First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Probably the stupidest thing that I've heard said in the past few months has become a mantra, people say it so often: "Why attack Iraq? Let's concentrate on fighting terrorism!"
This is so phenomenally dumb that I almost can't believe that serious people are saying it. But they are. So here's the answer.
What do you think "fighting terrorism" will look like? Sending a bunch of cops to somebody's house and arresting him?
Terrorism thrives only because there are nations in the world -- most of them in the Middle East, but a few others as well -- who provide supplies, training, money, and safe haven for the terrorists.
Those nations are not going to allow us to go in and arrest the terrorists. They deny that the terrorists they're sheltering are there. Then they laugh at our helplessness.
The terrorists are the fruit of the tree. We can't pick all the fruit. We have to cut down the tree. Lay the axe to the base of the trunk.
So the appeasers say, "But there's no proof that Iraq sponsored Al-Qaeda."
Right, like they file documents about it. Of course they support Al-Qaeda. They've been supporting terrorism for years. And even if they had nothing to do with 9/11 in advance, we're not out for retribution or punishment, we're out to destroy the ability of our enemies to make war against us. Iraq is an arsenal for our enemies. They harbor and support terrorists. Attacking them is a vital part of that war.
So the appeasers say, "Well, Iraq is hardly the only supporter of terrorism. And look at North Korea -- they have nuclear weapons and we're doing nothing about them!"
Of course Iraq is not the only supporter of terrorism. It's not even the worst -- Iran is. And North Korea is at least as dangerous as Iraq. And Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia are all shelterers and supporters of terrorists. The list is well-known.
But only an insane President would attempt to take them all on at once. We might as well say, "World War II just wasn't big enough. Let's have a really nasty global war this time."
Iraq is the only one of these countries that everyone agrees is led by a madman who poses a danger to everyone around him. The only one that has no powerful protector or natural advantages. In other words, while it is militarily far from being the easiest target, it is politically the most obvious one.
If America acts resolutely, using its military might to destroy Saddam's regime, then maybe we won't have to fight any of the others.
Or maybe we will -- but maybe not all of them, and probably not all of them at once.
Do you think North Korea will act as defiant after they see Saddam's regime in ruins and Iraq's people liberated from the tyrant? Do you think they don't know how the Korean people would dance in the streets if that barbarian Communist government fell to American power?
Resolute action on Iraq will probably spare us a much larger war and much worse terrorism in America.
The appeasers say, "But why now? The best estimates say Iraq won't have a nuke for years!"
Estimates. Estimates. How many times have you shoveled twenty percent chance of snow off your sidewalk? Or had a picnic soaked by twenty percent chance of rain?
There are also estimates -- including those of the man who used to head Iraq's nuclear program -- that they are mere months away from having a usable weapon.
When will we know that it's time to eliminate Iraq's nuclear program? When Tel Aviv is blown off the face of the earth? How many Jews have to die before the American appeasers decide that it's time to invade Iraq?
And if we put a huge army on the ground in Iraq after Saddam has nuclear weapons -- in other words, when it's too late -- who can doubt that he will use a nuke on his own soil, as long as it kills a few hundred thousand American soldiers?
If we are ever going to stop this man, now is the time to do it.
I don't want war. Those who claim this war will be easy and cheap are fools or liars. No war is predictable and no war is cheap. Our soldiers are precious to us, and to put their lives at risk is a grave responsibility, not lightly undertaken.
But the equation is pretty simple. Saddam is working as hard as he can to get nukes and bioweapons in a form he can use. Terrorists would love to have those weapons, and if they had them, would use them against us (and Europe, and Israel, and the Philippines, and Indonesia, and Singapore, and ...). And there is no basis whatsoever, not a shred of evidence, for the belief that Saddam would never give those weapons to our enemies.
Even if he never did, he won't live forever, and his death will bring chaos to Iraq. In that chaos, if such weapons exist, they will go to whoever wants them most. What do you think the chances are that they will end up in the hands of our friends?
Besides, it's already too late. It was too late in 1991. If we suddenly back off and say, "Never mind, Saddam," do you think he'll say, "OK, then, I won't let them have the weapons after all"?
Iraqi weapons have been fired at American soldiers during every week since the Gulf War "ended" ten years ago. They have broken every term of the truce that ended major hostilities at that time. By every rule of international law we are already at war and can freely resume major operations whenever we want.
That war is part of the war on terrorism. Osama bin Laden began his anti-American campaign specifically because American troops entered Saudi Arabia in order to defeat Saddam. Osama and Saddam hate each other -- but they both hate us more.
And even if Saddam doesn't give his weapons to Al-Qaeda, he'll give them to somebody, or use them himself -- because he is hungry to show them off. He has always found a reason to use every weapon he ever had. He won't be content till the world sees his power.
And people are still saying, "What right do we have to attack Iraq when they haven't done anything against us?"
There's a part of me that leans toward despair and isolationism. A part of me that says, All right, let's have President Bush get up and make a speech that says:
"It's clear that our friends and supposed allies don't agree with us about the danger that Iraq poses and refuse to support us in this war. It is also clear that even within America, the forces of appeasement are so strong that even if we fight, and even if we win, they will never believe the war was necessary.
"They are wrong. But I am not a dictator, and I will not try to lead my nation into war when we are so deeply divided and when the world at large so universally condemns us. So we will continue to try to protect our borders and to locate terrorists, but we will not invade Iraq.
"By announcing this, of course, I make the world a far more dangerous place. The people who want peace will cheer my decision now, but they will not get peace. The sponsors of terrorism will take courage and become even bolder, knowing they are safe within their borders.
"In a year, or two, or three, the very people who clamored for peace will curse me for not having acted while we still might have stopped Saddam. 'Why did you listen to us?' they will say.
"I listened to you because this is a democracy. I listened to the United Nations because we respect international law and because the American people would not support this war if we went into it alone.
"We will now live in the most dangerous times the world has ever seen. I would have spared us that ordeal, if only I had been permitted. God help us all."
Almost I want him to give that speech. See how the world likes it when the U.S. doesn't play cop. See how Americans like it when the appeasers get their way.
Because that's the only way we will ever find out whether an invasion of Iraq was really necessary: by not doing it, and bearing the consequences.
Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.
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