My Turn: The reality of just how things are

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2003

America is struggling with historic questions of peace and security, and as this struggle continues two schools of thought have emerged. One addresses how things should be, the other the reality of how things are.

Because we are a peace loving and just people and as the security of the free world is threatened we have a responsibility to respond. No sane person would prefer war, and for the past decade many viable options have been patiently pursued. Tragically, far too often the least dangerous option is military intervention or the overwhelming threat of its imminence.

This is the reality we face today.

Saddam Hussein has an entrenched chemical and biological weapons program and a history of using it, including domestically. He also has an ongoing nuclear weapons development program, however well hidden and media spun it may be. Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister and longtime Hussein spokesperson, is a direct party to this spin and since June of '91 has been a member of the Iraqi Concealment Operations Committee, which also includes Hussein's son, Qusayy. This committee was created to find ways to assure the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and to deceive and hinder their discovery. Hussein recently imprisoned Aziz's son, Ziyad, for 25 years for taking kickbacks in the U.N. created oil-for-food program in competition with his own sons. As the younger Aziz and his family's lives are worth but the flick of Hussein's finger, no doubt Tariq is held well in line.

Given a choice, Hussein would readily use nuclear weapons if deemed necessary to his survival or the survival of his personal ambitions and place in history. To quote him directly "We draw a large picture of Iraq. We want Iraq to possess a weight like that of China, a weight like the Soviet Union, a weight like the United States, and that is indeed the factual basis of our actions." He goes on to explain that no great power has reached this stature without "moving along the road of force." A realistic understanding of the Hussein regime is to envision Hitler or Stalin a year or so away from possessing this nuclear capability.

As recently as this past year the countries bordering Iraq have expressed their willingness to support a total regime change effort, but have balked at anything less. This "full effort only" support is understandable and for good reason, as is the lack of media coverage of any help they may in fact be providing the West. A prolonged regime change attempt or one that could in any way be interpreted as having failed would have a dangerous and vulnerable impact on these border states and could place their very survival at stake.

We also need to clarify our bond with Israel and the role the relationship plays in any question about the Middle East. Hussein is at least as committed to his historical place as the "liberator" of Jerusalem as he is to his dominance of the Arab region and its oil. This poses grave problems for the West and immediate concern to most of us individually. Whatever the outcome of the present Iraqi regime processes Israel is in Hussein's crosshairs. As ongoing president of Iraq or as falling despot, Saddam is heavily invested in Israel's demise. As leaders of the free world we need to weigh that in our conscious, both for the short and long term.

In summation, Saddam Hussein's ambitions for the Middle East are bold, ruthless and have dire consequences for the world, especially the West. The alignment and commitment of states in the region, especially those bordering Iraq, are directly dependent on the West's response to these ambitions.

Do we prioritize down the affects of growing tyranny in the Middle East on our security, or do we respond to reality as we now find it? Do we wait for the "smoking gun" of flying scuds toward Amman, Damascus and Jerusalem, or do we take the necessary steps to secure world peace?

Not as a result of how things should be, but simply as a result of how they are.

Jody Liliedahl of Juneau is concerned about a true and lasting peace.

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