The dust has settled

The fallout from the war in Iraq has begun and the recurring issue remains the alleged weapons of mass destruction. Do they exist? Where are they? When will the coalition troops find them? These questions are being asked on a near daily basis.

Concerns such as these were emphatically voiced in the British House of Commons nearly as soon as major fighting ceased. Prime Minister Tony Blair found himself in hot water regarding intelligence information, its validity and its use as the foundation for waging war. American President George W. Bush has been asked similar questions, in regards to faulty information from the CIA about Iraq’s attempts to buy uranium from Niger.

Fair enough. In the lead up to the war, the issue of weapons of mass destruction was brought up frequently, and it became a key justification for the attack. Since this was the case, it is more than reasonable to continue asking these questions until satisfactory information is available. However, as these concerns are brought to the public’s attention, it is equally important to remember the flip side to the so-called Coalition of the Willing’s argument: Iraq’s imminent threat.

If this war’s stated purpose was solely the weapons, two seemingly obvious contradictions come to light.

First, the United Nations was already in Iraq searching for weapons when the war began. By pulling the inspectors out, didn’t it give Hussein an opportunity to either hide the weapons before invasion or else use them during the war?

Second, Kim Jong-Il of North Korea has plainly stated that his state has nuclear ambitions and many experts would equate his dictatorial reign to Hussein’s. So, why not make war with them? The Coalition’s answer was that Iraq posed a viable threat, while the North Koreans did not.

But how do you prove a threat? Not easy.

Luckily for the powers-that-be, very little public attention has been paid to this question. Instead of focusing solely on finding weapons that may or may not exist, Iraq’s invaders must also show that Hussein was on the verge of attacking the strongest country in the world. Due to the relative difficulty of making this argument, do not expect an answer without significant pressure from the war’s opposition.

Using weapons of mass destruction as the sole reason for immediate military action is also questionable considering the Cold War weapons build up. Possessing weapons, at that time, was not seen as a reason for war as it is today. Instead, countries armed themselves as an insurance policy to prevent other states from attacking them. Many times, the two superpowers helped equip smaller countries who could fight ideologically-based wars on their behalf. A glowing example is the financial and military support that the Americans gave to Iraq when the enemy was Iran.

In the decade since the end of the Cold War, it is foolish to think all of these weapons have simply disappeared. They are still available and likely still capable of wreaking havoc. However, if every state believes in their own moral righteousness, as well as the threat posed by their enemies, why would any state give up their weapons? Assuming they still want this form of insurance, it is reasonable that many states cling to their weapons with the hope they will never have to use them.

Does Iraq still possess weapons of mass destruction? Probably. Do many other states (either developed or developing) also have weapons? It is equally possible. Therefore, the mere possession of weapons of mass destruction cannot, in itself, be a reason to go to war. If it were, any of the advanced industrial nations would be seen as a threat and any war that materialized could see an unfathomably high number of casualties. What is truly required now is the indisputable evidence that Iraq was on the verge of attack.

This is where the war’s opposition needs to concentrate. It is not enough to find weapons, we must know they intended to take innocent lives imminently. Of course, this assumes there were no other reasons to go to war. Financial benefit, political hegemony, additional Middle Eastern presence, increased military supremacy, whatever.

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