It is reassuring that President Bush is listening to the gathering debate, at home and abroad, over whether to wage war against Iraq. As he made plain in comments at his Texas ranch, he is not ignoring the counsel of some elder statesmen of the Republican foreign policy establishment who are urging restraint amid the administration's drumbeat to oust Saddam Hussein from power.
A decision of this magnitude -- whether to mount a potentially costly military campaign against Iraq -- merits a robust national debate. That is precisely what is now unfolding. ...
Does Baghdad pose a pressing threat to America's national security or that of the Persian Gulf region? Which offers the greater risk of instability in that oil-rich quarter of the globe, a menacing Saddam left in place or a conflict that could spill across borders and fuel a powerful anti-American backlash in the Islamic world? What are the consequences of war in Iraq for the U.S. campaign against terrorism and for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis? ...
... (B)efore resorting to armed conflict Bush must present a persuasive brief to Americans, to our European allies and to Muslim nations in the region that Saddam poses an intolerable threat. And, in the end, the president must seek congressional approval before going to war, just as his father did in 1991. ...
-- San Diego (Calif.) Union-Tribune
The Bush administration's moral argument for ousting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein suffered a blow recently with reports that the United States backed Iraq when it last used chemical weapons. But that blow, by itself, should not cripple the case for sacking Saddam.
According to the reports -- based on interviews with unnamed Pentagon officials but hotly disputed by Secretary of State Colin Powell -- the United States assisted Iraq in its 1981-1988 war with Iran despite knowing Iraq would use chemical weapons in the conflict.
One of the arguments that President Bush and his top advisers have offered for toppling Saddam is his use of chemical weapons, both in the war with Iran and against opponents within Iraq. So much for the moral force of that argument if U.S. officials looked the other way while Saddam gassed his enemies.
But allegations of terribly mistaken policies three administrations ago don't change the current situation. ...
President Bush says he has made no final decision on how to deal with Iraq. Before he does, he needs to consult with congressional leaders, then lay out a convincing case to the American people.
There are lessons to learn from previous mistakes in dealing with Iraq. But they are no reason to paralyze U.S. policy in the face of a growing threat.
-- Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
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