Now that the Iraq war is drawing to a close, it is perhaps useful to remember why the United States and its allies, holding fast in the face of world public opinion, pacifism and appeasement, chose to "engage in a regime changing operation." Least we forget, this war was declared by al-Queda against the United States, but it wasn't until Sept. 11, 2001, that they translated their brutal vision into the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
The immediate pursuit of al-Queda in Afghanistan was merely the first step in dealing with the international terrorists that singled out the United States. Their actions precipitated the Bush doctrine on preemptive war: "... no cause justifies terror. The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them..."
Terrorist groups make use of friendly states in which they can exchange money, procure arms, train, and organize. Iraq crossed the boundary in the conduct of civilized nations by aiding and abetting the terrorist Islamicists who threaten to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and by availing them to the al-Queda type groups operating within their territory.
Iraq has proven itself a threat through its documented atrocities. Its record in killing thousands of its own citizens and its manufacturing and possession of WMD that can be used anywhere by its agents is concern enough. The much-publicized UN effort to find such weapons was a failure, the continuation of which would only have gained Saddam time to further obfuscate the international community and disperse his inventory for future use at a time and place of the terrorist's choosing. The United Nations, contrary to oft-heard rhetoric, is not a "world government." It was not designed to replace its member nations' obligation to defend themselves, a principle recognized by international law as a right of sovereign nations. Unfortunately, through its obtuseness, a major casualty of this war is the United Nations itself.
As stated in the recent March 21 Wall Street Journal, Saddam's henchmen and Ba'ath party members exerted all effort to maximize civilian casualties and suffering, so as to turn public opinion against the United States. In this regard, the media was an unwitting accomplice, for as TV reports showed thousands of anti-war protesters in major cities, the Iraqi regime only stiffened its resolve to hold out to the last woman and child.
This war was neither about oil, conquest, domination or reprisals. Far from it, the United States and its allies have made every effort to save the Iraqi oil facilities to avoid an environmental calamity and to preserve the patrimony for the long suffering Iraqi people. The conduct of the war was carried out, all things considered, in the most humane manner possible. American leaders are focused on one issue: how to prevent another terrorist attack on any American city or for that matter, any French city, in spite of their ingratitude.
The key issues are objective. Was there an enemy? Did he have the material ability to impose his will? How are one's own people best protected? Iraq never acknowledged that its behavior was a problem. Since the exact problem was a regime that had and used the capability of warring on its own people and its neighbors, the logical alternative was to change the regime. We see our nation's actions justified in the faces of thousands of cheering Iraqis.
There are things worse than war, or have we forgotten this after the horrors of World War II? St. Augustine dealt with this issue centuries ago. In any action, there will be some unwanted consequences. But thus far, this war has been the most respectful war to the enemy's population of any war ever fought. Although the Vatican has not pronounced this war a "just war," neither did it condemn it.
Bishop Wilton Gregory, speaking for the American Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated the moral rules for the war: "War has serious consequences, so could the failure to act." Referring to our soldiers, Bishop Gregory added: "Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. The United States and its allies are at war with a regime that has shown, and we fear will continue to show, a disregard for civilian lives and traditional norms governing the use of force. All the more reason that our nation upholds and reinforces these values by its own actions."
The Bishop concluded by saying: "Any decision to defend against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by using our own weapons of mass destruction would be clearly unjustified. In all our actions in war, including assessments of whether 'collateral damage' is proportionate, we must value the lives and livelihood of Iraqi civilians as we would the lives and livelihood of our own families and our own citizens."
The conduct of our armed forces has been nothing short of spectacular, in their military achievements (with some of the longest and fastest advances in the history of warfare and the destruction of all organized resistance in a matter of weeks), but also from a humanitarian and moral standpoint. We must further acknowledge that Bishop Gregory's admonitions about the conduct of the war were flawlessly executed.
A victory in Iraq is not the end of the war on terrorism. This war is more appropriately the "battle of Iraq," and only a chapter in the campaign on global terror. But it is a step in the right direction and the forceful delivery of a clear message. Terrorist attacks on civilians must be prevented and confronted. Proponents of this violence deserve to be eliminated in a war that is just and carefully executed so as to spare the civilian population. And for those who would quiver at the thought of taking life, even in a just cause, remember the terrorists themselves always have the option of stopping their terror voluntarily.
President Bush has displayed remarkable prudence and statesmanship. Political prudence is the ability to judge and decide when something has to be done and to define the measured steps to accomplish the objective. The President has determined a sober and noble course of action, not against the Iraqi people but for them and for us, as the war seeks to deny the terrorists any illusion that they can prevail against a free and democratic society.
John Guevremont, a Mashantucket Pequot tribal member, is a columnist for Indian Country Today. As a life-long Republican, he has been active in Connecticut and national politics and was a delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention, where he was instrumental in providing the language for the convention's Native American Platform. He is the tribe's Chief Operating Officer and National Governmental Affairs Representative. Any opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect either the policy or official position of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.