Iraq and September 11 --
Dan Bednarz, Ph.D.
As best we know, none of those responsible for September 11 has been
apprehended, and most of the Al Qaeda who were in Afghanistan remain
at large as that country is at risk of reprising the nineteen eighties
trauma of government controlled cities with the countryside the domain
of drug-running warlords. Despite this unsettled situation our government
wants to invade Iraq as the next step in the war on terror.
But what is the connection to September 11 that justifies a military
Following the September strike, sundry experts insisted that Iraq's
dictator, Saddam Hussein, was behind them. This allegation has faltered,
first, for want of solid proof (the perpetrators were not Iraqi nationals,
or, as far as we know, connected to Hussein), and, second, because it
became common knowledge that bin Laden and Hussein are unlikely allies,
even against the "Great Satan." The "eliminate Saddam" lobby has shifted
its emphasis from an inquiry with legal precedent: was he involved in
September 11? to the
closed logic of Dr. Strangelove: let's get him before he gets us. Guilty
or not guilty, it comes out the same: eliminate Hussein.
The distinctions quashed by such thinking merit an airing. The Al Qaeda
threat emanates from stateless people who feel directly inspired by
God and have a nearly thorough mythological experience of the social
world. Their beliefs render them self-righteous and volatile; hence
the "senseless" and horrific murder of journalist Daniel Pearl and September
11 itself. In short, Al Qaeda beatifies "sacrificial" death, especially
when its "warriors" slaughter our civilians.
In contrast, Hussein controls a state, and his proclaimed motto, "If
I survive in power, I win," hardly betrays the self-concept of a would-be
hero waiting for his chance to attack other nations. What if he strikes
surreptitiously by aiding terrorists such as Al Qaeda? To do so he would
have to know that: 1)
he could with absolute certainty conceal his involvement, or 2)
the attack would be so devastating that no significant military
response could be mounted. Both
conditions are improbable. Hussein is --though brutal, cunning, vengeful,
and loathsome-- a weak candidate for direct or indirect mass-terror
because he values his corporeal existence.
The stark truth is that a military assault on Iraq will do nothing to
bring to justice, or protect us from further attacks by, those responsible
for September 11. While the military is fully capable of purging Hussein,
it is ill suited to eliminating terrorists like Al Qaeda, and doing
the former to achieve the latter exemplifies "magical thinking."
So why attack Iraq now? Some say "oil," the arrogance of unilateralism,
or opportunism by gung-ho militarists seeking redemption for George
Bush, Sr.'s abandonment of those he encouraged to rebel against Hussein
during the Gulf War. These are at best ideologically tinged and incomplete
wish to "take out Saddam" is, I speculate, a combination of revenge
(which often is not directed at the perpetrator) and the ancient belief
that "righteous" violence can purify the world, once and for all vanquishing
evil-personified these days by Saddam, who sits in Baghdad taunting
us, and bin Laden, whose whereabouts are unknown, as if he were in the
netherworld waiting to strike.
sum, Hussein is a convenient sinkhole of the collective anxieties created
by September 11; he is a tangible, geographically fixed, destroyable
target. In contrast, Al Qaeda -who, it seems, actually committed September
11-- poses an amorphous, dangerous threat.
this respect, the "Axis of Evil," which goofily conflates the interests
of communist North Korea, theocratic Iran and totalitarian Iraq, reveals
our leaders' psychological turmoil and their failure to grasp political
Indeed, it is as if Iran and Iraq never fought a carnage-filled war
in the eighties that ended when they ran low on teenagers to dispatch
to the battlefront. (Indicatively, this "Axis" is as geographically
off center as it is conceptually.)
Politically, a preemptive military attack mocks democracy and our claims
about the moral superiority of Western civilization (to be civilized
means to forswear certain acts -even in war-- as barbarous). Specifically,
a military offensive based on supposition, not acts of war, corrupts
the rule of law, the fundamental embodiment and symbol of what distinguishes
a terrorist from a democratic mentality; it also betrays a colossal
callousness for life - regardless of the guarantees of "light" casualties
and the "limited" and "strategic" use of nuclear weapons.
There is hope, however, that rough wisdom will prevail over recklessness.
Almost all our allies refuse to be bought off or cajoled --they oppose
invading Iraq unequivocally. Here at home, recent polls indicate that
Americans may be queasy about Bush II's expansion of this war on terror.
If this uneasiness proves accurate, we will have invigorated democracy,
the only long-term solution to terrorism.