|Should the United States Initiate War against Iraq?
Last week, Puerto Ricans became aware of the cost of fighting international terrorism when a 20-year old marine, Antonio James Sledd, was killed by a sniper, assumed to have been an al Qaeda agent, while participating in maneuvers with his infantry unit on the Kuwaiti island of Failaka. Cpl. Sledd was born in San Juan and formerly resided in Jayuya. His twin brother, Michael, is also a Marine.
Almost concurrently, in Washington, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution giving President Bush the authority to use the Armed Forces of the United States in any way that he determined "necessary and appropriate to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." So far, over 1000 members of the Puerto Rican National Guard have been activated to confront the terrorist threat and thousands more are serving in the regular Army, Navy and Marines. If war breaks out with Iraq, many more will likely be put into harms way.
The Congressional resolution accuses the Saddam regime of a long list of violations of international law and with the brutal repression of its civilian population. It cites Saddams 1990 invasion of Kuwait, his abrogation of subsequent United Nations cease fire agreements designed to eliminate Iraqs nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs (United Nations Security Council Resolution 660). Further, it accuses Iraq of currently harboring terrorist organizations, charges that an Iraqi spokesman denied. The resolution, somewhat modified from the original draft offered by the White House, was hotly debated, particularly in the U.S. Senate, but it passed with comfortable margins. President Bush signed the resolution into law, stating, "We will defend our nation and lead others in defending the peace."
Critics of the Administrations Iraq policies question the need for such action now, especially since a decade has passed since many of the cited violations occurred and, if there is to be hostile action against Saddam, it should be executed by a broad coalition of nations in which the U.S. has a part to play but not the need to carry the entire load. Some hold that it is up to the United Nations Security Council to enforce its own resolutions and that the U.S. should not act unilaterally.
There is presently a debate underway in the U.N. Security Council to approve a proposal, drafted by the United States and Great Britain, to send inspectors into Iraq to examine any facilities that violate Resolution 600 and see to their destruction. Iraq has said that it will allow in the inspectors "without conditions" but the Bush Administration is dubious of that commitment. The U.S. draft insists that there be clear penalties attached to any incidents of interference to the inspectors work by Iraq. Three nations that have veto power in the Security Council - Russia, China and France - are opposed to the draft proposal, seeing it as a ruse to commit U.N. Members to a war against a member state without real provocation.
President Bushs message to the international body is unambiguous, "The time has arrived once again for the United Nations to live up to the purposes of its founding; to protect our common security. The time has arrived once again for free nations to face up to our global responsibilities and confront a gathering danger."
So as things now stand, the Bush Administration is harnessing the war wagons to move against Iraq either with or without a stern U.N. mandate. Already we are beginning to see small but vocal anti-war protests on college campuses. Most public opinion polls indicate that, although the majority of Americans agree that Iraq is a threat, they doubt that it is an immediate threat. Also, public opinion shows a clear preference for the U.S. to act in consort with the United Nations or with a significant coalition of allies.
The Heralds Hot Button Issue poll typically surveys reader attitudes about goings-on in Puerto Rico or matters of particular interest to Island residents. The issue of war and peace, however, is of such overriding concern to the entire nation that it is appropriate to provide readers the chance to express opinions on a matter that affects the lives of all American citizens and the expenditure of its financial resources. This is especially true for readers residing in Puerto Rico, who have had no voice in the Congressional debate on Iraq and will have no vote to give or withhold to the President in whose authority is vested the lives and fortunes of countless Americans.