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Volume 68, Issue 102, Monday, February 24, 2003

Opinion

War not America's decision

Ellen Simonson
Guest Columnist

As the Bush administrationis push toward armed conflict in Iraq escalates, one of its most vocal hawks has been Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In recent weeks, Rumsfeld has maintained a bloodthirsty stance, insisting that Iraq possesses "weapons of mass destruction."

Many people in America and around the world are waiting for proof from the international community that such weapons exist. Rumsfeld, however, acts as though said proof is not necessary.

And he is certainly in a position to know. As President Reaganis Middle East envoy, he was in Iraq in March of 1984 when the United Nations did find proof of such weaponsi existence and use.

In fact, on the day Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad -- March 24, 1984 -- United Press International reported that "mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43-month Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, a team of U.N. experts has concluded." Rumsfeld spent that day in talks with the Iraqi foreign minister.

The UN report further stated that "chemical weapons in the form of aerial bombs have been used in the areas inspected in Iran by the specialists The types of chemical agents used were bis-(2-chlorethyl)-sulfide, also known as mustard gas, and ethyl N, a nerve agent known as Tabun."

In the face of this obvious evidence, one would think that Rumsfeld -- that passionate hater of weapons of mass destruction -- would have been up in arms. Not so, in fact The New York Times reported five days later that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name." When Rumsfeld had the opportunity to draw the worldis attention to this inhumanity, he did nothing.

Almost two decades have passed, and Iraq supposedly disarmed long ago. Whether it did so entirely is dubious at best, but the fact remains that hard evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq drew naught but a favorable response from the United States -- and Donald Rumsfeld -- 20 years ago.

During the time that Rumsfeld was Reaganis Middle East envoy, Iraq was purchasing various weapons, especially helicopters, from American firms with White House authorization. 

In 1991, after Husseinis forces were found to have used poison gas on the Kurds, U.S. intelligence officials told the Los Angeles Times that "they believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs."

These helicopters were sold to Iraq with the consent of the United States government, during a time when it was aware, without a doubt, that the Iraqi regime employed chemical weapons.

Yet today just the possibility of such weaponsi existence is said by some to be justification for the massive "shock and awe" bombing of a country in which 50 percent of the population is under the age of 18.

Itis hard not to wonder why such a possibility has suddenly become grounds for bloodshed in the mouths of those such as Donald Rumsfeld, who said nothing to the world when he knew such weapons were being not only developed, but used on human beings.

Saddam Hussein poses a threat to the international community, not just to America, but to all nations. Therefore the terms and methods of his removal from power should be up to the international community, not just America, to decide.

And if we do choose to pursue armed conflict while the world urges us to wait, we should be careful about taking the moral high ground. After all, some of the loudest voices now being raised in favor of war were utterly silent when the evidence was concrete.

Simonson, a Psychology Department employee, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.
 

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