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Wrong for them, wrong for us

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"[W]e will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men."

-- George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003

A noble sentiment -- but a rather peculiar one to come from a man beating a war drum. When, I wonder, will we not permit the triumph of hypocrisy in the words of men?

The facts, after all, are not in dispute: the Bush administration is proposing violence on a massive scale, violence that will involve hundreds of cruise missile launches every day, violence that will undoubtedly claim tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and violence that will imperil the lives of many Americans.

A declaration of war on our part will be, in Bush's words, "the triumph of violence."

But to my mind, what Bush didn't say in his State of the Union address last week was even more significant than what he did say. For example:

He didn't mention the massive humanitarian crisis that the war will undoubtedly cause, a crisis that the U.N. has projected could put up to 10 million people at risk for hunger, exposure and disease.

He didn't mention that the coming war will cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $2 trillion, at a time when the economy is in poor shape.

He didn't explain why the United States is so eager to rush into war, even though many of our allies are against it and Iraq's weapons program is paralyzed by the presence of inspectors.

He didn't say anything about the fact that our interest in Iraq principally begins and ends with the second-largest oil fields in the world. (We have completely ignored the 2 million deaths that the ongoing civil war in the Sudan has inflicted, so any idea that our interest in Iraq is exclusively or even principally humanitarian is rather suspect.)

He tried to scare us by mentioning the weapon stocks Washington believes Iraq still possesses. But he didn't try to put those figures into context by comparing them to the weapon stocks that other countries -- including the United States, the largest producer and distributor of "weapons of mass destruction" in the world -- feel compelled to maintain in order to deter attacks and to defend themselves against invasions.

He didn't mention that many -- perhaps most -- of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction," including anthrax and botulism, were given to Iraq by the United States government during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.

He did not provide any evidence that Iraq is in league with al-Qaeda or that Iraq is a "clear and present danger" to the United States.

He failed to mention that while Iraq may be in violation of a United Nations Resolution, Israel is in violation of several such Resolutions. But while we are preparing to invade Iraq on this pretext, we do not appear to be leveraging any sort of pressure to force Israel to comply. Is it any wonder that many Arabs around the world hate the United States?

What we are telling the world right now is that "might makes right." For this message, we are justly despised. If invading a sovereign nation, killing innocent people and hoarding "weapons of mass destruction" are wrong for Iraq, then they are wrong for the United States (which remains the only nation actually to use atomic weapons against a civilian population).

If violating U.N. Resolutions merits punishment for Iraq, then it does also for Israel. Ethical principles always require the maintenance of a two-way street.

And yet here we are, about to invade a much smaller nation that has oil fields we covet.

Iraq, one might note, is under sanctions in the first place for doing the same thing 12 years ago. What applies to them apparently does not apply to us. But not until we live up to the difficult teaching of The Golden Rule -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" -- will we be able to look into the mirror and call ourselves truly civilized.

In the meantime, we will merely be New Crusaders eager to procure, at whatever the human cost, Black Gold.

Allan Burns is an editor and author. He lives in Colorado Springs.

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