After President’s Speech, Questions Remain Unanswered

After President’s Speech, Questions Remain Unanswered
By Stephen Zunes and Erik Leaver October 16, 2002
Editor : Tom Barry, Interhemispheric Resource Center ( IRC )

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At the House International Relations Committee markup of H.J. Res. 114, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) put forward an amendment that contained a series of questions he argued the administration must answer in order for Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibility regarding a prospective war, and to gain the confidence of the American people. The address by President George W. Bush on Monday evening failed to provide answers to these critical questions. Representative Brown’s amendment, as did a previous letter to the president from House Armed Services ranking Democrat, Ike Skelton (dated September 4th) asked a number of important questions, and requested specific information on a number of points. Among these are:

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : A comprehensive analysis of the effect on the stability of Iraq, and the region, of any “regime change” in Iraq that may occur as the result of U.S. military action, including, but not limited to, the effect on the national aspirations of the Kurds, Turkey and its continued support for United States policy in the region, the economic and political impact on Jordan and the stability of the Jordanian Monarchy, and the economic and political stability of Saudi Arabia.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : While pledging to “help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors,” the president mentioned no specifics and offered no plan.

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : A comprehensive statement that details the nature and extent of the international support for military operations in Iraq, and what effect, if any, a military action against Iraq will mean for the broader war on terrorism, including, but not limited to, that of support from our allies in the Middle East.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : President Bush claimed that the United States would be leading a coalition of allies but failed to mention any countries that would be part of such a coalition. Most of our “friends” in the region–Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan–have strongly urged us not to go to war.

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : A comprehensive plan for U.S. financial and political commitment to long-term cultural, economic, and political stabilization in a free Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : Bush stated, “If military action is necessary, the U.S. and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq, at peace with its neighbors” Yet, he failed to make any commitments. According to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times , “Decapitating Saddam’s regime will take weeks. Building Iraq into a more decent state, with a real civil society, will take years. But it is this latter project that is the most important–the one that really gets at the underlying threat from the Middle East, which is its failed states. But do we know how to do such nation rebuilding, and if we do, do Americans want to pay for it? We need to go in prepared for this task (which is unavoidable if we really intend to disarm Iraq) or stay out and rely instead on more aggressive containment, because halfhearted nation-building always ends badly and would surely weaken us.” With respect to this point, Rep. Skelton asserted in his letter to the president that, “The American people must be clear about the amount of money and the number of soldiers that will have to be devoted to this effort for many years to come.” The president has offered no such information to the American people.

As well, rebuilding Iraq will take enormous amounts of trust on both sides. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times noted in his October 4 report from Baghdad, this will be a difficult task. Kristof wrote, “while ordinary Iraqis were very friendly toward me, they were enraged at the U.S. after 11 years of economic sanctions…. Worse, U.S. bombing of water treatment plants … and shortages of medicines led to a more than doubling of infant mortality, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.”

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : A comprehensive statement that details the nature and extent of the international support for military operations in Iraq, and what effect, if any, a military action against Iraq will mean for the broader war on terrorism, including, but not limited to, that of support from our allies in the Middle East.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : President Bush claimed that the United States would be leading a coalition of allies but failed to mention any countries that would be part of such a coalition. Most of our “friends” in the region–Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan–have strongly urged us not to go to war.

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : A cost estimate for military action and reconstruction along with a proposal for how the United States can pay for these costs.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : There was no mention of this during President Bush’s address.

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : An analysis of the impact on the U.S. domestic economy of the use of resources for military action and reconstruction of Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : There was no mention of this during President Bush’s address.

THE INFORMATION REQUESTED : The letter from Rep. Skelton to the president referred to “the need for Congress, the American people, and our friends around the world to [be given the information to] understand exactly what is at stake and why we must act now.” In other words, Rep. Skelton asked the president to offer proof of an imminent threat from Iraq to the national security of the United States and its citizens.

THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE : President Bush reiterated accounts of Iraqi atrocities from the use of chemical weapons to support for Abu Nidal terrorists as evidence of Iraq’s aggressive intent. However, these took place during the 1980s when the United States was quietly backing the Iraqi regime. As Michael Kinsley wrote in the Washington Post (September 27, 2002), “The fact that these episodes happened years ago does not diminish their horror, and there is no reason to think that Hussein has become kinder or gentler over the years. But it does realize the question of why now, years later, they are suddenly a casus belli. If that did not constitute a good enough reason for going to war with Iraq in 1988, it certainly is not a good enough reason now.”

(Research by Stephen Zunes < zunes@usfca.edu > and Erik Leaver < erik@fpif.org >. Zunes is FPIF’s Middle East Editor, and Leaver is FPIF’s Policy Outreach Director.) Weekly multilateralism / unilateralism analysis via our Progressive Response ezine. This page was last modified on Wednesday, April 2, 2003 1:19 PM Contact the IRC’s webmaster with inquiries regarding the functionality of this website. Copyright © 2002 IRC. All rights reserved.