BY JOHN B. QUIGLEY
If President Bush wants to get the United States attacked again, as in September 2001, he can do no better than to invade Iraq. The widely felt resentment toward the United States in the Middle East that spawned the 2001 attack will only be heightened by military action against Iraq.
Thousands could be killed if we undertake aerial bombardment of Iraq as a means toward bringing Saddam Hussein down. The United States is already being faulted for atrocities against Iraq because of the economic sanctions the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, has maintained against Iraq for the past decade. Hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq are attributed to the privation caused by these sanctions. High-level U.N. officials have resigned rather than be party to what they view as immoral.
In a bombing campaign, we would use the same high-tech methods used in Afghanistan to minimize the risk to our own pilots. We will call it precision bombing. In the Middle East, it will be seen as indiscriminate.
We have already heightened the chances of further terror attacks against the United States by our one-sided support for Israel over the Palestinians. One has only to recall the Osama bin Laden videotapes to understand what an effective tool we give recruiters of suicide attackers by supplying Israel with the helicopters and other weaponry it uses to keep down the Palestinians.
Our recent insistence on the removal of Yasser Arafat as Palestinian leader is taken in the region as proof positive of our one-sided approach.
No one is sure how much military force would be necessary to wrest Saddam Hussein from office. Chances for success with an air attack alone are rated as low. Ground troops may be required.
Is the American public willing to sacrifice the lives of our own daughters and sons for an objective that few understand?
The hawks in the administration have been trying to tie Iraq to al-Qaida. So far they have come up empty. Much of the top brass at the Pentagon thinks that an invasion of Iraq will not work. Pushing Iraq out of a neighboring country, Kuwait, as we did a decade ago, was an achievable objective.
Driving the current Iraqi government out of office and replacing it is more problematic. If we succeeded in forcing Saddam Hussein out of power, it is not clear what would follow. One of the reasons the elder George Bush declined to topple Iraq's government, over and above feasibility, was concern about having to pick up the pieces.
The continuing violence in Afghanistan, seen in recent car bombings and the near-assassination of President Hamid Karzai, reminds us that overthrowing a government is not necessarily enough.
Will the Kurds who have a de facto separate state in northern Iraq try to break away? Will we let them? Will that lead the Kurds in Turkey, our NATO ally, to try to break away? Will the governments in the region that have tried to cooperate with the United States be replaced by fundamentalist-oriented governments?
The domestic economic impact of an invasion of Iraq has yet to be assessed, even in general figures. The cost will be astronomical. We are left with a plan that would kill thousands, with a highly uncertain outcome. That is why most of the world labels the plan as aggression.
An invasion of Iraq, moreover, is against America's interest. By going after Iraq, we give birth to the next generation of suicide attackers.
Quigley (e-mail: Quigley.2osu.edu) is a professor of law at Ohio State University, 55 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210. Distributed by Knight Ridder News Service.