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The Sympathy Argument

by Francisco Frias Thursday, Apr. 03, 2003 at 10:45 PM

Discusses the persuasion of the public for supporting the war.

This war is ostensibly being fought as part of the fight against terrorism. You wouldn’t know it, however, if you were to listen to our government. It has sold this war on humanitarian grounds. We are liberating the Iraqi people from an evil dictator who has oppressed his own people, and even gassed them. The name of the campaign is revealing: Operation Iraqi Freedom. The government could have called it Operation Make Our Country Safer.

Perhaps such a name would conjure up a picture of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell sitting around after 9/11, thinking out loud. Colin Powell asks, “How can we reduce terrorism aimed at America?” George Bush thinks for a while, then after a few minutes, he exclaims, “I’ve got it. We’ll start a war with an Arab country. “ Then would the absurdity of this war jump out at pro-war people.

The latest form of this argument is complex, elaborate, sophisticated, and goes something like this: We’ve already started this. Therefore, we must finish the job. Saddam Hussein is ruthless. He’s evil. We must remove him. We owe that much to the Iraqi people. Otherwise, he will ruthlessly hunt down those who took actions against him.

There is a fatal flaw in this argument. What if, the people you’re fighting against are the civilians you’re claiming to liberate?

Such resistance is likely in Baghdad and would result in high casualties for coalition forces, as well as putting them in a position to have to kill civilians. A civilian, who decides to drive a car and blow it up with himself in it, in order to kill coalition forces, is still a civilian. Other civilians need not take such extreme actions to cause problems for coalition forces. If images from this war have enraged Arab countries, enraged world opinion, and enraged millions of Americans, what will the reaction be to a dramatic battle for Baghdad with large casualties to both Iraqi civilians and coalition forces?

As the battle for Baghdad looms, it is still possible to de-escalate the conflict and preserve life on both sides. The U.S., as the aggressor, should withdraw its troops. U.S. congress person Dennis Kucinich called for this on Tuesday, as well as for the involvement of the United Nations. Few of his colleagues have the vision he has, and even fewer have the courage to express it. Most of our representatives, well educated though they may be, profess the perverse logic of achieving humanitarian goals through war. Judging from Iraqi resistance, the Iraqis may think Saddam is evil, but they may regard the U.S. as a greater evil.

Many Americans have bought into this war because of the humanitarian angle, and it’s being used to maintain their support for it. I hope they have not bought a blood bath, as well as a world suffocated by terrorism and the specter of nuclear war.

Saddam Hussein is a vile, ruthless, evil, murderous dictator.

What if we turn him into a hero?
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