Is war the best way to handle Iraq?

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 01, 2003

I know that I speak for throngs of people in this country who do not believe it is necessary or wise to attack Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, however lethal they may be.

To use military force will motivate not only Mr. Hussein today, but others in the future, to use the very worst of such weapons.

Surely we're smart enough and compassionate enough to design other means of destroying Iraq's cache of weapons.

Indeed, the record shows that U.N. inspectors did a good job of doing just that in the 1990s. And they're off to a good start. So let's support those inspectors in whatever forceful way is necessary, with or without Mr. Hussein's cooperation.

And even if it takes hundreds of weapons inspectors many weeks or months to unearth Iraq's weapons, surely that would be better than war, with its horrendous costs in dollars as well as human lives.

Mary Louise Ellenberger

Baltimore

President Bush's belligerent policy toward Iraq and our allies has achieved what would have seemed impossible a year and a half ago: He has turned a sympathetic world against us.

And if we go to war we risk alienating a generation or more of Muslims who will see the war as the West against Islam.

Violating a lesson that is taught in Diplomacy 101, the president has restricted himself to just two choices if Saddam Hussein doesn't leave voluntarily: attack Iraq or risk being viewed as weak by Mr. Hussein and those who wish ill on the United States.

Certainly the threat of attack keeps Mr. Hussein on his toes and the inspectors in Iraq. But we need a third way.

Rather than invading and occupying Iraq, we should continue inspections and keep military options open without a timetable or ultimatum. To keep the pressure on, we can use selective military action - bombing key military targets or even Mr. Hussein's palaces if he refuses to cooperate.

And under the auspices of the United Nations, we can move from war talk to a policy of containment while reserving our options for the future should Mr. Hussein ever use his weapons as an aggressor.

This third way is worth a try.

Oz Bengur

Lutherville

I am thankful Germany, France and Russia have had the backbone to stand up to President Bush and his mad rush to war with Iraq.

North Korea has the potential to strike our West Coast with nuclear weapons, yet Mr. Bush seems to be willing to negotiate with it. Yet he is bent on attacking Iraq. Why? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

He is salivating over the prospect of his buddies in the American oil industry, of which he has a vested interest, controlling Iraqi oil.

S. F. Emrich

Jarrettsville

After viewing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's U.N. presentation, I am still undecided on the nature and extent of the Iraqi threat to our national security. I also cannot yet decide whether this threat dictates immediate military action, or whether a war would result in Arab outrage that would pose even greater threats to our security.

I cannot accept the view, however, that the real motive of our saber-rattling is to seize Iraq's oil by force. I've seen this idea on the placards of peace activists and in European editorials, but it strikes me as a reflexive cynicism about America rather than a reflective assessment of our policy.

For one thing, I've heard Mr. Powell discuss the challenges confronting America. And even before Sept. 11, 2001, he had long been warning us about the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Nevertheless, his actions before and after the gulf war reveal that he is a reluctant warrior. It is also obvious that he is a dedicated, sincere and honest statesman. I simply cannot believe he would go before the U.N. and intentionally mislead the world.

And it seems obvious to me that if our government were as cynical and manipulative as its detractors suggest, it would not have to resort to war for oil. It could gain unrestricted access to oil by dropping Israel as an ally, appeasing the Arab states on the issue of Palestine and offering "economic assistance" to certain Middle East heads of state.

Wouldn't that be far simpler, more likely to gain positive international response and cheaper than a war for oil?

I do not wish to support a pre-emptive war without being certain a very real, potentially catastrophic and imminent threat exists.

Nonetheless, I retain enough faith in my government to believe the motive for a possible war is the threat of cataclysmic weapons, not oil.

Michael Cast

Edgewood

I would like to respond to the question posed by the writer of the recent letter "What if your child had to go to war?" (letter, Feb. 12).

My son and only child is a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He is the closest thing to Superman I will ever know, and I love him more than life itself. As a parent, naturally I am concerned for his safety.

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