Jewish World Review March 5, 2003 / 1 Adar II, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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Making the case for war on British TV left some panelists stunned | Last Sunday, I was a panelist on a BBC-TV program here in New York City concerning the imminent war with Iraq. We were linked by satellite to a panel of Jordanians in Amman.

The Jordanian panelists were uniformly opposed to the use of any U.S. military force against Iraq. The New York panelists, on the other hand, were split on that issue. The first of the New York panelists -- the sister of a 9-11 victim -- expressed her opposition to the war, but also commented that she had been to Iraq and had found the Iraqi people fearful of their government.

I stated that I support military action and disagree with those who claim it is preemptive. In my view, military action is needed to enforce the ceasefire obligations that Iraq had agreed to after its defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. I pointed out that by unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council, including that of Syria, Iraq has been held to be in violation of its commitment to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, e.g., poison gas, biological agents and the means of developing nuclear bomb technology. I said that if a war occurred, it would be the result of an Iraqi decision to choose war over compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Iraq could avoid war if it admitted it had weapons of mass destruction, then produced and destroyed them. If it has already destroyed them, as it claims to have done, then let Iraq produce evidence of the destruction, including written records, technicians who participated and identification of the destruction sites.

Others on the New York panel included a Vietnam War veteran who, to the surprise of the BBC moderator, said he supported the Bush war ultimatum and worried that Saddam Hussein, if not removed, could order the dispersal of poison gas in cities around the globe, causing massive casualties. Another New York panelist said a reason for the war was to bring democracy to Iraq. The Jordanians responded that it is arrogant to think we can impose our culture on Iraq and that if there was to be a regime change, it must come only through the actions of the Iraqi people. Another New York panelist said she was opposed to war under any circumstances.

I stated that any discussion of making Iraq into a democracy was a red herring and not the reason for war, but simply a possible benefit. I said the unanimous support of Iraq by the Jordanian panel came as no surprise. I referred to the news reports of Jordanians dancing in the streets of Amman on 9-11 celebrating the deaths of 3,000 Americans. I think the Jordanian panelists were stunned by that comment and by my reference to Jordan having sided with Saddam Hussein in 1991.

I said to the New York panelist who objected to war under any circumstances that I believe there are just wars, such as the war against Hitler in WWII. There may or may not be close ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, but it is irrational to think that Saddam Hussein would deny bin Laden access to poison gas or biological agents if bin Laden requested them. Bin Laden has urged Muslims everywhere to support Iraq in a Jihad calling for the death of Christians and Jews.

Hans Blix, who heads the U.N. inspection team in Iraq, recently told Time magazine: "Saddam Hussein has no credibility." When the U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Hussein rebuilt the casts which were used in making the Al Samoud 2 missiles after the U.N. inspectors destroyed them, and illegally purchased 380 missile engines from abroad. Blix, according to The New York Times "in his reports to the Security Council has said the Iraqi have not answered a series of questions about the fate of chemical weapons, nerve agents, missile systems and other war materials." While Iraq maintains it has no records on arms demolition, records were recently found on Iraq's nuclear weapons development efforts in the house of a scientist.

To date, President Bush has been extraordinarily effective in laying out the case against Saddam Hussein and in favor of possible military action against his regime. He has secured unanimous U.N. backing through Security Council Resolution 1441. He has obtained the support of a majority of European nations and of the Arab Persian Gulf states. If we had invaded Afghanistan after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Al Qaeda, and deposed the Afghan government that was harboring that terrorist organization and disrupted their terrorist activities, instead of waiting until after the catastrophe of 9-11, we might have saved 3,000 lives.

Three days after 9/11 -- and I was there to hear and cheer him on -- President Bush stood on the smoldering wreckage of the twin towers and said, "The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." They heard from us in Afghanistan. They will be hearing from us in Iraq.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Edward I. Koch