Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Iraqi Tragedy -- Last Act

The world must brace for unfolding tragedy, most likely of horrific proportions, now that the United States has begun its attack on Iraq.

This is the war that will result in nothing but uncertainty.

The U.S. may have a clear idea about what it is doing in terms of its military mission, but no one is clear about what will happen after the war is over, assuming that it ends within a reasonable period of time.

A long protracted war will mean even greater uncertainty, not just for the Iraqis or the people in the region, but for the entire world.

The United States is attacking Iraq in order to strip the regime of Saddam Hussein of its weapons of mass destruction.

There is a question of international legitimacy about this war because the attack does not come with the approval of the United Nations Security Council or with popular international support.

Washington thought about attempting to secure a resolution approving the use of force, but backed down at the last minute when it became clear that it did not have the necessary votes on the Security Council.

Instead, President George W. Bush is relying on the vaguely worded Resolution 1441, which warns of "grave consequences" if Saddam Hussein does not dismantle the weapons that he has used to menace and torment not only his neighbors, but also his own people.

While the United States interprets "grave consequences" as meaning the use of force, to many Iraqis the term means the destruction of their lives, property, possessions and, given the uncertainty, probably their future.

The drama that has unfolded before our eyes these last few months, especially since the Bush administration announced its intention to target Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, amounts to a modern-day Iraqi tragedy.

It is a tragedy because we know the war could have been prevented since not all peaceful options had been pursued or exhausted.

It is a tragedy because the United Nations' power has been subverted by the world's only superpower, casting doubt on the effectiveness and efficiency of the world body in securing global peace in the future.

It is a tragedy because multilateralism has further given way to unilateralism, turning the world of diplomacy upside down. This will only further erode international confidence in many of the world agencies.

It is a tragedy because this war is breaking apart many old friendships and alliances that helped to promote global peace and prosperity over the past decades.

It is a tragedy because it is taking place even when international public opinion, attested by the massive protests in many of the world's capitals these past few weeks, was clearly against the war in Iraq.

It is a tragedy because two men who were in a position to prevent this war from taking place -- Bush and Hussein -- were guided more by their egos rather than reason, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of many innocent people.

Most of all, however, this is a tragedy because many innocent people will die unnecessarily.

But then, the story of the Iraqi people has been one of endless tragedy, certainly this past decade or so. That more than four million Iraqis live in exile tells us the kind of repression that they experience under Saddam Hussein.

The Kuwaitis, Iranians and Iraqi Kurds will also tell you their own tragedies experienced under Saddam Hussein.

Then, in 1991, the Iraqi people suffered the grave consequences of Saddam Hussein's military adventurism when the bombs of a U.S. led-coalition fell on them.

And after the bombs, the Iraqi people have had to endure the hardships of living under an international economic embargo. Millions of Iraqi children have died over the past decade because they were deprived of the necessary food and medicine.

There is no sense in opposing the war now that it has started, because we know opposition is ineffective anyway. The best we can hope for now is to pray that the war ends quickly, and pray that there are as few human casualties as possible.

We should also pray that this war is Scene 1 in the Last Act in the modern-day Iraqi Tragedy. The ending scenes have yet to be written, and no one really knows where this drama is heading. But let us all hope the next scenes will deliver the Iraqi people from the endless suffering and misery that they have been subjected to over this past decade.

This Iraqi Tragedy must have as happy ending as possible. The Iraqis deserve nothing less.