Baghdad & Beyond

On March 17, President George W. Bush, having failed to secure backing from the UN for the use of force against Iraq, issued his final ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. The dictator and his sons were given forty-eight hours to leave Iraq. Hussein refused. By the time readers receive this issue of Commonweal, U.S. and British forces almost certainly will have invaded Iraq and presumably will be speeding toward Baghdad. If we and the Iraqi people are lucky, this war will be short and decisive, a homicidal tyrant will be deposed, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will not be unleashed, civilian and military casualties will be minimal, and an oppressed people will gain a measure of freedom and much-needed humanitarian relief. Once in control of Iraq, the U.S. military will be able to locate and destroy the WMD Hussein allegedly has been hiding. In the short term, in other words, the consequences of the war are likely to be positive. Or so the Bush administration and its military strategists hope. Yet the long-term consequences of this war, like any other war-indeed, like the first Gulf War-are not likely to be so easy to manage.

President Bush’s supporters promised, even boasted, that he would bring "moral clarity" to U.S. foreign policy, but even his staunchest advocates would be hard pressed to say there has been much clarity, moral or otherwise, from this president in recent months. The administration’s diplomatic...

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