- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Iraqi's satanic President Saddam Hussein has confronted the United States with a choice between war or dishonor. President George W. Bush, backed by an unwavering congressional resolution, has scorned dishonor. Civilization is cheering. The explanation lies in history, literature and moral philosophy.

Adolf Hitler confronted wildly popular British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with a choice between war or dishonor at Munich in 1938. The prime minister chose dishonor. He returned to 10 Downing Street with the smugness of a deluded appeaser, and rhapsodized amidst British delirium: "For the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. … Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."

And then World War II came. A staggering 50 million casualties, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, and companion horrors ensued. At Omaha Beach, 5,000 Americans gave that last full measure of devotion to liberate France from its moral decadence and effeteness epitomized by the collaborationist Vichy regime. (That spiritual debasement thrives in France today. But as was said of Julius Caesar's perfidious assassins, French President Jacques Chirac is an honorable man, and he finds honorable company in Germany's ingrate Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Belgium's invertebrate successors of King Leopold's sordidness).

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein falls inches short of Hitler's vileness and megalomania. On the scale of barbarism and crimes against humanity, he is neck-and-neck with Cambodia's Pol Pot but furloughs ahead of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic. Saddam has murdered approximately 1 million Iraqis since grasping power more than three decades ago, i.e., genocide on the installment plan. Countless more would have perished since the 1991 Persian Gulf war but for the no-fly zones in the north and south established by the United States, which denies Saddam access to two-thirds of Iraqi territory.

Saddam sports tens of thousands chemical weapon victims, including Iraqi Kurds and Iranian civilians and soldiers. He invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He fired rockets on Israeli civilians during the Persian Gulf war, and pays bounties to the families of Palestinian suicide-murderers to celebrate the slaughter of innocents. Twenty-two million Iraqi citizens suffer the equivalent of Dante's Inferno daily: no freedom to think, speak, associate, pray, work, laugh, study or self-govern.

State-sponsored killings, rapes, robberies, and torture are commonplace. Insolent contempt marks Saddam's defiance of his United Nations Security Council agreement to disown, destroy and account for weapons of mass destruction in exchange for leaving his regime undisturbed after Iraq's crushing 1991 defeat. Japan and Italy similarly scoffed at League of Nations resolutions protesting the invasions of Manchuria and Ethiopia, respectively. The League signed its own death warrant by quaking before the belligerents and sheepishly administering genteel wrist slaps.

Liberating the Iraqi millions from Saddam's fangs is morally compelling. To borrow from "The Merchant of Venice," hath not an Iraqi eyes? Hath not an Iraqi hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as an American is? If you prick an Iraqi, does he not bleed? If you tickle him, does he not laugh? and if you poison him does he not die like the rest of mankind?

Every additional day Saddam retains power means new crimes against humanity and prolonged enslavement of 22 million Iraqis. Indeed, the humanitarian misery in Iraq equals or exceeds that of Kosova under Slobodan Milosevic that provoked President William Jefferson Clinton to pre-emptive warfare. Who today maligns Mr. Clinton for initiating conflict without imminent danger to the people of the United States?

Liberating Iraq is further unanswerable because odds favor light American and Iraqi civilian tragedies, in sharp contrast to clashing with North Korea, assuming Saddam follows Hitler in shying from chemical or biological weapons despite impending annihilation. Less than 200 United States troops died in the 1991 conflict; and no American has been lost in flying countless sorties over the north and south no-fly zones for more than a decade in the face of Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. In other words, forgoing liberation would approach the squalidness of refusing to throw a life preserver to a drowning child.

Opponents of Iraq liberation echo the voices denouncing President Abraham Lincoln for fighting the Confederacy over the abomination of slavery. It is said nothing is more precious than peace; and, that no evil of Saddam's is worth a single life. President Lincoln answered his scourges with words President Bush would be well advised to imitate: "[I]f God wills that [war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn by the sword, as it was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' "

That Lincoln withheld his emancipation mission from Cuba did not stain the glory of his humanitarian triumph, just as the liberation of Iraq would not be tarnished by desisting from North Korea.

I am blessed with a son of unflinching courage in the Army reserves scheduled to debark for the Persian Gulf. I dread the prospect of a letter like Mrs. Bixby's from President Lincoln. But if we do not fight for civilization, who else will keep the barbarians at the gates?

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