If -- or almost certainly when -- we go to war in Iraq, it will not be for humanitarian reasons. We will go to strike preemptively at terrorism's biggest opportunist and shadiest eminence grise, Saddam Hussein.
But we will go for other, less presentable, reasons too. We will go, as we did in 1991, to secure our oil interests in the region, to wrest an indispensable commodity from the hands of a hostile vendor. And finally, it's probably fair to say we will also go so that Bush fils may correct his father's lingering mistake and at last depose this gravest of political threats: a humiliated megalomaniac left standing.
The antiwar left finds none of these reasons sufficiently compelling to justify an attack that it feels sure will slaughter innocent Iraqi starvelings in hecatombs and further distress a population already punished by draconian U.N. sanctions imposed after the Gulf War.
Fair enough. There is an admirably principled stand to be taken against the sometimes bellicose Bush administration's justifications for war in Iraq, especially when it concerns the fate of already imperiled civilians. But in keeping with its habitual anti-establishment posturing, the left has placed the blame for the alleged atrocities against the Iraqi people almost exclusively on the U.S. rather than on the party most directly responsible for them, Hussein.
This has put the left in the odd position of bewailing crimes committed against the Iraqi people while at the same time doing everything in its power to oppose the only means -- violence -- of toppling the very perpetrator of these crimes.
War alone, however anathema it may seem on principle to the pacifist contingent, can secure a reprieve for the tortured Iraqi people and is therefore justifiable in humanitarian terms.
Appeasement, though, far from ensuring peace, would subject Iraqis to yet more violence, subjugation and deprivation at the hands of their kleptocratic leader. Diplomacy has failed. There is no bargaining with Hussein, no appealing to his better nature even on domestic issues. This is hardly surprising because he is a confessed admirer and epigone of Josef Stalin.
The establishment left's failure to make this argument and its strange apologetics for Hussein are reminiscent, in fact, of the odious stand it once took on Hussein's hero. For most of the last century, the left turned a blind eye again and again to the documented suffering of the Soviet people as well as to Stalin's infliction of it.
This posture was then, and is now, nothing less than an unconscionable betrayal of one of the left's purportedly most cherished principles: an ongoing commitment to social justice and human rights. The left prefers to believe that the Iraqi people unanimously support the status quo and oppose the American agenda, though copious evidence to the contrary has surfaced in recent weeks.
When, after a sham landslide reelection, Hussein emptied his prisons last month, family members of missing political prisoners protested openly, demanding to know why their loved ones remained unaccounted for.
Suddenly, the West caught a glimpse of true public opinion in Iraq.
At the same time, Western journalists reported being surreptitiously approached by civilians who assured them that many Iraqis secretly supported President Bush.
The Iraqi people need and want our help. Can the left, in good conscience, be deaf to their cause?