Friday, October 29, 2004
Culture of life
President George W. Bush has often urged Americans to embrace a "culture of life." In the future, this heartfelt call may well be viewed as the hallmark of the Bush presidency — even though George W. Bush has also led this country during a time of war. Many Americans may not fully appreciate how central the president's culture-of-life values are to his policies in the war on terror, both in Afghanistan and Iraq — but I have no doubt.
Today, like most Americans, I take for granted living in a democratic society where the individual is valued, and no one — including the government — is above the law. But I also know how unique and precious such societies are. I grew up in the Soviet Union, where the individual's interests were always subordinated to the whims of the state, and where the government was the law. Even so, my parents and grandparents endured much worse. They lived in Stalin's Russia, and they knew real fear — not just occasionally, but every day — fear of the state and its agents. Indeed, many people during that era did not sleep well at night, waiting for the knock at the door, announcing that the security police had come to pick them up and cart them off to the Gulag, or be shot.
Before America and its allies toppled Saddam Hussein, this was also the world in which all of Iraq lived. Only one life mattered in that tortured country, and that was the life of Saddam Hussein — a man who modeled his regime on Stalin's. The entire apparatus of Iraqi government was organized and operated to ensure Saddam's continued rule. His opponents, real and imagined, were killed or driven into exile. The Iraqi army was trained and deployed to defend Saddam Hussein, not the Iraqi people. Indeed, he used that army, and its chemical weapons, against them. The chemical-, biological-, and nuclear-weapons programs, which brought international sanctions and ultimately war on Iraq, were Saddam's programs, designed to serve his purpose of self-aggrandizement.
In finally deciding to depose Saddam Hussein by force, President Bush did not "rush to war," as Senator Kerry claims. Rather, he made a reasoned and cautious assessment of the situation in Iraq where, after more than ten years of sanctions, Saddam Hussein continued to rule more absolutely than any of the Caesars. He also made a reasoned assessment of the danger this man posed to the United States. That danger was real. While Senator Kerry has tried to spin a recent — and subsequently discredited — New York Times story about a few tons of high explosives that U.S. troops allegedly failed to secure, he does not seem to be troubled by the fact that Saddam's regime had stockpiled hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions and ordnance, which he could freely share with numerous terrorist organizations. (Saddam's Iraq also had a long history of supporting various terrorist groups.) Since the preferred mode of operations by such terrorist organizations is to attack innocent civilians, allowing Saddam to remain in power posed a grave and continuing threat to the United States and our friends and allies.
At the most fundamental level, Saddam hated America because America stood between him and his dreams of dominating the Middle East as a new Saladin — the medieval leader who had briefly united the Arab world against the Crusaders. As he had proven over and again, anyone who got in Saddam's way — man, woman, or child — was a legitimate target. Indeed, Saddam's regime was the first government in history to institutionalize rape as an instrument of political control. President Bush decided not to wait for the blow — and someday a peaceful, free, and democratic Iraq will thank us for it.