Public Interest In Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel"s Holocaust memoir Night, the unremitting horror ended only when the first U.S. tanks pulled up at the gates of Buchenwald.
Edward Queen: "If all we are concerned about is keeping Iraq down, we can continue on with sanctions and inspections indefinitely. But this course basically confines the Iraqi people to poverty and suffering."
When I think about the impending war with Iraq, I sometimes think about that scene. My views are almost always in alignment with the peace movement, as they are in the widespread global opposition to this proposed war. But I am not a pacifist. On a micro level, if my family or my neighbors were under physical attack, I would intervene with force to save them. On a macro level, I believe there is such a thing as a just war. For example, I regret we did not act militarily soon enough in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia or Iraq, where such action could have saved thousands of Tutsi, Muslim and Kurd lives. So I think it appropriate to give a fair hearing here to the humanitarian argument for a multilateral invasion of Iraq. To present that argument, I asked around for someone who does not care about George W. Bush"s poll numbers, who has no financial stake in the oil business or military industrial complex. Someone with international ties who does not cheer for the U.S. trampling over the will of the United Nations. I wanted an informed person who truly believes an Iraq regime change, even if accomplished at the point of a gun, will further the cause of human rights. I was led to Edward Queen, a senior researcher at the Center for Urban Policy at IUPUI and a member of the law faculty at Southeast Europe University in Macedonia. Queen has a Ph.D. and a law degree. He has extensively studied international law and worked for human rights organizations in Jerusalem and Macedonia. And he says it is time for war. "If all we are concerned about is keeping Iraq down, we can continue on with sanctions and inspections indefinitely," Queen says. "But this course basically confines the Iraqi people to poverty and suffering. And why should the people continue to suffer for the failings and overt misconduct of its government? There needs to be a stop to this." Queen cites the well-known atrocities of Saddam Hussein, including the mass executions and chemical attacks on Kurdish civilians, suppression of minority religions, violations of the oil-for-food program and aggression against neighboring Iran and Kuwait. Queen also believes the available evidence strongly suggests that Iraq has continued with a weapons program since the end of the Gulf War. "When you combine these facts with the regime having had 11 years since the Gulf War to show it will behave, it basically forces the international community to a decision," he says. "How much longer can we wait, given that the Iraqi regime has shown no concern for its own people? I think it is reasonable to argue that the line has already been crossed by Iraq and an armed intervention to change the regime is called for." Getting our hands dirty Queen respects international law, and says an attack on Iraq could be justified under it. He cites Iraq"s apparent violations of U.N. Resolution 687, which established the cease-fire at the end of the Gulf War. Queen says an argument can be made that Iraq has violated those terms blatantly enough to nullify the cease-fire. He also refers to Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which allows countries to defend themselves and, Queen says, "not have to wait until the enemy is at the gate" to do so. "The United Nations charter is not a suicide pact," he says. Queen readily agrees with the notion that there should be no blood for oil, but says this war would not be fought for economic motives. Rather, in his view, this would be a war about human rights. "Unfortunately, armed humanitarian intervention is an issue that the international community has to confront more directly," he says. "There has been a significant change in the notion of sovereignty since the events in the former Yugoslavia. What other countries do within their boundaries is a matter of international concern." Queen acknowledges that his support for invasion is predicated on the belief that military action would be less costly in human suffering than allowing the Hussein regime to continue. "If we are going to be bogged down in a war with massive civilian casualties, then of course we must consider those costs," he says. "I don"t want to diminish the real dangers and hazards, but think about how the horrible predictions for casualties in the first Gulf War and the Afghanistan invasion did not come to pass. "The prospect for casualties is the biggest thing that distinguishes the case in Iraq from the situation in Korea, where the Demilitarized Zone is 40 miles from Seoul and North Korea has a million-man army. The amount of retaliatory damage that could be inflicted on South Korea probably makes a military attack there not worth it right now." We can learn from our failures to act to prevent massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia, Queen says, and we can also learn from our success. He cites Kosova in particular, where in 1999 the U.S. and NATO expelled Serbian troops while the U.N. war crimes tribunal indicted Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. For a successful post-invasion model, he refers to the Marshall Plan for Germany and Japan after World War II. Queen says the more recent Kosova experience suggests what early intervention can accomplish. "You go to Macedonia and hang out with the old Albanians, and you learn, as one of my friends points out, they love Americans more than Americans do," Queen says. "One of my colleagues went to a small Albanian village and visited a classroom where the teacher asked the children what they knew about America. A little girl raised her hand and said simply, "Americans saved Kosova."" To Queen, that experience suggests that a regime change obtained by force may be the best option for the suffering people of Iraq. "You can"t avoid getting your hands dirty," he says. "When you consider an invasion, casualties matter, cost matters. But if you focus on your own purity, you risk allowing bad things to happen to other people."