A Breath of Hope

A few days ago, someone asked me if I thought war with Iraq had become inevitable. My response, at the time, was yes. The Bush administration had reached the point of no return and was going to war, regardless of what the rest of the country, or the rest of the world, thought.

Saturday, that changed. With the proposal planned by the French and Germans, we may have found our best possible chance for a peaceful resolution.

In short, the Franco-German plan is a reinforced inspection regime: tripling the number of inspectors, reinforcing them with United Nations troops and expanding the current no-fly zone to cover the entire country of Iraq. If the plan can be implemented in such a way that the UN force does not include U.S. forces, and is not perceived as an occupying force by ordinary Iraqis, this may be the best chance to succeed, for several reasons:

  • An improved and reinforced inspections regime will be able to effectively disarm Iraq;

  • The sooner the UN is satisfied Iraq is disarmed, the sooner crippling economic sanctions can be lifted and the Iraqi people can stop suffering from a policy none of them can affect;

  • Bush and Rumsfeld can walk away believing they have given a backbone to the United Nations and forced it to action, and can walk away with the credit;

  • Saddam Hussein will be able to claim he stood up to a planned imperialist invasion and prevented it.

Most importantly:

  • American soldiers won't have to die in an offensive war;

  • Tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis won't have to die;

  • Preventing a U.S. led invasion reduces the risk of inflaming the entire Muslim world against America, a very real risk associated with a unilateral assault on Baghdad.

It's hard to argue with a plan that has all these benefits, but the first reactions of the President's cabal are not promising, because this plan stands in the way of the real goal, which is American hegemony in the Middle East.

President Bush may be between a rock and a hard place. Faced with a real solution for peace, which would accomplish the disarmament he claims he wants, to proceed with plans for war would expose this war for what it is: naked aggression. The biggest stumbling blocks for the plan are two key issues: who will control Iraq's oil fields when it's all over, and the lack of a plan for regime change, one of the Bush administration's key demands.

This may be the last critical moment to prevent a war. If enough pressure is brought to bear by American citizens, Congress and the press, the Bush administration can walk away, stop a war, and declare themselves the winners.

If there was ever a time for action, this is it. The anti-war community should quickly get behind this proposal and urge the Senate to press the administration into considering it. It may be our last chance to stop the war and prevent the deaths of thousands of people.

Charles Sheehan-Miles, a Gulf War veteran and a co-founder of Veterans for Common Sense, is a former president of the National Gulf War Resource Center and author of the novel, "Prayer at Rumayla."

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