Confronting Iraq: Might Doesn't Make Right

People of faith belong on the side of peace. But it is more than just those of all religions who stand against an attack on Iraq. It is also those who put their trust in law.

The current moment confronts the world with a terrible decision: Will we stand by reason and law or act in force and aggression? There has never been a more important test of the values of average people around the globe. At stake is whether might makes right.

The United States is indeed a mighty country. But its real strength resides in its proud history of standing for what is just. In figures such as Martin Luther King, the world draws moral fortitude and an example of the effectiveness of non-violent struggle. With the grassroots boycotting efforts of everyday Americans, and the eventual diplomatic pressure of their government, South African apartheid was ended. The prison doors would still be shut around Nelson Mandela were it not for the help of the United States.

These traditions have spoken recently on the streets. Never has there been such a popular and peaceful outpouring of opposition, even before the act of war has taken place. This is truly the moral meaning of preemption.

There is no dishonor in the willingness to slow things down for the inspections to run their course. Few doubt that the United States has established a credible threat of force. Now the United Nations must be permitted to do its job. Disarmament is an absolute necessity. Nothing will undermine it more than a brazen disregard for the one institution which can actually achieve it.

It is not a vote against the war that threatens the United Nations with irrelevance. It is the unilateral cajoling by the sole remaining superpower which risks corrupting this otherwise democratic and international institution.

It is the inconsistent application of its resolutions, whereby some violators operate above the law, while others lack due process. It is the threat that money will dictate votes where only law and evidence should hold sway.

The question is not whether the United States has the ability to change the current heinous regime in Baghdad. It does. The question is whether it is worth the cost, not just in terms of the fate of diplomacy and law, but also in terms of the thousands of innocent victims which will result now and down the road in the repercussions to come.

President George W. Bush is a man of faith. We can only hope that he believes in law as well.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Ian Urbina is associate editor at the Middle East Research and Information Project.

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