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Opinion Opinion

Posted on Mon, Oct. 27, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Why are we in Iraq?
Iraq is a distraction from America's No. 1 priority: homeland security

Special to The Observer

Two columns in The Observer Oct. 17 demonstrated what's wrong with our national debate about Iraq.

Billy Wireman ("Others should help in Iraq") correctly stated that other countries owed the United States for our past contributions to their security and prosperity. He also noted that our purpose in Iraq was commendable. The world and the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam Hussein. Our goals are noble.

Charles Krauthammer ("What was Iraq's intent? Case closed") correctly argued that Iraq had violated the U.N. resolution that required its full cooperation with inspectors, and that, if Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, it was at least planning to have them.

All this is true, and if Iraq existed in isolation and was our No. 1 priority, we might have been justified in risking national bankruptcy and attacking Iraq. And we might truly deserve the support of other countries in our efforts. But that's not the case.

National security is our No. 1 priority and it should by now be clear to everyone that Iraq is far down the list of concerns when it comes to fighting terrorism. Consider:

 The reason the U.S. supported Hussein in the first place was that he was the only one we felt was ruthless enough to pacify all the warring factions in that region. Now who are we going to put in charge?

 Al-Qaida was not active in Iraq until we "won" the war there. Now it's a magnet for terrorists.

 For all practical purposes, we've abandoned Afghanistan and chosen to ignore the problems in Pakistan -- the real centers for harboring and encouraging terrorists. And this doesn't include other obvious problems like Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, and on and on, throughout our troubled world.

 From all accounts, we've under-funded our obvious first line of homeland security: local police, fire departments, border patrols, accident and emergency units, and so on.

 Last, but not least, we've overextended ourselves financially to the point where we are endangering our future ability to meet the real terrorist threats when they emerge -- right here at home.

The next time someone wants to debate whether or not invading Iraq was morally right -- or what will happen to Iraq if we get out as soon as possible -- I wish someone would point out that that's not the issue.

The issue is: What is the best use of our human and financial resources for our homeland security? It's definitely not to bankrupt ourselves in a low priority cause. Even if it were possible to make Iraq a model of the ideal democratic secular/Moslem country, we don't have enough resources to do it, and still meet our obligations to our own citizens.

And we shouldn't blame our friends in other countries who have tried to warn us of our hubris and our folly.

Chuck Kelly is a retired management consultant in Tega Cay and author of "The Destructive Achiever, Power and Ethics in the American Corporation." Contact him at
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