President Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraq last night that contained political overstatement, rather than persuasive moral clarity.
The most exaggerated claim was that the world would be more secure with a new regime in Iraq. Bush said, “The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.”
Other than right-wing circles in the United States, few believe such inflated hubris. Many fear that an American invasion and occupation of Iraq will only increase America’s isolation and hatred throughout the world.
Others think that an American-led attack will feed recruitment efforts of terrorist groups. Still others foresee the destabilization of American-friendly regimes in Arabic nations due to widespread public opposition to the perceived “Christian crusade.”
Only a prideful and naive view would advocate that the removal of an undeniably bad man would immediately create a less threatened world. A sinful world is comprised of far more than one evil man. A comprehensive understanding of evil appreciates the systemic nature of evil and the danger of one’s own culpability.
Bush’s speech was more than simply one overstatement, however. It was a string of inflated claims. He asserted that the United States was enforcing “the just demands of the world” and that the “world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.”
Yet world opinion is steadfastly against unilateral military action. Furthermore, America’s allies in the war actually lead nations where the public overwhelmingly opposes war.
Another embellishment was that some nations “share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.” The simple fact is that these nations do not share the Bush administration’s assessment of the danger level. Further, they might actually have more resolve and fortitude than this administration in their determination to take a longer route to disarmament.
A final overstatement was the claim that “a broad coalition is now gathering.” Such a claim had the same ring as the one made last week that the majority of the U.N. Security Council would support the U.S. position.
The thinness of this war coalition became even thinner when Canada decided shortly before Bush’s speech that it would not participate in a US-led attack without U.N. approval.
The president has neither shared with the American people the real financial costs of this war, nor asked for genuine sacrifice.
Yet the nation is marching off to war with its eyes down, perhaps because we know something is fundamentally wrong about this war and we’re praying for God’s intervention before it’s too late.
Robert Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.