Iraq war creates dangerous precedent

I WOULD like to respond to the recent tone of 'pragmatism' that has been injected into the debate on the war in Iraq in The Straits Times Forum page and in some of the paper's commentaries.

In the light of the events of this war, a purportedly pragmatic 'cost-benefit analysis', as advocated by Mr Jeremy Leong ('S'pore loses more by not backing US'; ST, April 3), is a rationalisation of political apathy.

Political and military situations are always complex. But this does not mean we cannot have any idea of 'who is right'.

To think that discussions of the war can be depoliticised and removed from notions of morality and justice, is a response that is chillingly symptomatic of the extent to which political apathy has infected the Singaporean mind.

War is an extreme measure. It involves the loss of military and civilian lives on both sides, not to mention the collateral damage to the economy and social fabric of the country invaded and to the rest of the world.

War is not only an operational procedure; it is also a heavy moral decision because innocent civilian lives are at stake.

It is true that in every war, there will be casualties.

But the question is, is this war really necessary, now? Are these civilian deaths, not to mention those of soldiers, really necessary, now?

Indeed, why must the United States be so adamant about starting a war now? Why does it not have the patience for the United Nations weapons inspection team to complete its investigation?

If Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is indeed so dangerous, why has the US waited until now, 12 years after the Gulf War, to act?

It is noteworthy that in 1998, the US conducted Operation Desert Fox to destroy Iraq's military installations and factories, and it did not face the opposition that this war has.

The reason is this: The current war is not simply a military operation to ensure that Iraq complies with UN sanctions and terms, but one meant to remove a government and install a new one.

And this is precisely what makes this war so dangerous a precedent: The US went ahead with it despite the lack of international sanction.

It is one thing to oppose President Saddam's repressive regime, but it is quite another to wage a war against it without the general consensus of the UN members.

Without the legal and moral sanction of the UN, how is this war different from the time the armies of the 'Eight Allied Nations' marched into Beijing in 1900 and sacked the Summer Palace, for example?

Mr Leong's 'cost-benefit analysis' forgets that Singapore, as a small nation, needs the legal protection of the UN as much as it needs the protective umbrella of the US.

After all, given the precedent set by the US in this war, what is to stop it from invading Singapore if it develops a dislike for the Government and its brand of 'soft authoritarianism'?

We should not forget that Iraq and, indeed, Mr Saddam himself were once US allies.