We about to go to war with Iraq and that bothers me.

     It's not the fact that we're the good guys and good guys never hit first that upsets me; nor is it the fact that historically democracies don't attack first. Both of those facts bother me, of course, but they're secondary issues for me, not the main cause of my disquiet.

     In 1990 we had cause for war with Iraq. Iraq had just invaded a neighbor, Kuwait, an ally. More to the point, Iraq then presented a danger to the oil supply for the entire world. The United States organized a coalition of nations, assembled a huge army, and drove the invaders out.

    So what is today's cause for war? Well, there are a few reasons given by those who beat the war drums.

     First, Saddam Hussein has "weapons of mass destruction," also called "WMD." Second, he supports and gives refuge to terrorists. Third, he might give WMD to the terrorists. Fourth, he's a threat to the world. Let's look at those reasons.

     Saddam has WMD.

     He probably has chemical weapons, and likely has some biological. Nobody's claiming that he has nuclear weapons, only the potential of developing them. To give a little perspective here, a lot of other countries have WMD. For instance; India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers. Both are allies of ours and have joined with us in our international fight against terrorism. Over the past year there have been several terrorist attacks in each of those countries -- and each has blamed the other. They keep rattling sabers, threatening to go to war. I repeat, they're both nuclear powers. If India and Pakistan go to war, there's a reasonable probabilitly that they will use their nukes. That's not only a serious threat to their immediate neighbors, but the fallout would present a threat to all of Southeast Asia, much of Oceania, and possibly the Americas as it travels east. I don't hear anyone crying out for a war to overthrow the regimes in those countries, or a call for their disarmament, or for United Nations weapons inspectors to verify that they've destroyed their WMD and their capability of making more.

     So what's different about Iraq?

     Iraq gives support and refuge to terrorists.

     So do Algeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia (an ally), Syria, Yeman (an ally), and numerous other countries. That accusation can be leveled at just about any country that isn't actively engaged in rooting out and capturing terrorists -- in some instances, it would even be true. I don't hear anyone demanding war with Saudi Arabia, which appears to be the primary source of money and a major source of recruits for the terrorists with whom we're at war.

     So what's different about Iraq?

     Saddam might provide the terrorists with WMD. I'm going skip right over this one for now and return to it later.

     Saddam Hussein, with his Saladin complex and his WMD, presents a threat to the entire world.

     Whoa, fella! A little perspective if you please. I lived through the Cold War. During the Cold War both the United States and the Soviet Union had nuclear armories huge enough to destroy all life on Earth many times over. Moreover, both countries had the delivery capabilites to send their weapons everywhere. That was a threat to the entire world. Saddam doesn't have an armory anywhere near big enough to destroy all life on earth even once, and he doesn't have a delivery system capable of striking anywhere outside the Middle East. Yes, he's a threat to his neighbors, as every one of them knows -- Iraq invaded both Iran and Kuwait under his leadership. A threat to the entire world? Get real. To use a crude analogy: During the Cold War, you were tied to a post in the middle of an open field, ringed by inward-pointing machine guns with nervous fingers on the triggers. Now, Saddam Hussein is a kid with a B-B gun tied to a post twenty yards away. Can he hurt you? Sure can. Is he going to destroy you? Not a chance. Can he get away with it? Only if you let him.

     Earlier this week, when British Prime Minister Tony Blair released his Saddam dossier, he said, "Look at his record." Okay, let's look at it.

      During the 1980s, Iraq fought a long and bloody war with its neighbor Iran. Iraq was armed with the best weaponry the Soviet Union and France were willing to provide. Iran was mostly armed with Korean War era surplus and little or no parts resupply. Finally, after eight years of conflict, Iran was about to win the war. Saddam ordered the use of chemical weapons. Iran had no defense against chemical weapons and nothing of comprable killing power. The war ended in a draw.

     A few years later the Iraqi Kurds were in rebellion. Saddam ordered the use of chemical weapons. The Kurds had no defense against them and the rebellion was squashed.

     In 1991 the US coalition charged into Kuwait and drove the Iraqi army out. The rapidly retreating Iraqi army did not use chemical weapons.

     That is Saddam Hussein's record. He uses chemical weapons against an opponent who can't match them. Faced with an opponent who can make the "Highway of Death" look like a Sunday stroll in the park, he doesn't.

     Now I want to return to the fear that Saddam will provide WMD to terrorists.

     There are many things Saddam Hussein is, all of them bad. Suicidal isn't one. In normal circumstances, if he gave WMD to terrorists and they used them, they could probably be traced back to him. He talks big, but he knows from the Gulf War and what happened in Afghanistan during the past year what will happen to him when they are traced back to him -- he'll quickly and violently be sent to meet the seventy virgins. In today's climate, I don't think positive proof would be required before the United States, Britain, and several other nations landed on Saddam with far more destructive power than he could ever amass. Same result: He's dead and he knows it. He's got to be terrified right now. Iraq isn't the only place where the terrorists could get hold of WMD. They could steal or buy them on the blackmarket in the Central Asian Republics or North Korea. They could steal them in France, Britain, the United States, or almost any other country that has them. And Saddam will get blamed.

     Am I saying there are no circumstances under which Saddam would use his WMD? No. If we go into Iraq he might order their use when he's about to be overrun -- his last gasp revenge on those who bring him down. That, of course, raises another question. Would the generals, colonels, captains, those who would give the orders to the troops to use them, actually give those orders, knowing they've already lost and will be held accountable in the war's aftermath? Some might. Most, perhaps all, won't.

     To date, no one has presented any real evidence that Saddam plans to use his WMD or provide them to terrorists, we've only been given inuendo. So we don't have a justification to wage war. What we need to do is get a UN resolution passed, one with teeth, and enforce it. If Saddam pulls the same stunts he did the last time UN weapons inspectors were in Iraq, then we can be justified going in with the UN and and do what we should have done in 1991 -- smash that despot before he harms anyone else.

     Why then is President Bush so dead set on going to war with Iraq and overthrowing Saddam? Some say it's a callous ploy to divert public attention from the economy. Maybe. Focusing on international problems -- beating war drums -- is a time honored way of diverting public attention from domestic problems, used by many heads of state since the beginnings of history. But perhaps there's another reason. In a speech at a fund raiser earlier this week, President Bush said, "This is the man who tried to kill my dad."

     That is a reason for anger or even hatred, and it may be an excuse for war. But it's not a justification for war.

     Truth in advertising department; or, I really should state my prejudices. There's another thing that bothers the hell out of me about this whole business, and that's two of the four men who are beating the war drums. President George W. Bush got himself into the Texas Air National Guard, thereby insuring that he wouldn't be called up to serve in the Vietnam War. Bear in mind, veterans of my generation have little or no respect for the reserves. When we make the distinction, we have even less respect for the Guard. (The Reserves have improved tremendously since Vietnam and now do have my respect. The Guard, however, is still suspect.) Vice President Dick Cheney parleyed a student deferment through the whole war and didn't serve a day in uniform. Neither of them has ever seen war, or even been threatened with the possibility of being in combat. But they're awful anxious to go to war now. Colin Powell, the only combat veteran in the bunch, is urging the others to go through the UN. I'm with him.