THE ANGLO-AMERICAN campaign against Iraq has provoked the most thunderous debate since the Persian Gulf War about the justness of war. It is good that everyone seems involved in the debate. But particularly for the Philippines, the debate has been one-sided. Only the pacifists of the left seem eager to dominate the discourse. So what the nation is having is just a tired echo of the debate on the Gulf War 10 years ago when anti-West pacifists insisted on peace at all costs, never mind if Iraq burned Kuwait’s oil fields to the ground.

It does not help that Vice-President Teofisto Guingona has not practiced official prudence and chosen instead to go against President Macapagal Arroyo who leans toward the Anglo-American viewpoint. While he may be congratulated for intellectual honesty, he should be reproached for looking at the issue with the myopia of the past.

To be sure, Guingona had been opposed to the Gulf War and the Visiting Forces Agreement. His stand has always been the sort of nationalism that is anti-American and anti-globalization that is geopolitically narrow and ultimately self-serving. It would not change even if Saddam and Bin Laden had held him at gunpoint.

Guingona and the peace caravan should be told conditions have changed radically since the Gulf War. And conditions have changed because of September 11, 2001 and October 12, 2002. The Twin Towers attack and the Bali bombings will forever be etched in infamy and written in the blood of thousands of the innocent victims. They show how terrorism has reached new heights, or should we say depths, in its attempt to corrode the delicate peace and comity in the world. We must now forget that we too have been victims of terrorism. We are a nation in grief over the loss of many lives because of extremism.

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Can the terrorism of Bin Laden, Abu Sayyaf, and Islamic fundamentalism be linked to the atrocity of Saddam Hussein? There’s no one-to-one correspondence. But the Anglo-American alliance obviously won’t take any chances. We can debate over the rectitude or lack of one about the campaign endlessly, but it won’t matter in the final analysis because it is first and foremost their war. Deep inside, the Americans and their allies are responding to their deepest-seated insecurity, insecurity that was fostered by 9/11 and 10/12.

But we will be affected by the war, the war critics say, so we have the right to condemn and stop it. Yes, but we cannot ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have become threats because of their refusal to abide by the United Nations order to disarm. Since 1992, Iraq has consistently denied or undermined UN inspection teams. It was only after the United States raised the prospects for war last year that it started cooperating with the inspectors, but as Colin Powell said, the inspection up to this writing has remain bogged down on questions of “process”, not “substance”.

What is stupid about the peace caravan is that it seems totally ignorant of the potentials of Saddam to use his weapons for violence. Is Saddam harmless? Consider this: he waged war against Iran, invaded Kuwait, sent missiles to Israel to provoke it and trigger a Middle East war, set the Kuwaiti oil fields on fire, and used biological bombs to wipe out Iraq’s Kurdish minority.

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War, by any other name is still war and no amount of justification can compensate for the gruesome and devastating effects that it brings to wherever it may occur. However the Anglo-American campaign must be looked upon with utmost consideration—neither as an unwarranted vendetta, nor an unfinished business of a father passed on to a son, nor a covert interest in the black gold of the Gulf. Rather, it should be considered as an act of prevention, an attempt to secure the amity that has long evaded this oil-rich part of the globe, an attempt to remove a wild card in the campaign against terrorism.

In Baghdad lives a madman and a warmonger who seems to stop at nothing to pursue his twisted interest. Who can forget the invasion of Kuwait and operation Scorched Earth? The hostility Iraq harbors against Iran and Saudi Arabia? Or the missiles that Saddam Hussein sent to Israel in his attempt to rally the Arab nation?

Indeed, Iraq’s unreasonable defiance of the UN resolution to divest Iraq of weapons of mass destruction only fuels speculations that Saddam has not laid to rest his delusions and Iraq is gearing up to wage war anew, by direct attack or indirect assault like terrorism. At the least, Saddam must be permanently neutralized.

We are not saying that the conditions for war have been fully satisfied. To be sure, the just war theory of Thomas Aquinas and other Christian theologians and philosophers seem silent on the validity of a “preventive war.” But the threat of extrimism exists. It is glaring and must be confronted. Gallingly enough, the pacifists and the left ignore this. We as Christian realists do not. Like Christ and Pope John Paull II, we should be peacemakers. But we should not recoil at waging war in order to attain peace.

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