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OBSERVATIONS Casualties of War As I WRITE our country and our allies are destroying military and industrial targets in Iraq and beginning the bombardment of Iraq’s elite troops. So far, if we can rely on the honesty of the war news censored at the source by the military, our weapons are not killing or injuring large numbers of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad or elsewhere. Israel has not yet been brought into the war by Saddam Hussein’s foul missile strikes on Israeli cities. Unless Saddam quits or is killed, or by bombing we cut off the Iraqi troops’ supplies, the next phase of the war apparently will be ground fighting between more than a million people, the faced-off forces of both sides. In general, this war happened because, after Saddam Hussein invaded and conquered Kuwait, adopted Texan George Bush and James A. Baker 3rd of Houston misjudged .Saddam Hussein and thereby trapped the nation into war. Brinkmanship failed. Instead of ordering the attack, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker should have announced that they had misjudged Saddam and were giving the economic sanctions about another year to work. At the last, the war could have been avoided only if Bush and Baker had the courage to admit that in vowing to attack Saddam if he did not withdraw from Kuwait unconditionally, they had made a mistake. They did nothing of the sort; Tomahawk missiles zoomed off into the night. In the retrospect, it appears that Saddam Hussein had decided that unless he could keep a Kuwaiti island or two, or all of the oilfield that underlies Iraq and Kuwait, he preferred war. Like other Arab leaders before him, he appears to be thinking that although losing the combat, he can win the war in the hearts of Arabs by having lasted a while against the United States the other outsiders. Saddam cannot care any more about his troops now than he did about the several hundred thousand of them he sacrificed in his war with Iran or the thousands of Kurds he gassed. If the war began in the first place because Bush and Baker misjudged Saddam and peace began to depend on whether Bush or Saddam would flinch, it began in the second place because of the moral plausibility of preventive war against a certified mass murderer who has chemical and biological weapons and is reaching for nuclear weapons. Despite the case for preventive war, the coalition’s attack on Iraq is ultimately unjustifiable because before it started it was proved to be at least premature and at most unneces sary. As Senator Sam Nunn said in the prewar period, we will never know if’ the economic sanctions will work if we do not give them time to work. As Senator George Mitchell said, twice, during the Senate debate on whether to go to war, we will never know if the war was necessary because we will never know if the sanctions would have worked if we had given them a proper chance. As the war began Saddam was not able to export a drop of oil, the basis of his one-commodity economy; his hard currency, without which he could not buy smuggled goods, was scheduled to run out in six weeks; his gross national product had dropped by half and the experts informing Congress said it would be down 70 percent within a year. THIS WILL always be George Bush’s war because of the sneaky way he trapped the country into it. He and Baker had the country and the Congress strong behind the defensive deployment to prevent the invasion of Saudi Arabia, and they promised to stay the course with economic sanctions. But before the November 6 election, in secret, Bush decided to double our troops in the Gulf and to shift from a defensive to an offensive posture. He gave orders that this decision would not be made public until after the election, and so it was not. Then, on November 8, he announced his decision. Congress came into it only in January, under the gun of the “deadline for war or peace” on January 15 and the overwhelming signs that the President had already made the decision to attack. At the same time, and despite the President’s contempt for its constitutional prerogatives, Congress did debate the war, for three long days. Even though they had less a debate than a. series of speeches, the members of Congress became responsible for war and peace. We do not know what Bush would have done had the Senate vote been, say, 52 to 47 against the war, instead of 52 to 47 for it. But we do know this time who in Congress voted foe peace and who voted for war, and this time we have_ a vigorous protest movement as the war begins. It is small comfort, as our government relentlessly explodes our high-tech weapons on Iraq and as our troops, and theirs, face off, but perhaps we have taken a few definite steps toward becoming a democratic people who, next time or the time after next, will actually get control of our own weapons. As I write, Bush, Baker, and our military leaders appear to be facing the question: to win, or to avoid a bloody drawn-out ground war, how many Iraqis are we going to have to slaughter? And how many casualties will we suffer? A war to eject Iraqi troops from Kuwait and subdue Iraq “would take one million American troops,” according to an estimate Which escaped from the tight security of the Joint Chiefs of Staff into the column of Hugh Sidey in Time last November 12. Our goal now, as stated by President Bush, is the ejection of Iraq from Kuwait, not th4 conquest of Iraq. However, President Bush has now given the Pentagon the authority to call up one million more reservists. DURING THE FIRST fourteen weeks of war with Iraq, if it lasts that long, more Americans may be killed than were killed in battle in the Vietnam war, according to an estimate prepared under contract for the Pentagon, and referred to by Representative Ronald Dellums in a column in the Boston Globe, also last November. In the Vietnam war, 47,356 Americans were killed in battle, and 10,795 Americans died there in other ways. On December 6 Senator Edward Kennedy, after stating that a war with Iraq would mean at least 2,000 U.S. casualties each week, disclosed to a reporter for the Globe, “There are forty-five thousand body bags over there now.” Kennedy repeated this during the Senate debate, but even then it received little attention. Viewing with alarm, as the war rages, the President’s solemn statement, with emphasis, that “no price is to heavy to pay,” we hope the war ends quickly and with minimum loss of life and limb. Surely it is a good thing, provided that we consider if only in itself, that the mass murderer Saddam’s war-making equipment and potential are being reduced to rubble. Perhaps he will surrender, or a bomb or someone around him will kill him and his commanders will be able to surrender. Perhaps, as Edward Luttwak argues, we will be able to cut off the Iraqi troops from their homeland by bombing the several hundred trucks from Iraq which bring them food and ammunition, and thus we will not reach the stage of ordering our troops to attack theirs frontally. But the dogs of war are loose, they may tear at our troops, they may tear at the Iraqis, they may tear at all our consciences, as they will. Thanks to Saddam Hussein, George Bush, and James Baker, we are now grabbing for holds on the steep slope of a historic tragedy. R.D. 4 JANUARY 25, 1991