What often seems like an easy question will more often than not lead to an extremely
complex answer. I know that sounds like a typically political response to avoid the
hard issues, but it's really not.
The most difficult part of this for me is that I can assure you that if I had been
President in this term, we would not be operating on a crisis basis.
To fully answer this inquiry would require you to fully understand my positions and
philosophies on a number of issues ranging from the United Nations, what I consider a
community to be and how it operates, my interpretations of human nature and how to empower
people so that they are able to make the contribution they want to make, and be the people
We constantly identify people with groups, categorize and label each other, and in many
ways this is valid and useful. This categorization causes us to dehumanize our
experience of other people.
We tend to say others are politicians, the press, the right-wing, the left-wing,
corporations, but most of all, adversaries, instead of other people with equally plausible
opinions and positions that are different than our own but deserve equal consideration.
We are groups of people who unite as a community of people with similar beliefs, and
therefore tend to want everyone else to believe what we believe ourselves. It's a natural
tendency, and I have no problem with that.
What is destructive is extremism. And, as quickly as I say that, I will say that
what is most destructive is not extremism, but is actually the phenomenon that causes
extremism. That, typically, is caused by people who do not believe their needs are
being met, that their position is not being heard or acknowledged as at least a valid
consideration, and they believe the only way to be heard is to cause disruption.
We all do this to one extent in our daily lives. I call it throwing tantrums.
Things we do and say and think that you wouldn't necessarily do in full public
view, but say, think and do if only in our thoughts. There's no right or wrong to
that. It's just a human thing.
This all applies to the rest of the world, too. It applies to the way we approach
cultures, religions, ethnicity, other countries. In essence, people are people.
Ultimately, we all want the same things: safety, food, shelter.
When those things are threatened, people will do nearly anything to survive, to get
their share, to demand respect and to display their righteousness and resolve.
One of the greatest indicators of a country or a region being on the verge of war or
civil war is infant mortality. In Afghanistan, there are still many areas where the
infant mortality rate is greater than 60%. Fortunately for them, it is slowly going
down. But, very slowly.
Think about why that would be true. I can't think of anything that would cause a
parent to be more willing to fight, or what could be more inciting, than defending the
life of their child.
In a situation lacking an imminent threat, I believe the most important question to ask
is "How would I want another person or another nation to approach me on an
issue?" In a typical human interaction, the approach will often cause a
particular kind of response.
If the approach is aggressive, the response will be aggressive. For every action,
there is an equal, but opposite, reaction. If the approach is a sincere attempt at a
mutually beneficial arrangement, it will more likely be, at least eventually, a more
malleable and fundamentally aligned response.
I say that, and at the same time, understand that the position I represent must be
protected by acknowledging the pitfalls, and taking solid steps to protect the interests
of this nation first.
With those things in mind, here's what I would have done.
I would have focused on Homeland Security, and the War on Terrorism.
In regard to Iraq, without the provocation of the Axis of Evil Speech...
I would have worked with the United Nations and my allies to implement a containment
program that allowed Iraq the ability to defend itself, that allowed their people to
flourish with appropriate medical services and technology, and empower a UN Commission on
human rights to educate the people as to a variety of democratically-oriented governments
which did not in any way encroach on their religious values.
None of this is about appeasement. This is about isolating Hussein from the
people of Iraq. At some point, it might well turn into a military action. But if it
did, the likely division of the people from loyalist factions would be much greater, and
the loss of life would be greatly diminished on both sides.
I would consider the use of a UN sanctioned military presence to protect those people
who may be endangered by human rights violations.
A well planned occupation of the areas bordering Kurdish territories in the north would
protect them from invasion, and allow them to establish, with security, a stable economy
Obviously, I do not have access to classified security information. However, given the
probability of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, balanced by a history of
containment, it suggests to me that a vigorous empowerment of the United Nations and
seeking ways to assist the Iraqi people without empowerment of Saddam Hussein would have
been the best course to reduce the risk of weapons proliferation, as well as liberating
the Iraqi people of the suffering caused by economic sanctions.
A plan to launch a barrage of 800 cruise missiles into Baghdad within the first 48
hours of an attack does not constitute a concern for the welfare of, and a liberation of
the Iraqi people. It is a cavalier disregard for their lives.(5/13/2003 note: The
leaking of plans regarding shock and awe served as a perfect vehicle intended to humiliate
those opposed to the war. That "leak" represented the purposeful mis-information
of Americans, and exhibitied a cavalier disregard by this administration for the truth ...
again, as usual.)
The approach I suggest would have been embraced by many other nations, including in
Eurasia and the Middle East, it would have employed a stabilizing dialogue between allies
and the UN, and would not have employed a massive "saber-rattling" campaign in
the press which destabilizes American citizens, places our economy on hold, increases
terrorist activities, incites the world to oppose us and causes the opinion of America as
a worthy global leader and partner to be greatly diminished around the world.
Clearly, this is not all that would have been done. But, I do believe I've
expressed my general approach to the issue of Iraq, and what may well be similar
situations in the future.
I am not adamantly opposed to making war, but I am most certainly predisposed to
seeking sustainable peace.
A compelling report: WAR CRIMES
A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq to the Commission of Inquiry for
the International War Crimes Tribunal by Ramsey Clark and Others