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War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against the War with Iraq

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against the War with Iraq (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002).

Since the first months following the destruction of the World Trade Center; George W. Bush has been pounding on his war drums with a force that resonates throughout international politics, destabilizing US relations with the United Nations. His war objective is focused on Iraq. The Bush Administration’s blatant disregard of the statements made by the UN has been met with the response of a nearly unanimous disapproval by other nations. In an attempt to resist the aggression of the Bush Administration, Milan Rai promptly authored and released War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against the War on Iraq, on the one-year anniversary of the attack on the WTC. The detail and depth of the research contained within this book is impressive. Furthermore, this work has been released at a time of critical importance. And although the excessive force and lack of objectivity in Rai’s arguments sometimes diminishes the strength of this book, I definitely recommend it to anyone concerned with the eminently destructive effects of a war on Iraq.

Rai’s book opens with a demonstration of his extensive investigation into the sources of discontent with the possible war. He cites statements from a large breath of politicians, intellectuals, and religious representatives. Rai follows these opening quotes with an exceptionally powerful chapter that reprints selected excerpts from the writings and speeches of the friends and families of those who died when the Twin Towers collapsed. These replies to the terrorist attack on September 11th called for a cessation of the repetitive cycle of violence that was assertively signified in the rhetoric of George W. Bush. Unfortunately, these statements were not heavily publicized in the American media, as was the campaign to rally support for violent retribution. But nevertheless, this chapter opens the book with a captivating force.

Following the initial chapters, Rai presents some historical background on the UN weapons inspections following the Gulf War. These chapters have two primary objectives. The first is to demonstrate that the weapons inspectors were not thrown out of Iraq; but were rather removed by the policy decisions of the United States government. The second is to argue for the implausibility of Iraq producing weapons of mass destruction. Rai also claims that in light of the weapons inspections preceding September 11th, there is no evidence that Iraq has the capability to manufacture chemical agents. This may prove to be incorrect since several chemical warheads were recently discovered that were not accounted for in Iraq’s weapons statement. However; this discovery does not necessarily create a significant danger. Furthermore; it certainly does not call for a preemptive strike since the warheads were empty.

After these points are argued, Rai explicates the primary concerns of the book as indicated in the title “Ten Reasons Against the War on Iraq.” The titles of the chapters ennumerating the ten reasons are: 1) The Phantom Menace – no evidence that Iraq has these weapons, 2) Prague No Show – no link between Iraq and September 11th, 3) Cloning Saddam – this is not a war about ‘regime change’, 4) Catastrophe – war could trigger a humanitarian disaster, 5) Unsafe Haven – endangering the Kurds, 6) Crime Time – war would be illegal, 7) Ring of Anger – Iraq’s neighbors fear Bush, not Saddam, 8) GI Joe Says No – US and British generals oppose the war, 9) No Mandate – 58% of UK opposes war, 10) It’s the Economy Stupid – war could trigger a world recession. The titles of the chapters speak for themselves. Some of the chapters are extensively researched and very effective. Others are merely brief statements with little argumentative support. Furthermore, some of the information contained in these chapters is redundant and unnecessary. But as a whole, these chapters establish a strong and convincing position.

The closing chapters of the book contain some of the most interesting and powerful material. Rai explicates in detail, the history of the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq, as well as their effects on the present and future state of Iraq. Rai explains the extreme deterioration of Iraq’s infrastructure due to the heavy bombing during the Gulf War. Electricity production facilites, sewage treatment plants, and pharmacies were destroyed. The result has been a reduction of the electrical power supply by 50% and a reduction of sanitation capabilites by 60%. Furthermore, due to a lack of pharmaceutical prodution, over 500,000 children have died from treatable diseases since 1991. Rai offers indubitable evidence to support these claims and many others regarding the effects of the sanctions.

The final chapter reiterates the major themes of the book. The overbearing prescriptive element present throughout the book is asserted with even more force in this concluding chapter. The urgency with which Rai argues his position, along with the evidence he presents; is commendable and functions as an excellent rhetoical and argumentative tactic. However, for the reader this can be dangerous. One must believe passionately in their cause – especially with an issue as serious as the war on Iraq. But passion is not synonymous with dogmatism. Passion should ignite the desire to build an unassailable position by considering all viewpoints, both affirming and denying. If one reads this book without considering (but not necessarily agreeing with) the evidence of an author that has a more conservative opinion on the war, then one may be denying the complexity of the situation. Reading Rai’s book is an excellent way to increase one’s inventory of tools and arguments for resisting the looming war. Furthermore, intuitively (and not reflectively) opposing the war is niether base nor insignificant. However, one must always address issues of great importance by means of critical engagement. Political dogmatism has destroyed the virtues of far too many admirable movements of social activism.

Timothy Wong is a member of the P&C Santa Cruz Editorial Collective

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