Let us suppose for a moment that all the claims laid out in Colin Powell’s brief to the UN Security Council are true. (If you haven’t read the speech, do so now.) This includes Iraqi possession of “weapons of mass destruction” and forbidden arms, as well as links between Iraq and al-Qaida, a claim on which both the FBI and the CIA disagree. Let us also assume that Iraq has already passed on biological agents and delivery vehicles to al-Qaida and related terrorist organisations.
With these assumptions in mind, how many innocent people do you think Iraq and al-Qaida could kill? It is safe to say that any attack from Iraq would mean the swift downfall of that country. Any terrorist attacks using biological weapons would have to be coordinated as security would be heightened after the first such attack. Just over three thousand people died in the September 11th terrorist attacks. How many for our hypothetical biological attack? Twenty-five thousand? One hundred thousand? Those numbers seem high and would probably greatly outnumber all anthrax or sarin-related deaths, wartime or otherwise. (Consult A History Of Bio-chemical Weapons for more information.) Let us say that one hundred thousand innocent people die in direct cause of attacks using Iraqi weaponry before the threat is contained.
Now suppose that the US attacks Iraq with its barrage of 3,000 missiles. How many innocent Iraqis would die? Some estimates run to half a million Iraqi deaths, over 80,000 of which could be civilian. No doubt that Iraq, now threatened, would unleash whatever weapons it might have on nearby countries and cause thousands more innocent deaths. Not to mention the possibility that a war against Iraq would double as a recruitment campaign for terrorism against the developed world, and result in yet thousands more civilian deaths.
Given these two scenarios, one more likely than the other, which one results in a win for the world? Are thousands of innocent people in the Western world somehow more valuable than the same number of innocents in Iraq? Why would the possibility of thousands of deaths be sufficient reason to cause thousands of other deaths?