Thursday, September 18, 2003

Powell in Iraq: Why we are there

Halabja remembered

So far no stockpiled weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq - indeed, we may never find any. But we should remember that the horrific regime we ousted once had them and did not hesitate to use them on its own people.

We were reminded of this Monday during Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Halabja, Iraq, where 15 years ago, near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein ordered the killing of an estimated 5,000 Kurds - including women and children - with poison gas carried via missiles. Ten thousand others were injured.

Powell spent three hours in the town near the border of Iran, visting mass graves as well as a new museum commemorating the attacks. He used this backdrop as an opportunity to defend American intervention: "If you want evidence of the existence and the use of weapons of mass destruction, come here now to Halabja today and see it. What happened over the intervening 15 years? Did (Saddam) suddenly lose the motivation? "

The people of Halabja know all too well of the brutality that Saddam's regime represented. They rightly supported American military intervention and are happy about Saddam's demise.

Last spring Powell made a convincing appeal to the U.N. Security Council to make war against Iraq. He did not get the support sought by the United States.

Months later, after a quick military victory, the situation in Iraq remains messy. Our soldiers are being killed almost daily. President Bush still needs to clearly articulate an exit strategy, and the United States still needs United Nations' support in the rebuilding process.

Meanwhile, Halabja remains one glaring reminder why intervention was considered in the first place.

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