Democrats & Liberals Archives

Putting Iraq in Perspective

The more I hear about Saddam Hussein’s capture, the more I get upset about the war in Iraq.

Political chatter in the wake of the one-time CIA operative’s capture on Sunday, December 14 centered on what it meant for the Democratic Party’s chances of unseating President George W. Bush. A better question would have been: Was capturing Hussein worth the loss of the life, billions of American tax-payer dollars, surge in Anti-American sentiment, curtailment of civil liberties, and diverted world attention begot by the Bush Administration’s misadventures in Iraq? This question is seldom asked and no one, not even Howard Dean, has been able to give voice to an answer that resonates among a broad cross-section of the country.

Perhaps, if the Democrats were to couch anti-war critiques in terms of tradeoffs, the public would be forced to rethink their stance on Iraq. When the costs and benefits of the quagmire are compared to a bigger problem facing the world and America, the fact that our priorities are grossly out of whack becomes clear. This strategy would also demonstrate that Democrats have an alternate vision of the world.

With all of the problems plaguing the world, deposing Saddam does not rate high on my list. HIV/AIDS is devastating an entire continent in ways that Westerners cannot fathom. Millions of children have been orphaned and left to raise other kids in societies with very weak, if any, social support from their government. Millions of adults are dying or are severely ill and, as a result, are not able to contribute to their country's economic development. Instead, a handful of African nations are devoting large sums of money to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis rather than improving infrastructure, housing, or schools.

And HIV/AIDS is not just a problem in Africa. Consider that worldwide there were 33.4 million persons estimated to be living with the disease as of the end of 1998. Ninety-five percent of those infected reside in developing countries. In Asia, in Latin America, in Eastern Europe, in Africa, and elsewhere in the world, HIV/AIDS lurks and is diverting resources away from education, housing initiatives, economic development, and other worthwhile endeavors with long-term benefits.

In 2003, AIDS caused the death of an estimated three million people worldwide according to the Centers for Disease Control. The economic impact of the lives lost to this pandemic is real and significant. Destabilizing societies where war is only a touch away is dangerous not only to that country but to the rest of the world, as the conditions are ripe for tyrants, warlords and dictators to rise to power.

George W. Bush promised $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. While laudable, that amount of money pales in comparison to the close to (if not more than) $100 billion spent in 2003 alone in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. I would love any conservative to prove to me that Saddam Hussein is a greater threat to the world than HIV/AIDS and that American tax dollars are being spent wisely. Hell, I would love for any Republican to prove to me that "terrorism" as defined by the Bush Administration is a greater threat to the world than HIV/AIDS. I do not believe that they can.

Putting the war in this type of perspective over and over again would be a much more effective argument than claiming that the war was a bad idea solely on the merits. Though I agree with the position that launching a preemptive strike against Iraq was a bad policy choice, a good section of the public buys the President's story. If Democrats continue to push the same argument, when most of the nation sees it as old news, I fear that the Republicans will be seen as proactive and the party with a vision for the country. More importantly, the party of Bill Clinton will continue to cede to Republicans the ability to set the agenda.

Now, I used HIV/AIDS as the foil to Iraq because I believe it is this century’s Bubonic Plague. Left unchecked, the disease will have serious national security implications in as much as it destabilizes parts of the world that are already unstable.

If the Democratic party doesn’t feel up to the task of articulating why the thousands dying from and orphaed by HIV/AIDS and the economic and social ramifications which result is a threat to the global economy and America’s national security, then so be it. The party can choose another issue to pit against terrorism and the War in Iraq. But Democrats must do something. Only the White House, the make-up of the federal judiciary, and the future of this country are at stake.

Posted by at December 23, 2003 5:32 PM