Has President Bush decided with finality to invade Iraq and destroy Saddam Hussein, even if it will require 200,000 U.S. troops? Most pundits believe the decision has been made, that D-Day will come as soon as U.S. forces are in place, perhaps January.
Yet, there remains a deep division in this city over the wisdom of an invasion.
The War Party offers us a vision of a U.S.-occupied Iraq, like Germany and Japan after World War II, as a new democracy and U.S. ally in the Middle East, whose attractiveness will persuade the Iranian people to rise up and overthrow the mullahs.
But there is another view: that a U.S. invasion will inflame the Mideast, bring down pro-American Arab regimes, perhaps ignite the war of civilizations President Bush is desperate to avoid and leave the U.S occupying its own gigantic West Bank, subject to murderous nightly assaults from the Iraqi version of the Al Aksa Brigades.
No one, of course, knows for certain what the outcome of an invasion of Iraq would be. But what is certain is that the decision is a momentous one, with far-reaching consequences for America. And such a decision must be taken together as a people.
Korea and Vietnam, both undeclared wars, horribly divided us. Let us not repeat those mistakes of yesterday. If America is going to invade Iraq, let us go to war the right way, the constitutional way, by having the elected representatives of the American people vote up or down on it, so that all may be held accountable.
Let me put my cards on the table: I do not believe the War Party has made its case. Why, after all, must we invade Iraq?
Comes the response: Saddam is working feverishly on WMD, the weapons of mass destruction. When he gets them, he will use them on us. Therefore, to avert another 9-11, we must launch a preventive war to kill him and his regime.
Now the evidence is conclusive that Saddam has sought WMD. But where is the evidence he intends to take the insane and suicidal risk of launching such a weapon at the mightiest nation on earth, ensuring the total destruction of him, his dynasty, his regime, his army and his country?
The contention that Saddam would fire a chemical or nuclear weapon at America, if he acquired it, contradicts history, common sense and his own past conduct. Looking back, no nation ever actively sought a war with America. The lone exception might be Mexico, whose hotheads thought that a military foray against the Gringos in 1846 would recapture all the disputed land north of the Rio Grande.
In 1812, the Brits did not want war, they had their hands full with Napoleon. We declared war. The Confederate states did not want to fight the Union, they only wanted only to be free of the Union. In 1898, Spain was desperate to avoid war if a way could be found to cede Cuba without dishonor. After the sinking of the Lusitania, the Kaiser curtailed submarine warfare for two years to avoid bringing America into World War I. Even Hitler ordered his U-boats to avoid clashes with U.S. ships. It was FDR who was hot for war. Japan did not attack Pearl Harbor until our oil embargo and ultimatum to get out of China left it no other way to avert a dishonorable retreat.
North Korea would never have attacked had it known America would throw in a third of a million troops and fight for three years. Hanoi did not want war with the United States, but it accepted it rather than lose the South forever.
Why would Iraq -- with no air force, no navy, no defense against U.S. air power or smart bombs and an economy not 1 percent of our own -- launch a suicidal strike on the United States?
Because, we are told, Saddam thirsts for revenge for Desert Storm. But does such lunacy sound plausible in light of the man's own record?
It is said he used chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1988, so he is surely prepared to use them on us. But it is one thing to gas defenseless Kurds, another to gas Americans. Why did Saddam not use his gas bombs in Desert Storm? Simple: He knew that might invite nuclear retaliation. Saddam is not a suicide bomber, he is a survivor.
Consider: Saddam would be the lion of the Arab world today if he fired a few Scuds at Israel in support of the Palestinians. Why doesn't he? Because that would risk Israeli retaliation and the end of Saddam. So instead, he timidly sends $25,000 checks to the families of suicide bombers.
In 1981, Israel -- fearing Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak would be used to build atomic weapons -- attacked and destroyed it. If Israel thought Iraq was close to having atomic weapons today, it would attack again. Yet, Israel does not. Why is Sharon less worried about Saddam than our own War Party? Is it possible our War Party, like its hero FDR, is deliberately deceiving us -- to start the all-out Arab-Islamic-American war they crave?
There is a way to learn the truth. Demand that the War Party make its case to Congress, which alone has the power to declare war. No more Koreas, no more Vietnams, no more undeclared wars. Let us follow the Constitution in which all true conservatives believe.