At long last, Congress may be about to do its duty.
According to The New York Times, before summer ends, the Senate and House will call up secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld to lay out the war aims and war plans of President Bush.
These hearings are overdue. The New York Times has already spread out on its front page an invasion plan calling for 250,000 U.S. troops to strike Iraq from three directions. From London come reports that 30,000 Brits will march alongside.
Following the New York Times report, Arnaud de Borchgrave, veteran foreign correspondent, laid out in The Washington Times Saddam Hussein's war plans. They come down to this: kill as many Americans as possible, before his life ends in a Baghdad bunker.
During a June meeting of his two sons and war cabinet to plan Iraq's response, Saddam reportedly decided to let us land the first blow. But noting that President Bush has authorized not only the occupation of his country, but his assassination, Saddam added that President Bush "has left Iraq no room to be tolerant."
All the weapons in Baghdad's arsenal, including chemicals and gas, will be used on U.S. troops, while "sleeper cells" in the United States will be activated to pay us back in sabotage and murder for our plans to have Saddam liquidated in the first days of the war.
Now this may be "Mother-of-all-Battles" propaganda bluster of the kind we heard before the Gulf War. But even if it is, and even if Congress is only holding hearings to give itself political cover before November, the great issues of war must be addressed.
First among them is why. Why, when Iraq was not involved in 9-11 and has never attacked us nor used biological or gas weapons on U.S. troops, are we launching this war on Iraq? Has deterrence failed us? How so? And who is the aggressor here?
Presidents have often taken steps to provoke wars, as in 1846, 1861, 1917 and 1941, but it has been America's tradition to wait until the enemy commits an act of war, before going to war. Why are we abandoning the moral high ground? Pre-emptive war is a tradition of empires, like Imperial Japan at Port Arthur in 1904 and Pearl Harbor in 1941, not in the tradition of a democratic republic.
Second, how many U.S. dead and wounded may we expect, and how many U.S. troops will be needed to occupy Iraq? Will we be welcomed as liberators, only to be reviled as occupiers? Will Iraq become America's West Bank? Will we need to re-institute the draft for soldiers to occupy Iraq, while sustaining all the other global commitments we have undertaken since the end of the Cold War?
Third, how long do we intend to hold the city that hosted the caliphate of Islam for 500 years? We have been in Germany and Korea half a century, in the Balkans almost a decade. What will be the effect of an occupation of Islamic peoples by U.S. troops -- and by women troops of the U.S. Army?
Fourth, how will the war impact allies like Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons; Turkey, which is unraveling and hosts a rising Islamist movement; Saudi Arabia, whose population is virulently anti-American; Jordan, a Palestinian powder keg; and Egypt? Should assassinations or revolutions decapitate any of these regimes, the war could spread and new demands could suddenly be imposed upon depleted U.S. forces.
What are the anticipated economic consequences of the war? Meltdown of the equity markets of the West since Y2K has wiped out $5.6 trillion here and over $11 trillion worldwide. An interruption of oil supplies could send the economies of Europe and Japan reeling.
What will be the strategic consequences? Will China use U.S. preoccupation with Iraq to press Taiwan? Will a desperate North Korea take the opportunity to re-ignite hostilities with the South? What will be the impact on NATO Europe -- and Russia?
How much will the war and occupation cost? Desert Storm was paid for by rich Arabs, Germans and Japanese. Not only will there be no other allies than the Brits fighting beside us, there will be no nations chipping in. With the U.S. deficit at $165 billion and soaring, what will the budget look like after war is launched and the invasion begins? What will be the impact on our markets?
One neoconservative columnist has urged Bush to invade Iraq now, to give the stock market a lift. Another urges him to launch a war before November to help the GOP. Telling commentaries, these, on the state of American conservatism today.
What will be the impact on American politics? When wars begin, Americans rally to the flag and commander in chief. But Korea soon cost Truman his presidency, Vietnam cost Johnson his, and 90 percent approval ratings in the spring of 1991 did not save George H.W. Bush, victor of the Gulf War, from a crushing defeat in the fall of 1992.
Finally, Congress should take up the question: Is massive U.S. military intervention on the side of Israel and Ariel Sharon in the turbulent world of Islam not exactly what Osama bin Laden was praying for when he sent those airliners into the World Trade Center?