By the time you read this, the United States could be waging war in Iraq.
The timetable has been set. The troops are in place and President George W. Bush is losing patience. All signs point to imminent war.
And yet, I felt compelled, one last time, to add my voice to the growing opposition in hopes that, somehow, someway, this madness may be stopped.
That does not seem likely, however. As I write, the Bush administration and Tony Blair's Labor government in Britain appear ready to begin shooting.
This despite the Turkish government's refusal to allow 62,000 American troops to use Turkey for staging, despite opposition to war from France and Germany, despite the millions who took to the streets in the United States and around the globe during a coordinated protest against this impending war.
That's because the Bush administration is not interested in anything other than war, despite the lip service it has been paying to the United Nations inspections program and a vote by the United Nations Security Council.
"The president has made clear that the outcome, whether the United Nations votes or does not vote, that we will disarm Saddam Hussein with a coalition of the willing," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said March 4.
And that is it, really, at least as far as the president is concerned. Fleischer, throughout his March 4 briefing, repeatedly said that the president was interested in what those of us who disagreed with him had to say. He was willing to meet with a representative of the pope, who has already said that an attack on Iraq does not meet the "just war" test because all other alternatives to war have not been explored. But he really is not interested in what the pope or his representatives have to say. He is willing to talk to the United Nations, but only if the international body does what he wants it to do.
And yet, we must continue to make our case against the war, to outline why war in Iraq makes no sense, why it is likely to make us far less safe in the future. A war against Iraq will be viewed in the Muslim world as a war against Muslims, a war against Islam. What kind of hatreds might the war then sow? And what kind of future terrorism?
We must take on and refute the arguments in favor of the war, take them on and take them apart, show them for the ruse they are. This is an administration whose argument has morphed to meet the moment, changed depending on audience and objection. Are we going to war in self defense to pre-empt a possible attack against the United States by Iraq? Or will we be fighting to disarm Saddam Hussein? Or, is our goal to overthrow him? Or are we sending in the troops because Saddam Hussein is linked to terrorists?
Pick a question and the Bush administration has failed to provide a definitive answer.
And just as importantly, it has failed to make the moral case for this pre-emptive war in Iraq. Iraq does not post an imminent threat to the United States or its Middle Eastern neighbors and, as I've written in the past, the pre-emption doctrine is a slippery slope that is likely to spread across the globe like the plague. What is to stop India or Pakistan from launching an attack on the other in the name of pre-emption? Or Israel from attacking one of its neighbors or Syria from attacking Israel? What moral authority will we have to intercede?
The answer is none.
But this is typical of the way President Bush has treated the rest of the world in his two-plus years in office, essentially shredding international treaties on global warming, nuclear arms and other issues, putting the United States above the global community. His disdain for the United Nations is as palpable as it is an affront to the good will much of the world showed the United States in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
So, I have no doubts that this president has made his mind up and is only waiting for the right moment in which to begin the bombardment.
Hank Kalet is a poet and the managing editor of two central New Jersey weekly newspapers. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.