It may have its drawbacks but, according to George W. Bush, nuclear war could prove an indispensable tool for maintaining a buoyant economy.

This is only the latest twist in the U.S. president’s struggle to come up with the top ten reasons for invading Iraq — or at least one reason that stands up to minimal scrutiny. His most oft-cited reason — that Iraq has “weapons of mass destruction” which threaten world security — seems less and less convincing. After weeks of unimpeded U.N. inspections, no evidence of such weapons has been found.

Meanwhile, North Korea has blithely declared its intention to revive its nuclear weapons program, kicked out U.N. inspectors and talked of plans for a “bold offensive” in the coming year.

Anxious to get on with the invasion of Iraq — a conflict in which the U.S. president has threatened to use nuclear weapons — Bush last week came up with a new reason to invade. “An attack from (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein or a surrogate of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy,” Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch. “Our economy is strong, it’s resilient, we’ve got to continue to make it strong and resilient. This economy cannot afford to stand an attack.”

Why rely on the old tools of monetary and fiscal policy to shore up a stagnant economy when pre-emptive nuclear attack is quicker and more reliable?

Of course, economic benefits are often an undeclared factor in a decision to wage war. Certainly, gaining control over Iraq’s oil is one of the top ten undeclared reasons for invading Iraq; that and its defencelessness explain why Iraq is the U.S. target of choice these days, while nuclear-toting North Korea has to wait in line to get the attention of Washington’s warhawks.

Still, Bush’s suggestion that protecting the U.S. economy from recession would be grounds to justify an invasion of Iraq is remarkable for its sheer depravity.

It is one thing to argue that Iraq poses a threat to the survival of the U.S. and its allies (a case that has never been substantiated); but it is quite another to argue that the West has the right to kill tens of thousands of people in another country in order to keep the economy over here resilient.

At what point does the personal comfort level of Americans and their allies cease to be the most important thing on the planet, for which everyone else in the world is simply expendable? And we wonder why they hate us?

What will be next? Biological warfare against any nation exporting scratchy sweaters or food that gives us gas?

This issue — our right to kill others when our own lives are not threatened — seems strangely absent from the ongoing debate over Iraq. We hear endless talk about what post-war Iraq will look like: will it be torn by ethnic strife, will it be governed by warlords, or will it be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East?

Of course, no one’s suggesting actual elections, at least not while Islamic militants remain popular over there. Or we hear the kind of apparently thoughtful question posed recently in the National Post by Tom Axworthy, a former high-level Canadian official and now a lecturer at Harvard:
“ Is the gain of removing Saddam Hussein worth the pain and suffering that war always brings in its wake?”

This sounds at first like a reasonable calculation to ponder; after all, the world, and no doubt most Iraqis, would be delighted to be rid of the brutal Saddam. But when we get to the downside of the equation — the pain and suffering part — it quickly becomes clear that the Iraqi people are on their own.

The simple fact is that Hellfire missiles won’t be raining down on Boston or Washington or Toronto.

One suspects that Axworthy might attach a different weight to the pros and cons of invasion if he also had to ponder the problem of finding a suitable bomb shelter for himself and members of his family.

Axworthy implies that by invading Iraq, the West would be doing the Iraqi people a favour. But he never explains how he knows this. How can he possibly know what most Iraqis would choose, given the options of continuing to live under Saddam or facing an imminent U.S. military attack in which members of their family might actually die?

But then we’re getting a little off topic from the real issues — like what impact a U.S. invasion would have on consumer confidence, the turn-out at the mall and the overall resilience of the U.S. economy.

Linda McQuaig

Journalist and best-selling author Linda McQuaig has developed a reputation for challenging the establishment. As a reporter for The Globe and Mail, she won a National Newspaper Award in 1989...