Originally created 03/04/03

Professor explains the impending war with Iraq



It's one of today's most hotly debated issues: Should we go to war with Iraq?

But the question seems to be more when than if.

Still, many local teens say they aren't informed enough to have an opinion.

And that's not good, according to Michael Bishku, an associate history professor at Augusta State University.

"These people are at the age that they are forming opinions separate of their parents," Mr. Bishku said. "They're also at the age when they are about to be able to vote, and they should be able to make an informed choice."

Teens note there has been extensive coverage of the issues in the media, but sorting out the meaning can be confusing.

"All of the news coverage seems so wishy-washy," said Abby Oakley, a junior at Lakeside High School. "It's hard to know what's what."

Some teens simply distrust the media.

"They'll never give us enough information," said Jessica Evans, a sophomore at Southgate Christian Schools. "The news will always keep something from us."

Others have formed an opinion but aren't sure it's the right one.

"I think we should go to war but I don't know enough information to know a definite answer," said Corrie Byrd, a junior at Southgate.

And officials with schools in Aiken, Columbia and Richmond counties say they are doing their best to keep students informed. They say the threat of war is covered under current events in social studies curriculum.

Xtreme wants to help sort out the issues. So we went to the expert to do it. Mr. Bishku has studied the Middle East extensively, and we asked him to explain the impending war in teen terms:

The issue at hand is this - since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the White House says, Saddam Hussein has systematically developed weapons of mass destruction. Those include chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. In November, the United Nations passed Resolution 1441, which restarted weapons inspections in Iraq.

"It's the biological weapons that are the hardest to track," Mr. Bishku said. "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless guy."

The main concern is that Saddam will use those weapons, or even worse, export them for use by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda.

But there has been no proof of connections between the Iraqi dictator and the terrorists, Mr. Bishku said.

Saddam denies the allegations and has consented to allow United Nations weapons inspectors into Iraq. To date, they have found little concrete evidence, but they have said that leaders and researchers there have been less than cooperative. Recently, Saddam issued a decree banning the production of such weapons by private individuals and companies. The decree makes no mention of government agencies.

Still, many people in other countries, including Russia, France and Germany, do not fully support the United State's push for war. On Feb. 15, millions of people all over the world demonstrated, calling for a peaceful resolution.

"A lot of people feel like the United States is being too aggressive," Mr. Bishku said. "I'm convinced that (this) month we will go to war. As for what will come of that, I don't have a crystal ball."

Iraq Timeline

1991: The Gulf War ends. As part of the cease-fire agreement, a U.N. special commission (Unscom) is established to dismantle Iraq's stockpile of chemical and nuclear weapons.

1998: Citing government obstruction, inspectors withdraw from Iraq. Unscom is disbanded.

1999: Unscom is replaced by the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission (Unmovic) funded by limited sales of Iraqi oil. Resolution 1284, which set up Unmovic, specified that if Iraq cooperated with the new inspection team for 120 days, sanctions would be suspended and then lifted. Iraq rejected the plan as a "criminal resolution" that would "transform Iraq into a protectorate governed from outside with Iraqi money."

February 2001: The United States and Britain bomb Iraq in an effort to weaken the country's air defense.

September 2001: A week before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States bombs southern Iraq over a no-fly-zone dispute.

October 2001: President Bush says the war on terrorism will be fought beyond the borders of Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden operated.

January 2002: In his State of the Union address Mr. Bush says Iraq poses a threat because it continues to produce weapons of mass destruction.

August 2002: Iraq invites U.N. weapons inspectors to resume talks about continuing inspections.

November 2002: Iraq agrees to let weapons inspectors into the country.

January 2003: In an address to the United Nations Security Council, chief inspector Hans Blix says that no weapons have been found but that Iraq has been uncooperative. He asks for more time to complete the inspections.

February: Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a presentation to the Security Council, says that Iraq is in clear violation of a U.N. weapons resolution issued against the nation, and that the country's alleged violations demand immediate action.

Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3223 or jennifer.hilliard@augustachronicle.com.