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Special report: Middle East
Sanctions Overhaul Margaret Warner reports on the United Nations' decision to modify sanctions against Iraq. 05.14.02
Iraq Under Pressure Margaret Warner analyzes Iraq's decision to meet with the U.N. regarding weapons inspections with four experts. 03.07.02
Building and Breaking Nations
A look at why the U.S. wants to remove Saddam Hussein and the history of nation building by the United States.
Senators listened to experts discuss three central themes: the nature and level of the threat from Iraq, the options available to the U.S., and the consequences of U.S. military action in Iraq.
No conclusions were drawn from the sessions but Senate leaders hope the Bush administration continues to investigate fully before launching any attacks.
A main question remains: does the U.S. have the right to go into a country and remove its government?
The Saddam Hussein problem
Saddam Hussein has had a difficult relationship with the U.S. for years.
In 1991, President Bush's father declared war against Iraq after it invaded its neighbor, Kuwait. The Persian Gulf War was a military victory -- Iraq was forced out of Kuwait -- but the senior President Bush did not succeed in getting rid of Hussein.
Hussein is also accused of committing war crimes against his own people. In 1988, he ordered chemical attacks in northern Iraq that killed roughly 100,000 ethnic minority Kurds.
More recently, Iraq has refused to let United Nations inspectors view weapon factories and possible storage areas.
New claims that Iraq may have ties to international terrorists and is actively trying to make nuclear and biological weapons has led the president to seriously consider attacking Iraq and ridding the country of its leader once and for all.
Several military options have been outlined recently in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The Times quotes military officials as saying that the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, is considering working with Iraqi groups who could overthrow Hussein from within. Another option calls for 250,000 U.S. ground troops and strong bombing to overpower the Iraqi military and reach Hussein.
A third option would be to bomb the capital, Baghdad, and other important cities to cripple Hussein's government.
Other top U.S. military officers want to allow time for nonmilitary options to work before invading.
Lessons from the past
This would not be the first time the United States tried to remove a foreign country's leadership.
After World War II and the destruction of Adolf Hitler and the Japanese government, the U.S. and its allies spent huge amounts of money to help the two countries rebuild.
Both Germany and Japan are now stable, primarily democratic nations that have friendly relations with the U.S. But the world discovered that such "nation-building" efforts are very expensive.
During the next four decades, the U.S. used military force to help replace governments in Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam and Grenada, among other places.
And just last year, President Bush sent troops to Afghanistan to remove the Taliban leadership that had controlled the country for the past five years.
While the removal of the Taliban and election of President Hamid Karzai appears successful, the true effectiveness of the U.S. military's efforts remains to be seen.
If the U.S. decides to attack Iraq, it will most likely do it alone. Neighboring countries in the Mideast are against any intervention, as are most of our European allies.
And although most law makers agree that the world would be a safer place without Saddam Hussein, there are possible economic effects to consider. Unlike the Persian Gulf War, when other countries helped pay the bill, the U.S. would have to cover all costs of an attack on Iraq at a time of economic uncertainty.
Military action would also make the U.S. less popular in many countries currently helping in the war against terrorism.
The Senate plans to continue similar hearings in the fall if President Bush has not started any actions in Iraq by then.
-- Contributed by Emily Robinson
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