Tuesday, December 24, 2002

As I'm sure you already know, the Iraqis shot down an American Predator pilotless plane over the southern no-fly zone. This is, of course, just another casus belli. Iraq has regularly fired at American and British manned planes on patrol over the exclusion zone, something that up until now has been tolerated, I don't know why. Seems to me that shooting at our planes is an act of war; they have been trying to kill our pilots and aircrew. Of course, no one died this time, but it seems to me that if you shoot at us, we get to shoot back at you. And I vote we do a lot of shooting back.

There are a lot of historical precedents. In 1845 Mexico fired on American soldiers in the disputed territory between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers, and we used this as an opportunity to declare war. In 1812 we went to war with the British because they'd been seizing American ships on the high seas and impressing the sailors into the Royal Navy. It wasn't the first time we'd done that--we fought an undeclared naval war with France under the Adams administration for pretty much the same reason. We had no justification at all for attacking Spain in 1898, since now it is clear that the Spaniards did not blow up the Maine, though at least some people really believed they had at the time. In 1804 we went to war against the Barbary Pirates on Africa's north coast because they'd been boarding and capturing American-flagged ships and threatened to sell their prisoners into slavery. The main cause of American entry into World War I was German submarine warfare; though the Lusitania sinking happened in 1915 and the Americans didn't declare war until 1917, when the Germans resumed sinking civilian ships without warning. Then, of course, came the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the North Vietnamese fired on Navy ships. The proximate cause of the American Civil War was the Confederate shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. I would say that our grounds for going to war against Iraq are as strong as our grounds were in any of these cases.

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