Peace Isn’t Possible in Evil’s Face

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate, is a Holocaust survivor and author of 40 books.

Under normal circumstances, I might have joined those peace marchers who, here and abroad, staged public demonstrations against an invasion of Iraq. After all, I have seen enough of the brutality, the ugliness, of war to oppose it heart and soul. Isn’t war forever cruel, the ultimate form of violence? It inevitably generates not only loss of innocence but endless sorrow and mourning. How could one not reject it as an option?

And yet, this time I support President Bush’s policy of intervention to eradicate international terrorism, which, most civilized nations agree, is the greatest threat facing us today. Bush has placed the Iraqi war into that context; Saddam Hussein is the ruthless leader of a rogue state to be disarmed by whatever means is necessary if he does not comply fully with the United Nations’ mandates to disarm. If we fail to do this, we expose ourselves to terrifying consequences.

In other words: Though I oppose war, I am in favor of intervention when, as in this case because of Hussein’s equivocations and procrastinations, no other option remains.


The recent past shows that only military intervention stopped bloodshed in the Balkans and destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Moreover, had the international community intervened in Rwanda, more than 800,000 men, women and children would not have perished there.

Had Europe’s great powers intervened against Adolf Hitler’s aggressive ambitions in 1938 instead of appeasing him in Munich, humanity would have been spared the unprecedented horrors of World War II.

Does this apply to the present situation in Iraq? It does. Hussein must be stopped and disarmed. Even our European allies who oppose us now agree in principle, though they insist on waiting.

But time always plays in dictators’ favor. Having managed to hide his biological weapons, Hussein’s goal is to be able to choose the time and the place for using them. Surely that is why he threw out the U.N. inspectors four years ago. If he now appears to offer episodic minor concessions, just as surely that is because American troops are massing at his borders.

In certain political circles, one hears demands for proof that Hussein is still in possession of forbidden weapons. Some European governments evidently do not believe Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s statement that Hussein has such weapons, but I do, and here is why:

Powell is a great soldier and one who does not like war. It was he who prevailed upon then-President Bush in 1991 not to enter Baghdad. It was he who advised the current president not to bypass the U.N. system. If he says that he has proof of Hussein’s criminal disregard of the U.N. resolutions, I believe him. I believe that a man of his standing would not jeopardize his name, his career, his prestige, his past and his honor.


We have known for a long time that the Iraqi ruler is a mass murderer. In the late 1980s, he ordered tens of thousands of his own citizens gassed to death. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait. After his defeat, he set its oil fields on fire, thus causing the worst ecological disaster in history. He also launched Scud missiles on Israel, which was not a participant in that war. He should have been indicted then for crimes against humanity. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic was arrested and brought to trial for less.

Add to the evidence against him Hussein’s conversation with CBS anchor Dan Rather. Listening to him declaring that Iraq was not defeated in 1991 made one wonder about his sanity; he appears to live a world of fantasy and hallucination.

The nightmarish question of what such a man might do with his arsenal of unconventional weaponry is why, more than ever, some of us believe in intervention. We must deal sooner rather than later with this madman whose possession of weapons of mass destruction threatens to provoke an ever-widening conflagration.

What it comes down to is this: We have a moral obligation to intervene where evil is in control. Today, that place is Iraq.