Writing@CSU Home Page | Writing Gallery | Talking Back | Volume 2, Issue 2

logoWaging War

Dane Swanson

In the past year, weapons of mass destruction have caused the biggest global uproar since the Cold War.  Saddam Hussein has been accused of manufacturing and concealing illegal (according to UN Regulations) weapons.  The United States has urged the UN to take action to disarm Iraq of its illegal weapons.  After months of tensions building, George W. Bush gave Saddam an ultimatum to either disarm and leave Iraq or the US military would force him to.  Bush’s statement captured the attention of people all around the world.  US citizens, including college students, realized that we might soon be at war.  After Saddam’s last chances had expired, bombs were soon raining down on Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. 

College students show many levels of interest in the war and spend much of their time watching news stations like CNN and MSNBC, constantly wanting updates.  Other students only pay attention to major headlines in the news and newspapers.  There were also groups that did not pay any attention about the war and carried on with their lives as usual.  For college students, paying attention to the weaponry in this war is important because the US military will physically and mentally change how an entire country exists.  Families all throughout Iraq will soon have to deal with bombings all around them.  The residents of Baghdad will have to prepare the most for an abrupt change in their lives.  As future leaders of our country, are college students prepared to handle the future dilemmas of Iraq, with or without Saddam in power?  I would like to talk about the issue of weapons used by the US and Iraq and look at the complexity of the issue from moral, technological, and expense approaches.  I want to show how they each have their own niche and how they play intricate roles in the overall topic of “weapons.”

           There has been and will continue to always be political discussions on the use and users of military weapons.  An approach to these debates that is significant and should not be ignored is the moral use of weapons.  Questions arise of knowing how, when, and where it would be wrong to use certain weapons like nuclear bombs or biological weapons.  Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector, spoke out about the potential use of chemical weapons by Iraq.  Blix said, “[i]f the Iraqis were to use any chemical weapons, then I think the public opinion around the world would immediately turn against Iraq, and they would say, as well, that the invasion was justified” (Blix). Leading up to the war, the US, without UN approval, still had some encouragement and support from foreign leaders.  Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi showed that he backed the US military by stating, “[a]t this time . . . I understand and I support the start of the use of force by the United States” (Soltis).  Other countries pointed out the weapons they never wanted to see in use.  Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said, “[t]he Philippines is part of the coalition of the willing. We are giving political and moral support for actions to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” (emphasis added Soltis). 

There are still others who are looking out for the people who may be directly affected by the use of weapons, especially bombing.  Both Germany and France want to try to keep Iraqi civilians safe from warfare.  Now that the war has started though, they say that, “[n]ow everything must be done to avert a humanitarian disaster for Iraq's civilian population” (Soltis).  There are morality issues coming from Iraq too.  There have been Iraqi soldiers dressed like civilians, or pretending to surrender, who turn on allied troops with gunfire or bombs. Diane F. Orentlicher and Robert Kogod Goldman state in a Newsday article that, “[b]y blurring the line between civilians and combatants, Iraq taunts coalition forces with a devil's dare. Every Iraqi suicide bomber clad in civilian dress tempts American forces to respond to the next suspicious-looking Iraqi with deadly fire.”  There have been a couple of cases in which Iraqis have let their conscience tell them what to do instead of commanding officials.  Two Iraqi “suicide bombers” turned themselves into the British military saying that they did not want to go through with their orders.  The suicide bombers showed how they could have possibly used a low-tech way of using weapons.  The US, wanting to keep their soldiers as far away from harm as they could, utilized their far superior advancements in technology to bomb Iraq.

           The capability of the US and Iraqi weapons arsenal falls under the technological approach.  The US has fewer limitations than Iraq as to what they are capable of technologically.  The United States has developed many types of technologies within recent years, like the Global Positioning System, with which they are able to use to improve military weapons.  At the start of the Iraqi Freedom war, the US military showed their technological capabilities by launching hundreds of its notorious Tomahawk cruise missiles into Iraq.  Highlighted on the How Stuff Works website (www.howstuffworks.com), the Tomahawk is quoted as being able to “… fly 1,000 miles and hit a target the size of a single-car garage” (Marshall).  With each missile costing around one million dollars, there are superior advancements in the Tomahawk as compared to other current missiles.  The Tomahawk has four guidance systems to help it reach its target.  It uses the Inertial Guidance System, the Terrain Contour Matching, the Global Positioning System, and a Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation.  These are all used to help the 1,000-pound Tomahawk fly undetected along the ground using a turbo fan and 8.5-foot wingspan.  These missiles are also versatile because they can be launched from a ground vehicle, an airplane, a naval ship, or a submarine. 

Another precision-guided-weapon the US uses called the “Bunker Buster,” was built after the US military had trouble reaching underground Iraqi military facilities in the Gulf War.  The Bunker Buster has been a popular US missile in the recent war because it is able to penetrate several feet of reinforced concrete and detonate when it has reached its intended target.  The bomb is capable of doing this by the laws of basic physics.  Dropping an extremely strong, heavy, narrow tube from an airplane allows the projectile to build up an incredible amount of kinetic energy, allowing the Bunker Buster to penetrate the ground.  There is also a device called a “hard target smart fuse” that measures different factors that tell the bomb when the right time to detonate is (Marshall).  Moving from advanced to semi-advanced, the Scud missile is Iraq’s main offensive weapon.  The Scud is a 7-ton, 35 foot-long missile with a range of 300 miles.  It can hit a target with an accuracy of 3/5 of a mile.  The scud can carry chemical, high explosive, or cluster bomb warheads ( Forces: Weapons).  The use of all these weapons can take a big chunk out of a military budget, but what are all the costs of using these weapons?

           There are two main costs to any type of war, the monetary cost and the cost of human life.  How much will the war and reconstruction cost?  How many lost lives is it all worth?  With the current Iraqi Freedom war, both costs are on the rise.  The estimated the expense of munitions for the war is around $3 billion (Associated Press).  With $3 billion dollars, you could cover the yearly budget of a city like Ft. Collins 7 times (FCGov.com)!  The current total cost of the war is around $20 million.  The high cost of rebuilding Iraq is going to be around $25 to $100 billion (Henriques).  That money would go to help rebuild all the bombed buildings and structures lost during the war.  The rebuilding costs will also go toward fixing partially damaged buildings, replacing windows, doors, electricity, and plumbing.  There are also other types of costs to keep in mind other than the monetary type.  There are the people who lose their lives during times of war.  It is always a loss when someone loses his or her life, but relative to Desert Storm, the cost of life has been much lower.  Now that the war has started, there have been roughly 157 coalition deaths so far in the war, compared to the 358 coalition deaths from Desert Storm.  The number of Iraqi civilian deaths is down too from 35,000 to 1,250 (Cooper).  A group that is involved with both of these costs is the manufacturers who produce the weapons.  In general, many people believe that companies are making money from the sales of their weapons that eventually lead to their use and the resulting casualties.  No matter how a person interprets this approach, there are always going to be different views of what qualifies as a reasonable cost; it is very much a relative issue.

           Weapons have some type of an affect on people in one way or another: there are scientists who create them, the governments that order them, taxpayers who pay for them, and the military that use them.  There are people who feel that any weapon needed should be used, that only a select few weapons should be used, or that no weapons should be used at all.  The production of weapons like the Tomahawk boost profits for the companies that manufacture them.  These same weapons demolish buildings and facilities that eventually will need to be rebuilt and paid for.  Some of the tax money you and I contribute to might be directed toward the efforts of rebuilding Iraq.  There has also been the cost of lost lives due to enemy fire, friendly fire, and bombings of civilian homes.  The technology of weapons will continue to advance over the next decade.  Are we ready to deal with the decisions that our parents’ generation is making for us?  Will we be ready to make educated decisions for ourselves about war in the future?  The issue of weapons is a complicated and diverse one and will forever continue to be that way.






Works Cited

Associated Press. Pentagon Breaks Down Costs of War. Newsday. 2003.


Blix: Iraq unlikely to use chemical, germ weapons. CNN. 2003. 4 - 20 - 03.




Brain, Marshall. How Bunker Busters Work. How Stuff Works. 2003. 4 - 20 - 03.




Brain, Marshall. How Cruise Missiles Work. How Stuff Works. 2003. 4 - 20 - 03.




Cooper, Patrick . Coalition deaths fewer than in 1991. CNN. 2003. 4 - 20 - 03.




Forces: Weapons. CNN. 2003.




Henriques , Diana B.., and Richard A. Oppel Jr.. Who Will Put Iraq Back Together?.


New York Times. 2003.


Orentlicher, Diane F.., and Robert Kogod Goldman. Are They Guerrillas or Criminals?.


Newsday. 2003.




MIXED. New York Post. 2003.


The 2002-2003 Adopted City Budget. FCGov.com. 2002-03.