Berger questions Bush’s stance on Iraq

Seth Freedland

Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger doled out a mixed review of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy on Tuesday, advocating war but criticizing President Bush’s methods and justifications.

Berger, who served under President Bill Clinton, spoke to a crowd of about 500 at Cahn Auditorium in a speech sponsored by College Democrats and the political science department.

Berger said he doubted Bush’s declaration that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would sell nuclear equipment and technology to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

“The linkage is unclear,” he said. “He’s had 20 years with (the technology) and he’s never given the weapons to groups he doesn’t control.”

But Berger said attacking Iraq is justified because he fears Saddam will use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

“He will deter us with the nuclear weapons if he moves on his neighbors,” he said. “We must be ready to confront Saddam.”

Berger blames Bush’s polarizing rhetoric for his trouble mobilizing the rest of the world.

“Striking a posture of ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us’ creates a coalition which is against us, not around us,” Berger said. “There’s a crisis of American leadership around the world.”

He said Bush should make a long-term commitment to rebuilding Iraq after the war.

“This cannot be like Afghanistan, which ceased to exist once TV cameras were gone,” he said. “We have an obligation to stay there, to build a progressive society.”

Saying there has been “far too little honest dialogue,” Berger also noted that Americans’ current desire for mobilization may stem from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It is possible that after 9/11, much of America, in its uncertainty, will choose action over inaction,” he said.

Berger also stressed the danger of ignoring the military threat posed by North Korea.

“(North Korea) has a proven track record of selling technology,” he said. “The most likely way for loose nuclear weapons to end up in New York or Los Angeles … is North Korea.”

Outside Cahn Auditorium, members of Northwestern Opposing War and Racism passed out pamphlets titled, “Sandy Berger: War Criminal?” that said Berger shows indifference to the effects of war on Iraqi citizens.

“He cares more about the public relations of the United States over the extraordinary toll on Iraqi people,” said NOWAR member Sujata Shyam, a Weinberg freshman.

Matt Budow, a Weinberg freshman, said: “It was interesting to hear a Democrat talking about going to war. I’d say that’s unusual — certainly on this campus.”

Chicago resident Richard Cardozo was impressed with Berger’s knowledge.

“He is extremely well-versed in modern history,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we don’t have someone like that in our government today.”