EPHRAIM A Brigham Young University professor who helped write a guest editorial in the Deseret Morning News in 2003 warning about the consequences of invading Iraq said recently that she has never in her life "wanted so badly to be wrong."
Unfortunately, Donna Lee Bowen, a Middle East expert, told a convocation at Snow College that most of the outcomes she and five other colleagues in BYU's political science department predicted have materialized.
Bowen and two other authors of the op-editorial piece, Darren Hawkins, a specialist in international relations and human rights, and Bryon Daynes, whose specialty is the American presidency, reflected on the controversial article and the predicament America now faces. About 200 students and local community members attended the retrospective. And the picture the professor painted wasn't pretty.
Bowen, who has a doctorate from the department of Near Eastern languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago, recalled that as Congress debated whether to invade Iraq, she became consumed with her concerns about the folly of such an action.
Finally, she said, she started knocking on doors in the political science department and talking to colleagues. Later, several professors met for lunch, and ultimately, six of them joined in writing a letter to Utah members of Congress explaining their concerns based on their scholarly perspectives.
On Jan. 23, 2003, the substance of the letter was published in the Deseret Morning News. There wasn't much response, Bowen said. But when the op-editorial was reprinted in the Daily Universe at BYU, readers attacked the professors as being unpatriotic.
Besides the three who spoke at Snow, other signers were Gary Bryner, whose specialty is public policy; Eric Hyer, who focuses on international relations theory and conflict; and Wade Jacoby, who specializes in international security. All are still on the BYU faculty. They have repeatedly said they speak for themselves and not for the university or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In their article the professors warned that:
• While the Iraqi people would welcome removal of Saddam, they wouldn't necessarily welcome the United States as an occupying force. American forces, they said, could become targets of terrorism.
• A weak government replacing Saddam's regime might invite civil war and widespread human suffering.
• America would not be able to impose democracy on Iraq.
• An invasion of Iraq represented a fundamental foreign policy shift from deterrence to pre-emptive war. Such a war would be outside the bounds of the U.N. charter and international law and would "weaken the commitment of all nations to the rule of law and international cooperation."
Among the consequences of the Iraq war, Bowen told the Snow audience, is that there is now an operating branch of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization in Iraq.
Worse, she said, more than 3,700 American soldiers have been killed and more than 27,000 wounded. And one in four of the wounded have injuries that will make it impossible for them to lead normal lives.
The current options, she said, are to remain in Iraq, leave immediately, or "leave gradually while trying to stabilize the government and minimize U.S. casualties."
She indicated that she preferred gradual withdrawal but said, "Whatever we do, it will be costly it already has been costly."
Hawkins said the test of the Bush administration's Iraq policy is whether it had advanced "vital U.S. interests," such as preventing regional war in the Middle East, preventing terrorists from having a safe haven and preventing loss of U.S. life.
"If anything, in the past five years, we've moved backward in protecting these vital interests," he said.
Daynes said Bush violated constitutional principles in his pursuit of the war. He said the president overused executive orders, made excessive use of executive privilege to protect members of his administration, and went overboard in issuing "signing statements" when he signed bills.
"This is a case that would have shocked the framers," Daynes said."Yes, we shocked and awed our way to military victory (in Iraq), nearly flattening the country," he said. But in the political battle for the hearts an minds of the people, "I think it is inescapable that victory will not be ours."