Anti-war activists have faced derision for not explaining in detail why they oppose war with Iraq. It’s a clever evasion; the question that needs to be answered is not “Why not war?” War causes tremendous amounts of suffering, so the public deserves a good explanation of what benefits would outweigh the costs of such slaughter.

The most common justification, disarmament of Iraq, is a terribly shallow argument. The Bush administration’s insistence that Iraq must prove that it did, in fact, destroy its biological and chemical weapons is ludicrous; it is absolutely impossible to prove the nonexistence of something. You could never prove that you are not hiding cocaine in your house, but if the police were to search very carefully and still not find anything, it would be safe to assume that you do not, in fact, have cocaine.

Similarly, every day that inspections continue in Iraq without producing any weapons of mass destruction indicates more strongly that they do not exist. Perhaps the war, then, is to prevent terrorism? But if that were true, there would be credible links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The only link, just recently “discovered,” is not based on financial records, intercepted communications or anything tangible. It is only the testimony of detainees in Afghanistan. Believe it if you wish, but history reminds us that almost anyone will cry communist for you when you interrogate them forcefully enough.

The proposed war has no moral backing, either. It is true that Saddam Hussein has done horrible things in his rule, but a government inserted by the Bush administration will do no better. When it ousted the Taliban, Bush had the opportunity to bring freedom to the people of Afghanistan. Instead, the American-backed Afghan makes the headlines on Human Rights Watch ( regularly, with such incidents as politically motivated arrests, beatings of students and torture. Do you really think things will be different with Iraq when our attention shifts to the next node in the axis of evil?

I wouldn’t wish the sort of “freedom” Bush promised to bring the Iraqis on my worst enemy, President Bush.

And for those in the audience who are not moved by the sufferings of others, I call attention to the massive costs of declaring war. The cruise missiles that we’re so fond of cost $1.4 million a pop. Even if none of our expensive bombers get shot down, the costs will be tremendous, during a period in which America needs to curtail its spending. All of America will feel the consequences of war as money is siphoned from schools and taxes are raised to repay the debt Bush would like to incur. Unless you’re in the business of selling oil or ammunition, war doesn’t make economic sense. Or moral sense. Or any sort of sense at all. It just makes me incensed.

Loren Williams is a junior computer science major.