Thursday, September 19, 2002
There he goes again: The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough penned an incoherent attack on the Bush Administration policy calling for regime change in Iraq.
The causes of the Bush chagrin are clear, but first let's address their argument that "the goal is not arms inspections but Iraqi disarmament."
That is exactly right, but for Bush to present arms inspection, which is a means to disarmament, as an alternative to it is deceptive. All arms agreements are based on inspections, and getting U.N. inspectors into Iraq without restrictions is the necessary means of enforcing the U.N. arms resolutions Iraq accepted in 1991.
Goldsborough, like Kristof earlier in the week, seems to believe that Bush's speech to the U.N. was something of a "come to Jesus talk" for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Goldsborough's old enough to remember what's happened since the Gulf War. I've talked to him a couple of times this week -- he's not a stupid man, but his optimism that this time we can trust Saddam is amazing and disappointing.
Goldsborough also refers to this as an "arms agreement" -- it's not, it's the terms of a cease-fire. Arms agreements are mutual, and based on mutual trust. What we've got in Iraq is terms we dictated to the loser of a war. Granted that these are terms which we have, in the past 11 years, been reluctant to enforce. But the fact that we've not held Saddam to them in the past does not bar us from enforcing them when we have the will to do it.
For Bush, Iraq's action changes nothing.
Well, it changes nothing because Iraq's "action" is nothing. It's rhetoric and nothing more. That was demonstrated today by the Iraqi statement to the U.N.:
In short, what Iraq wants is the respect of the principles of the UN Charter and international law, whether regarding its own interests and sovereignty or those of the other member-states of the United Nations. On this basis, Iraq was, and still is, ready to cooperate with the Security Council and international organizations. However, Iraq rejects any transgression by whosoever at the expense of its rights, sovereignty, security, and independence, that is in contradiction with the principles of the Charter and the international law. It is for this reason that Iraq has persevered, and thanks to its faith, is still prepared to endure more for this end.
Iraq, as a defeated country, has only the sovereignty that the United States and its international coalition wishes to give it. Iraq lost a war. Saddam, because he's still in power, has never come to grips with this basic fact, and 11 years of deceit and obstruction have proved that he will never learn the lesson.
The brains of this administration, starting with Dick Cheney, the redoubtable vice president, and Rumsfeld, who has been Cheney's alter ego for 30 years, gets its energy from two groups with powerful Washington influence. Neither group is likely to be placated by sending U.N. inspectors back to Baghdad.
One group is the neoconservatives, whose overriding interest is Israel. The other group is the unilateralists, whose main interest is steering clear of multilateral agreements and knocking nations that defy U.S. policy or challenge U.S. supremacy.
The neoconservatives, represented in and around the Pentagon by people like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and supported by a host of influential East Coast, neo-con publications, are those who persuaded Bush to "park" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and go after Iraq first.
I think I classify as a conservative, maybe even a neoconservative (though I'd appreciate it if one of my readers could explain the distinguishing characteristics between the two), and I'm sorry to say that Israel isn't my overriding interest. The United States and its security is my overriding interest. Saddam and his support of terrorists and his drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction are a danger to the United States.
Far more likely, I believe, is that a U.S. attack on Iraq would weaken moderate Arab regimes and revitalize terrorist cells everywhere.
Call me naive, but could someone explain to me just which Arab regime is "moderate?" And what exactly does "moderate" mean in this context? Is Saudi Arabia "moderate" because they sell us oil? Heck, they'd be downright friendly if it weren't for that terrorist funding. That madrassah funding. The fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Is a moderate Arab country one that says it's OK to kill Jews in Jerusalem, but not in New York?
And "revitalize terrorist cells?" Is that possible? Are there groups of terrorists in the U.S. who are just kicking-back, working at the local 7-Eleven until we attack Iraq. That's when they've had enough and start to get off their duffs and start working on their terror plans.
There was near-total Arab condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were seen as barbaric and unjustified.
What does "Arab condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks" sound like? "Oh, we're sorry so many Americans were killed, but people are poor and oppressed in the Middle East. That's why you were attacked. You need to look at the root causes. Why are they so mad at you?"
The civilians in the Pentagon are gung-ho for war with Iraq, but what of the military? Officers still in uniform must stay silent, but we get the flavor from those who are not.
"It might be interesting to note that all the generals see this (Iraq) the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger are really hell-bent to go to war," says Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general who has been the Bush administration's special envoy to the Middle East.
The U.S. military, those who would actually fight the war, aren't so keen as the civilians. I wonder why.
Back to the whole Starship Troopers argument. Apparently the opinion of our elected leaders doesn't count unless they've served in the military. Which Bush has, but that was the National Guard. Oh, that doesn't count, because the National Guard doesn't fight wars. Oh? The National Guard does fight wars? National Guardsmen have been sent overseas? They've fought in Vietnam? Oh.
Comments like those from Gen. Anthony Zinni remind me of another American general, George McClellan. McClellan was so worried about losing men that he wouldn't fight, allowing Gen. Robert E. Lee to press the attack on the Union.
President Abraham Lincoln commented to the effect that if McClellan wasn't using the army, would he mind if Lincoln borrowed it?
Don't get me wrong. I've numerous friends who are serving in the armed forces. People die in war. And there is every possibility that when we attack Iraq, some of them may not come back. I have the utmost respect for people who serve in the armed forces.
But war is a political act. The decision to go to war is made, as it should be, by our elected representatives. Let's not forget that the attack on Sept. 11 was based on Osama bin Laden's assessment that the United States was weak and spineless. Where'd he get that idea? From the way we behaved in Somalia, in response to the USS Cole attack, and in the wake of the African embassy bombings.
Some would urge that we "speak softly and carry a big stick." But the soft-speaking only works if the other side understands that there is a willingness to use the big stick.