Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 30, 2002

Today's burning issue: to make war on Iraq?

For someone who professes to be undecided about how or even whether to bring about a regime change in Iraq, President Bush is certainly trotting out a lot of hawkish aides to beat the drums of war.

The most potent drum beater is Vice President Dick Che-ney, who is calling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a "mortal threat" to the United States. If that's a literal certainty, it would be a dereliction of duty for Bush to allow Saddam the luxury of picking his own time, place and weaponry to deliver on that threat.

But so far the Bush administration has fallen woefully short in presenting evidence, if such evidence exists, to buttress its claims. It is, after all, difficult to read the inside of Saddam's head. But the record would suggest that while he most certainly is cruel and dangerous, he is anything but suicidally deranged.

Moreover, the administration seems unconcerned that it lacks a credible plan for a post-Saddam Iraq. We'd like to hear, for instance, how Bush explained to Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington — over lunch in Crawford, Texas, Tuesday — how the Middle East would be better off with the breakup of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite states. That, plus exponentially greater regional enmity for the United States, is what the ambassador warned Bush would likely result from the removal of Saddam, who is of Iraq's 20 percent Sunni minority.

Another possibility, which appears to be spooking conservatives of Bush's father's generation, is how Israel plays out as the wild card in the event of war. In the 1991 Gulf War, when Saddam launched 37 missiles against Israel, Israel promised Washington it would not retaliate. This time, Israel has already vowed to retaliate if attacked — and Israel is an undeclared nuclear power.

It's hard to imagine how some sort of U.S.-Israel-instigated armageddon scenario would make the Middle East a friendlier place.

Of the opposition to war in European and Middle Eastern capitals, a White House spokesman soothes, "It's often the case that when America leads, the world follows." And White House lawyers have concluded — erroneously and unwisely, we believe — that Bush can attack without authorization from Congress.

Again, if Saddam truly is a "mortal threat," then perhaps any delay in taking him out will simply make the job more costly in the long run. But how is Saddam a worse threat than North Korea's Kim Jong Il, who clearly is much closer to long-range nuclear deliverability — and a lot more unpredictable?

Finally, the Bush administration itself doesn't appear united on the need for war against Iraq. Some, like Che-ney, appear to be faith-based "true believers" in rooting out "evil."

Americans, of course, have no love for Saddam and they're not squeamish. But they are prudent. They want to be sold, not told.