Saddam bin Laden
March 18, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     In the past few weeks, even as war on Iraq has 
become a certainty, I've noticed a sharp increase in my 
hostile mail. Some of it has been rather unpleasantly 
personal, at the expense of my looks and my mother's 
virtue; much of it merely mocks me for being on the 
losing side in opposing war.

     Well, as anyone can see, I am a pretty darned 
dashing exhibit of masculinity, especially for one of my 
advanced years. As for Mom, may she rest in peace, she 
was an honorable woman. So those two arguments haven't a 
leg to stand on.

     But the charge of being on the losing side is one to 
which I must plead nolo. In fact I am so powerless to 
stop the juggernaut that I wonder why anyone on the 
winning side would bother with me. These people are now 
going to get their war, and I can't do a thing about it. 
So why do I get under their skin?

     When you are confident that you are right, you don't 
need others to agree with you. You may hope you can 
persuade them, as I try to do, but you don't feel that 
their disagreement impeaches your cause. But when you 
fear that your cause is bad, even the slightest 
disagreement may stick in the craw of your conscience. 
You want everyone to conform, to give your cause the 
appearance of righteousness, and even a single dissenter 
can tempt you to a frenzy of abuse.

     Only bad causes need unanimity. That is why 
dictators like Saddam Hussein keep getting reelected with 
upwards of 99 per cent of the vote. A lot of people in 
this country seem to feel that as soon as an American 
president proposes war, he deserves similar support. 
Guilty people like guilt to be widely shared. They resent 
anyone who refuses to participate in it.

     Of course I'm not quite alone. Most of the world, 
including the Pope, agrees with me about this war. And 
even American support for the war is thin, as we'll see 
if the Bush administration's mighty optimistic 
predictions fail to pan out.

     So naturally the War Party has lashed out at all who 
oppose the war. They have attacked American "peaceniks," 
liberals, Democrats, France, Germany, Russia, Saudi 
Arabia, Egypt, and even, lately, the Pope. Nearly 
everyone has become the Enemy. Even our allies have 
"betrayed" us (if you assume that Hawks R Us, as the 
hawks generally do).

     As Ian Lustick writes in THE NATION, this is a 
"supply-side" war. That is, it is not driven by popular 
demand. But a cabal in Washington long intent on war with 
Iraq saw that overwhelming U.S. military power, combined 
with the sudden political capital provided by the 9/11 
horrors, could enable them to get their war.

     It would be an easy war to sell, as long as 
everything went smoothly, without requiring sacrifice or 
suffering by the average citizen, and not too many 
Americans realized that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin 
Laden weren't the same guy.

     But unfortunately for the War Party, as Lustick also 
notes, its political capital was bound to evaporate. The 
9/11 hysteria has cooled, and the hawks face a "closing 
window of political opportunity for the war." It's now or 
never. Hence the accelerating rush to begin the bombing. 
Iraq may pose no threat to the United States, but time 
poses a very dangerous threat to the War Party. If they 
lose this chance, they may never get another like it.

     As Lustick observes, even the smarter hawks are 
hedging their bets. President Bush should take note. Many 
of those who counsel war are saying it has to be prepared 
for and fought just right; otherwise, it shouldn't be 
fought at all.

     Get it? If the war goes badly, these hawks can 
disown it and disclaim responsibility for it, leaving 
Bush holding the bag. They'll be able to say: "This 
wouldn't have happened if only you'd followed our 

     Where have we heard this before? Bush should talk to 
his father. After the 1991 Gulf War, these same hawks 
accused the elder Bush of wasting victory by failing to 
conquer Baghdad, topple Saddam Hussein, and set up a new 
"democracy" in Iraq.

     Never mind the French. This President Bush may find 
himself betrayed by his pro-war allies.


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