Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Saddam bin Laden 

March 18, 2003

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.

[Breaker quote: Betrayals by allies]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 advice.”

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.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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