Saddam bin Laden
March 18, 2003
the past few weeks, even as war on Iraq has become a certainty,
Ive noticed a sharp increase in my hostile mail. Some of it has been
rather unpleasantly personal, at the expense of my looks and my
mothers 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 havent 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
cant do a thing about it. So why do I get under their skin?
When you are confident that you
are right, you dont need others to agree with you. You may hope you
can persuade them, as I try to do, but you dont 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.
Im 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
well see if the Bush administrations 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 werent 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. Its 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 shouldnt 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. Theyll be able to say: This wouldnt
have happened if only youd 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.