War drama moves toward final act
Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C
September 27, 2002
So now we observe the next scenes in the strange drama
that seems to speed toward its last act, and once again the promise does
not coincide with reality. This week was supposed to have marked a turning
point, as Tony Blair proffered his government's indictment of Saddam Hussein
and Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction--but once again, there
was no turning point.
The long-awaited dossier on Baghdad from Britain's
Labor Party did confirm the threat of the Iraqi dictator and his adoration
of heinous weaponry (as if we still needed to be convinced of that). It asserted
that he has up to 20 al-Hussein missiles capable of carrying chemical or
biological warheads as far as Cyprus and Israel and that, in some cases,
warheads could be dispatched within 45 minutes (which is obviously terrifying).
London presented, in its words, an "overwhelming case" against Hussein; but
that is not what the disturbing discussion here about going to war with Hussein--tomorrow--is
Everybody is against Saddam Hussein. The question for
serious people is what to do--rationally and effectively--to replace him
without setting the entire Middle East aflame, and perhaps America as well.
As the Financial Times, one of the most fair-minded of newspapers, editorialized
immediately after the Blair report: "The 50-page document offers no compelling
evidence that immediate action is needed. Nor does it present a strong argument
against a policy of enhanced containment. Its strongest impact might be in
reinforcing the case for a United Nations resolution that requires aggressive
inspections. ... The assessment of Iraq's nuclear capability is more in line
with the recent independent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic
Studies than with the alarmist rhetoric that has periodically emerged from
London and Washington."
The arguments over going to war with Iraq are broken down into two groups.
The first is found in the administration, with its increasing and almost
hysterical persistence that war must be waged immediately and at almost any
The second is the prudent group of diplomats and analysts who
insist that the situation is so serious that it must be viewed cautiously,
both in terms of Hussein's intentions and our capacities.
the two is suspended one question: Is Saddam Hussein such an imminent menace
to America and the West that we must act immediately?
If he is, argues the administration, then it must be because he has or will soon have--and intends to use--nuclear weapons.
Yet, in every serious analysis, from President Bush's speech at the UN two
weeks ago, to the British prime minister's dossier this week, to the report
several weeks ago by the IISS in London, there is a clear omission of any
warning that nuclear weapons are in his hands or are about to become an immediate
So, one has to wonder, where did all of the eerie "Go to Iraq!" mania gripping this city really start?
The Guardian in London recently put in place one piece of the puzzle with
several long articles by reporter Brian Whitaker, in which he revealed a
paper published (publicly) in 1996 by an Israeli think-tank, the Institute
for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, titled "A Clear Break: A New
Strategy for Securing the Realm."
When it was issued, it was intended
as a political blueprint for the then-incoming right-wing government of Benjamin
Netanyahu. To many readers' amazement, it has turned out to be exactly the
blueprint for the Iraq policy of the Bush administration!
Whitaker quoted the plan by which Israel would "shape its strategic environment,"
beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a monarchy
in Baghdad related to the Jordanian Hashemite kingdom, which ruled Iraq briefly
in the middle of the 20th Century. He quoted the paper further: "With Saddam
out of the way ... Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel
to weaken and roll back Syria. ... Israel will not only contain its foes,
it will transcend them."
And to succeed, Israel would have to win
broad American support for these new policies using language "familiar to
the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the
Cold War, which apply well to Israel."
Now such a policy paper would
generally be of little interest. But it is of interest today because the
leader of the "prominent opinion-makers" who wrote the paper was Richard
Perle, and only a few of the other writers were Douglas Feith and John Bolton,
all of whom are now in pivotal positions in the Bush administration and in
crucial positions in urging a war against Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney
has also been involved with this group.
In fact, as has been reported
by Newsweek and in a recent "Frontline" TV show, only a day after Sept.11,
in high-level meetings of President Bush and his inner circle, when nobody
else was thinking about Iraq at all, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
told the president that now was the time to add taking out Saddam Hussein
to the war against terrorism. Secretary Wolfowitz is also closely involved
with the group that wrote the paper.
It would be simple to say that
this is the policy of the right wing in Israel and, in fact, to some degree
it is--the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval,
confirmed to me on a trip here recently that it was Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon's policy to overthrow Saddam Hussein and thus use that pressure against
Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization--but that is in truth
only part of the picture.
Most of the "Get Iraq!" grouping here are
zealous former anti-Cold War fighters. They are not at all cautious, traditional
conservatives but rather "neoconservatives"--former liberal Democrats who
broke with the party over communism in the 1970s and '80s. They errantly
believe that, through their positions in the Reagan administration, it was
they and not the decades-long policy of containment and deterrence that "won
the Cold War," and they see Iraq as the next target in the long struggle
against totalitarianism. The right wing in Israel fits in nicely.
All of them are zealots and, from their writings and posturings, seem to
believe in the efficacy of only the pure use of force. There is more than
a whiff of the fires of Armageddon about them.
We must be immensely
careful as Americans in buying this story and these pressures that are pushing
us so blithely to a strange and ominous war. It is a tale so complex and
dangerous that one searches American history for its parallel.
Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune
Searching Chicagotribune.com archives back to 1985 is
cheaper and easier than ever. New prices for multiple articles can bring
your cost as low as 30 cents an article: http://chicagotribune.com/archives