No Wiggle Room
Is war between the United States and Iraq inevitable? The world nervously waits for the decision of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The deadline is Friday. If Saddam refuses to comply with the recent United Nations resolution his country will be attacked and he will be overthrown. President Bush has stated with regard to Iraq: "He will disarm."
If you were Saddam Hussein, would you comply with the United Nations resolution on weapons inspections or would you embrace destruction and use the weapons you now have? A normal person would comply. But is Saddam Hussein a normal person? On the other side of the question, will President George W. Bush attack Iraq even if Saddam Hussein agrees to disarm?
The U.S. mobilization against Baghdad has momentum in it. Perhaps it also has a life of its own. In the first place, the U.S. has gone to great trouble and expense. In terms of diplomacy, precious political capital has been expended. Careers have been put on the line. This signifies the extent to which Washington is exasperated with Baghdad. The President's patience has run out. The least provocation might be the last straw. According to a Gallup poll, nearly 6 in 10 American's favor an invasion of Iraq. If he expects to survive, Saddam must humble himself. He has no wiggle room.
But can an inveterate wiggler stop wiggling?
The signs are mixed. Saddam's son Uday advised the Iraqi parliament to accept the U.N. demands. It did not accept them, but deferred to Saddam. Meanwhile, Fox News has reported that Iraq is attempting to buy large quantities of nerve gas antidote. Israeli officials have also discussed Saddam Hussein's preparations to use low-flying jets to penetrate Israeli air space and deliver chemical attacks to populated areas. According to DEBKAfile, the Israeli intelligence Web site, Jordan has uncovered a secret level of coordination between Iraqi agents and Palestinian terrorists. It is being reported that terrorists are prepared to conduct special operations against key targets once U.S. forces attack Iraq. Arrests already made in Jordan reveal a plan "to sabotage Aqaba harbor installations to render the port unusable for taking delivery of reinforcements and supplies," DEBKAfile reported. In the event of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Palestinian terrorists are tasked with operating behind coalition lines, blowing up "key transport junctions, roads and bridges ... and [to] stir up popular riots, if possible rebellion." As if to confirm that an alliance exists between global terrorism and Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has issued an audiotape about further attacks on America.
Are Islamist terrorists preparing an offensive in support of Iraq?
In the first week of November, the British government warned that terrorists were threatening Britain with chemical weapons and radiological "dirty bombs." The assessment was issued by the Home Office and then withdrawn. According to recent leaks and news reports, U.S. and British officials fear that al Qaeda, assisted by Iraqi intelligence, may have nuclear weapons in place. Yossef Bodanksy, a U.S. terrorism expert, says that bin Laden has nuclear weapons and has been working with Saddam Hussein on a coordinated strategy. In a special Oct. 28 report for the Washington Times, reporter Neil Doyle alleged that al Qaeda probably has radiological "dirty bombs." According to Doyle's account, a Russian GRU officer claimed that al Qaeda has nuclear warheads. The Israeli intelligence service (Mossad) has added to this, saying that al Qaeda purchased tactical nuclear warheads from Russian sources. These were not the so-called nuclear suitcase bombs (micro-nuclear warheads), but missile and torpedo warheads. These could be in the 90 to 200 kiloton range.
The terrorists seem to be waiting for the United States to act against Iraq. They want their strikes to be viewed as part of a defensive campaign. Politically, within the Arab world, this makes sense. If the goal is to rally the Arab people behind the anti-American cause, then you need to paint a picture of good Arabs fighting bad Americans.
There are many schools of thought on the Iraq crisis, but two in particular deserve consideration in terms of the likelihood of war. Some believe that Saddam Hussein will attempt to wriggle and cheat his way out of the U.N. resolution, despite agreeing to abide by it in principle. Another school says that the United States will attack Iraq whether or not Saddam complies, because the Americans no longer take Saddam Hussein at his word. They believe he is a murderer, a liar and a cheat; so they are preparing to hammer him. (There are also those who hold that America is an imperialist villain.)
Journalist Ted Rall, who covered the campaign in Afghanistan, claimed in a recent editorial that the Taliban attempted to comply with Bush's ultimatum on the handing over of Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities. But the bombs fell anyway. According to Rall, "Bushian ultimata are merely eviction notices." Someone from the White House would argue, on the other side, that enemy fanatics are insincere; that a pretended willingness to hand over bin Laden (or comply with U.N. resolutions) should not be taken seriously. By pretending to give in to demands, the adversary forestalls U.S. military action. During the ensuing months of diplomatic chatter the warlike resolve of the American side fizzles. The rogue state and its terrorist helpers are then in the clear. They can prepare their next wave of attacks in safety, mocking the American "paper tiger."
The United States has signed peace treaties before, and the dictators have always cheated. North Vietnam cheated on the 1973 peace accord that ended the Vietnam War. Moscow broke nearly every arms control agreement it ever signed, and continues in that fine tradition today. North Korea made fools out of the diplomats and peacemakers in Washington, who aided and supported Pyongyang after 1994 while foolishly expecting the communists to forfeit their nuclear ambitions; and Saddam cheated America after the Gulf War. History shows that the United States has been suckered time and time again by the dictatorships of the world. At last the White House has understood that the words of the poet Dryden apply to our time:
Thus in a pageant show a plot is made. And peace itself is war in masquerade.
The ideology of Saddam Hussein -- Ba'thism (or Arab national socialism) -- hates the West and America. According to Saddam Hussein it is not just Western imperialism that threatens the Arab world, but Western culture. According to Samir al-Khalil, author of "Republic of Fear," the Ba'thists believe that Western culture threatens Arab-speaking humanity. "No concessions are made to the moral advances of Western civilization," wrote Khalil. In terms of countering the West, Ba'thist Arabist theoretician Michel Aflaq once stated: "This is the age of heroism." Aflaq's heroes were not to be democrats. Aflaq's heroes would seek to "infuriate all those they believe to be wrong and corrupt." In other words, rabid militancy became the means, the ideal and the end in itself. It is no accident that sovereignty in Iraq has traditionally been expressed through pogroms, hangings and sudden invasions of neighboring countries. For Baghdad, national sovereignty and violence are two peas in the same pod. Violence is the essence of the Iraqi regimes national self-assertion. The brutality of Saddam Hussein testifies to the fact that Ba'thist theory has become practice.
If Saddam Hussein were an ordinary man, he would comply with the United Nations resolution. But he is not ordinary and, therefore, we cannot predict what he will do. Many analysts imagine that political leaders are rational actors. This is only partly true. Political leaders are also emotional actors, playing out their feelings on the world stage. Saddam Hussein's view of the world is an emotional view - the main emotion being hatred. The official line of the ruling Party in Iraq was anti-Western long before Hussein took power. And this orientation will remain as long as the Ba'thist regime remains in Baghdad. The drive to acquire mass destruction weapons will also remain.
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