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Jewish World Review Feb. 23, 2001 / 30 Shevat, 5761

James Lileks

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Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011? -- THE war against Iraq has been renewed for yet another season, it seems. As the conflict enters its second decade, we realize that it has taken twice as long NOT to defeat Saddam as it took to defeat Hitler.

It's the moustache, perhaps. Saddam has one of those iconic moustaches that's just a little bit Hitler, just a little bit Stalin. From Hitler he gets his madness and impetuosity; from Stalin, crafty cruel longevity. Never mind bombing his radar facilities, or shooting down his planes: infiltrate the palace, drop a depilatory into the water supply, and render him as hairless as Quadaffi. He'd be out of power in a day.

Could work. Worth a try. Nothing else does the job. No one would be surprised if, in 2011, the Jeb Bush administration attacks Saddam. Colin Powell leads the news conference. "We regard this as a crippling of Saddam's biological warfare capabilities," he'd say. A reporter might ask how they had any capabilities left, given that the country have been pulverized for 20 years.

"We've struck hard at the fields which produce the straw, which is used to make the huts in which Saddam's scientists have been weaving a slingshot capable of delivering a rock to a target 70 feet away. Presumably, they could cough on the rock and spread a nasty cold, sop we regard this as a crippling of Saddam's biological warfare capabilities."

Not to say the Allied forces shouldn't hit Saddam. But you just wish they'd hit, well, Saddam. Yes, a radar facility gets blown to bits. Yes, a violation is repaid with swift action. Yes, some complicit technicians get atomized, along with some hapless draftees. But Saddam still has ten toes and ten fingers at the end of the day; we didn't even muss his hair.

His hair needs serious mussing.

If anything, the attack demonstrates the contrast between the Bush and Clinton administration - but what doesn't, nowadays. If the press was throwing a hussy-fit over his latest female problem, well, Bill could bump it off the front page by sending troops or rockets hither and yon. And if anyone accused him of doing exactly what he was doing, well, the accusation itself would sound so unthinkable that it just hung in the air like a ripe belch during a Papal homily. To think that the Commander in Chief would put troops in harm's way for personal goals! And we'd get the wagged finger and the bitten lip and the hoarse denial, and all the other props trotted out when he sincerely, honestly, needed to lie.

No more. A few cranks floated the notion that Bush was trying to stifle the furor over the collision of a sub with a Japanese trawler, but the accusation fell flat. Trying to pin a devious double-meaning to Bush's decision to smack Iraq ended up skewering those who doubted his motives; it made them realize how Clinton's black-hole ego sucked and corrupted everything into his personal orbit, redefined everything to conform to Clinton's needs

If nothing else, we've learned this: it's possible to use military force to defend national interests first and foremost.

Imagine that.

As if to remind everyone why he remains Tomahawk bait, Saddam promptly announced the formation of a 300,000 man army to retake Jerusalem. It's the old familiar play: when it doubt, promise to kill some Jews. The man in the street will just love you. The Western reporters might recoil a tad, but well, if the Israelis get pushed into the sea, there'll be enough useful idiots in the press to blame the Jews for not marching to sea voluntarily.

It's the same ancient game, and it won't end soon. Figure two Dubya terms, two Jeb terms, two Hillary terms. Add that to one Bush Pere terms, two Clinton terms: You have 36 years of low-level war. If Saddam fathered a kid when this all began, he'll be ready to take over when the nation's supply of Clintons and Bushes is exhausted. Saddam will be dead.

The moustache will live on.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks