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Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2001/ 5 Adar 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Who won that war? Best not to look -- THOSE girlish noises on the eastern horizon are the sound of Saddam Hussein giggling.

Well, why not?

The government in Kuwait, retrieved from clammy Iraqi embrace by the Persian Gulf War a decade ago, invited some of the principals back for a celebration yesterday, or at least a commemoration, and from the popping of the champagne corks (or whatever pops at a Muslim gala) you might have imagined the Kuwaitis and their American rescuers won that war.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, dropping in from his first tour of the Middle East, made the ritual pledge that "freedom will live and prosper in this part of the world" despite everything Saddam Hussein can do. That's expecting a lot from something as fragile as freedom, particularly in a grim part of the world where freedom is a foreigner, grudgingly tolerated.

"Aggression," he said, echoing the earlier President Bush on that long past day 10 years ago, "will not stand." Then he joined Mr. Bush and Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf War, to lay a wreath at the American Embassy in remembrance of the 148 Americans killed in the desert.

Alas, Saddam's aggression does stand, and in Iraq, it is standing fully upright.

The rest of the world laughed when Saddam portrayed abject military defeat as his personal triumph. No one laughs at him now. He is the most important Muslim politician anywhere, the unrepentant enemy of the United States, archfoe of the civilized, the intimidator of the brave peace processors at the United Nations. The Muslims whom those 148 Americans (Christians, mostly) died to protect demand now that the United States relieve Saddam's pain.

Americans sometimes learn lessons slowly and only with difficulty. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. If a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, as Dr. Johnson famously observed, ingratitude is the bastard child of sacrifice. You could ask anyone within spitting distance of Suez.

Colin Powell heard a chorus of complaint, bluster and whimper at every stop on his Middle Eastern tour, and was told over and over that the new American president owes it to the Arabs in general and the Iraqis in particular to ease the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in an attempt to make Saddam keep evil at a minimum.

The sobs and bluster seem to be working. In Damascus, the nexus of much of the trouble-making in the Middle East, the general indicated — diplomats never "say" if they can "indicate" —that he will recommend that President Bush ease the curbs on civilian goods to Iraq, even civilian goods that can be easily converted to military use.

The general comes home tonight after meeting with Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, and Farouk al-Sharaa, the foreign minister, to discuss the sanctions and — no hooting, please —Middle East "peace" efforts. Since the general has banned the use of that thigh-slapper of a term, "peace process," recognizing the home truth that processed peace is to peace as Velveeta is to cheese, he probably had to work at it to keep a straight face in his discussions with the Syrians.

The United States will consult with France, which is always on the lookout for opportunities to subvert and obstruct; with Russia, which sees continued trouble in the region as its path back to pretense if not power; with China, which has helped build the air bases from which Saddam's planes threaten American and British aviators, and with various Arab governments, who cry buckets of tears over the plight of Iraqi civilians but are nevertheless willing to risk nuclear disaster at Saddam's hands if that's what it takes to kill the Jews. Some process. Some peace. A decade hence somebody else can lay a wreath in remembrance of a fresh crop of American corpses.

"We want the world to know our quarrel is not with the people of Iraq," Gen. Powell said in Kuwait, "but with the regime in Baghdad." True enough. It's Saddam who has the quarrel with the people of Iraq, and it is Saddam who will manipulate concessions so that whatever mercy the good-hearted Americans deliver will be so strained that the Iraqi people will never see it.

Saddam can't expect to roll George W. Bush in the way he rolled Bill Clinton, but he won't have to. He kicked out the United Nations arms inspectors, to perfect his germ-warfare weapons and his nuclear experiments without being disturbed. The West, softheaded as usual, contented itself with mere military victory in 1991, and now there's a new threat. This is what cannot be left to stand.

Saddam Hussein isn't entitled to much, but so far he's earned the giggle.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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02/02/01: A few small surprises and a large lesson
01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
01/26/01: The gathering storm over Jesse Jackson
01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
01/19/01: Once more to wave the bloody shirt
01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
12/05/00: Here come the judge --- and he's got a hook
11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
11/17/00: When this is all over, we spray for lawyers
11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

11/06/00: A little race baiting in the final hours

11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

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06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden