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Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 2002/ 1 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Re Saddam: The question isn't "Now?" but "How?" | When it comes to the proposed war on Iraq, I keep thinking I'm missing something that war protesters around the world clearly see. According to their arguments, the Bush administration is pressing for war against Iraq for all the wrong reasons.

Two of the most popular cited are that we're focusing on Iraq because (a) we can't find Osama bin Laden and are trying to shift the world's focus from that failing; (b) the U.S. economy's in the tank, and President Bush wants to distract the public.

The linchpin of the anti-war argument, as articulated by well-known foreign-policy analyst Barbra Streisand, seems to be that we have no right to go after Saddam because he had nothing to do with 9-11. Or because we have failed to demonstrate that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction or the capability to deliver them.

All of this is bolstered by the inexplicably optimistic sense, as one editorial writer opined, that Saddam isn't the megalomanic that Bush insists he is. He isn't?

Pop quiz for skeptics: Which U.S. president drained his own blood for calligraphers to use as ink in transcribing the Bible? Not coming to a museum near you, though Saddam's very personal version of the Quran, reputedly inked in his own blood, is on view at Baghdad's "The Mother of all Battles" mosque.

As to the other arguments' merits, there are none. Americans already know the economy is in the tank -- no distraction is necessary there.

Also, it's true we can't find bin Laden because he's probably dead, according to our best speculation, but so what? Our not finding bin Laden has nothing to do with whether we ought to focus our sights on Saddam, who is the star of his own horror movie.

Even without a specific connection between Saddam and bin Laden, and there's some evidence linking the two, why does anyone presume that such a connection is necessary to justify action against Iraq? A shark attack in Florida doesn't necessarily mean we should worry about shark attacks in South Carolina, but it doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't. Maybe the sharks never met or talked about their mutual contempt for human meat, but they're still dangerous.

Besides, we know this about both sharks and Saddam: given half a chance, they'll attack even their own. (See chemical.html if you can bear it.)

Moreover, there is a connection between bin Laden and Saddam that explains beyond the rhetoric why we have no choice but to dislodge Saddam. In orchestrating 9-11, bin Laden ignited the war on terrorism and the countries that support terrorists. In so doing, he effectively hung a red arrow over Saddam's head. Yes, there are other enemies among us but none so threatening at the moment as Saddam, given what we know about him and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Our attention to Saddam now is both plausible and timely with or without the coming elections. How and when we go after him is a decision for people better equipped with information, intelligence and resources than, say, girls in Madrid dressed like suicide bombers. Or kids in underwear protesting grown-ups.

Or even some congressmen who apparently don't understand the difference between expressing misgivings among peers in the U.S. House of Representatives and accusing their president of lying as they schmooze behind enemy lines. Taking names, anyone?

The naive assertion that we have no right to unseat Saddam is the product either of short-term or selective memory. Thirteen months ago, Americans could not have been convinced that we should take aggressive action against al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan -- or suspected terrorists already living here -- because we believed that someday soon they would hijack airplanes, destroy the World Trade Center and incinerate thousands of innocent civilians.

Today we're having an equally hard time convincing the world that we should take aggressive action against Saddam because we believe he eventually will revisit hell on our shores and our allies' borders. How long before Bush is demonized for failing to connect those dots?

Which is not to say there are not legitimate concerns about how we proceed. For a thorough analysis of the potential nightmare of a post-Saddam Iraq, read James Fallows' excellent article in the November issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Fallows interviewed dozens of experts about what might follow Saddam's overthrow and projected that our involvement in Iraq could be perhaps decades long, hugely expensive and far more hands-on than we envision. It is not a heartening read.

Nevertheless, our commitment to removing Saddam is fair, just, necessary and even noble, given the hypocrisy of other nations willing to watch us die for their eventual benefit. Whether we're up to the task, that's the real question.

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