Jewish World Review Feb. 3, 2002 / 1 Adar I, 5763
Clear and compelling proof
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | President Bush did what he had to do-and then some. His State of the Union address was a bravura performance, delivered with a degree of personal comfort and authority that makes nonsense of the critics' cartoon images of a born-again cowboy, riding into the big, bad world with guns blazing. His certainty that Iraq must be confronted now is underpinned by intelligence information that the government can share with us only to the degree it does not compromise sources. Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has made the point: "The administration has evidence now that can change people's minds."
Knowing how much to release, however, is a tough call. We have learned only recently, for instance, that there have been over 100 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States since 9/11. The targets have been American embassies on three continents, a military base in Europe, U.S. ships passing through the Straits of Hormuz and of Gibraltar, and our airports and aviation industries. All, blessedly, were thwarted. Secretary of State Colin Powell now wrestles with the question of how far to document the Iraqi connection to al Qaeda. In war-and that is what we face-a certain amount of trust must be reposed in government. But it is not just a question of persuading the American people; it is also world opinion, our allies, and those countries whose cooperation would help. Here we must contend not only with reality but emotion. As the sole superpower, America inevitably incurs resentment. "Sharing a bathtub with an elephant," as one wag put it, "is an uncomfortable proposition, even when the elephant tries to be friendly."
America on tap. It is ironic that the same America that has brought peace and liberty to so many millions around the world is seen by some now as a greater threat than Saddam Hussein. We saved Western Europe during the Cold War and dealt with the crises in the Balkans and Kosovo in the 1990s. Today, we are expected to protect Taiwan from China, to mediate between India and Pakistan, to resolve the crisis with North Korea, and even to settle a dispute between Morocco and Spain about a small island in the Mediterranean, home to several dozen goats. Europeans want us to be on tap but not on top.
A good part of the European moaning is really a psychological crutch to draw attention away from weaknesses at home-what the French writer Jean-François Revel called "weapons of mass distraction." Europeans cannot muster the political will to develop their own military, so they recoil from any use of force. We cannot be constrained by these apologies for impotence when we face dangers that metastasize almost daily. Iraq has failed to disarm as required by the United Nations resolutions. Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, is a notably cautious man. Consider his remarks last week to the U.N. Security Council on Saddam Hussein's performance under the U.N. inspections regime: "Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance-not even today-of the disarmament which was demanded of it."
Translation: Iraq is in "material breach" of the U.N. resolution requiring "a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration" of weapons programs. Iraq has, quite simply, failed to account for the tons of chemical precursors and thousands of liters of biological warfare agents, chemical munitions, and other material the U.N. declared were missing when it first cataloged in 1991 Saddam's arsenal of horrors. The Iraqis say they destroyed these stocks, but when asked for proof, the best they could come up with is that a mob broke into the building where the records were stored, rifled the file cabinets, and set documents on fire. This is rich. The dog ate Saddam's homework.
Waiting much longer, then, is a fool's game. It would only strengthen Saddam's hand and weaken ours. We simply cannot stand by and run the risk of letting these weapons fall into the hands of terrorists or the rogue states ready to supply them. We live in an era when terrorists wreak death and disaster on civilian populations with no word of warning. "The United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather," President Bush's National Security Strategy document says. Most Americans agree. The militant Islamic fundamentalists so dedicated to killing us must be confronted and defeated.
If America's partners in the West are in for a dime and not for a dollar,
so be it. This does not mean Washington will act as the Lone Ranger.
We are, as the president said, a peaceful people. We want to work with
our friends, and it behooves them to work with us. They, too, after all,
are vulnerable. But they must understand the depth of the wound
inflicted on us on 9/11 and respect our utter determination to defend our
freedom and our civilization. The president's candor and courage leave
not a shadow of doubt as to where we have planted our banner.
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