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Jewish World Review March 5, 2003 / 1 Adar II, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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The high price of waiting

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Those millions who marched to protest a war on Iraq will no doubt find further justification in the honeyed words of Saddam Hussein in his interview with Dan Rather. Saddam spoke directly to those who are disturbed by how the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into war against Iraq, driven by an American president who seems to them a bully.

The Iraqi despot cleverly assumed the mantle of the reasonable man, polite to the extent of chastising his interpreter for referring to "Bush" instead of "Mr. Bush" and swearing fealty to the United Nations, even though "it was drafted by Christian nations." But the interview was also instructive in demonstrating the tactical cunning that has allowed Iraq to get away with 11 years of mendacity and evasion, with Saddam fudging and obfuscating on one point after another. Those not blinded by anti-American bias might also have noted how Saddam, given the opportunity to repudiate the crimes of 9/11, simply couldn't bring himself to do so.

In Europe, much seems to have been suddenly forgotten--even forgiven. The moral credentials of those marchers were undermined, to my mind, by the lack of any evidence of outrage at the unspeakable crimes of the Iraqi regime. Where were the chants for Iraq to shut down its programs of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction?

Where were the protests at the torture and terror inflicted on hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Why did no marchers take to the streets when Saddam Hussein dropped chemical weapons on Iranians and on his own people, the Kurds, causing over a half million dead? How could these same people support the use of armed force against Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia--without a U.N. resolution--but object to a war against a far crueler dictator in Iraq? And not just any dictator but one who possesses weapons of mass death and has a track record of using them. Those who wish to avoid war--and at the United Nations, their number may now include a majority of the Security Council--simply fail to understand that the only way to avoid war is for Baghdad to cooperate with the U.N. inspectors and relinquish its arsenal of death.

Death wish. Nobody likes war. But the question is, what are the alternatives? "Containment," the current "in" word, means exactly what it has meant for more than a decade--that the thugocracy in Baghdad will be allowed to keep on dodging U.N. resolutions while amassing an even larger, more lethal store of weapons. No American president can afford to ignore Saddam's belief that with nuclear weapons he would dominate the Middle East. The Iraqi dissembler, of course, denies the ambition, but his regime's every assurance has been undermined by evidence of a robust nuclear-weapons program documented by U.N. inspectors.

Just think. Today, an enormous American military force continues to build all around his borders, yet Saddam plays cat and mouse with the inspectors, acting as if minor concessions on process and agreements "in principle" will do. Any rational leader would be opening every corner of his country to prove he has no proscribed weapons. Yet even under the threat of imminent war, Saddam lies and cheats. What does that tell you about the lengths to which he is willing to go to keep his beloved weapons?

In effect, we are preparing for a war to prevent Saddam Hussein from becoming the same kind of threat that North Korea presents today and that the Cuban missile crisis presented in 1962. It is the evil of two lessers, for worse than a war today is the possibility of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein tomorrow or a regime that could distribute chemical and biological weapons to terrorist networks. That, in sum, is why the time to stop Saddam is now. Winston Churchill said, in an earlier time, against an earlier threat, "There is no merit in putting off a war for a year if, when it comes, it is a far worse war or one much harder to win."

There is, of course, another factor animating many who oppose war. It is fear or, more precisely, fear that an attack on Iraq will further inflame militant Islamic radicals and inspire more terrorism against America. But consider. The al Qaeda terrorists didn't need the pretext of an Iraqi war to attack us. In the many months since that terrible September morning, we have learned that--regardless of what we do in Iraq--the terrorists are bent on coming after us to kill as many more innocents as they can.

Fear of war is not unreasonable. But the question is not simply one of cost. The question, properly put, is whether the cost of action is greater than that of inaction. And the answer, sadly, is clear: Inaction will not cause the danger from Saddam's regime to diminish but to grow.

Which is why it is time to implement U.N. Resolution 1441, authorizing military action against Iraq. As a leading German paper, Die Welt, put it, such action "would not be might over right but right over might."

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up


02/14/03: Needed: fast fiscal action
02/03/03: Clear and compelling proof
01/24/03: Midnight for Baghdad
01/14/03: They should have said...
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12/19/02: Put-up or shut-up time
12/09/02: Sheep, wolves, and reality
11/21/02: Curing the uncommon cold
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11/05/02: Force vs. fanaticism
10/30/02: Land of the sinking sun
10/22/02: No more cat and mouse
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08/20/02: No time for equivocation
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07/30/02: Getting off the dime
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06/05/02: The next new thing
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04/15/02: Israel's endgame will impact the free world
03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
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10/18/00: Arafat torches peace
10/03/00: A great step backward
09/08/00: The Perfect Storm
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08/15/00: Voting for grown-ups
08/01/00: Arafat's lack of nerve
07/17/00: Can there be a new peace between old enemies? Or will new enemies regress to an old state of war?
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10/05/99: India at center stage
09/21/99: Along with good cops, we need a better probation system
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08/31/99: The military should spend more on forces and less on facilities
08/05/99: Squandering the surplus
07/06/99: More than ever, America's unique promise is a reality
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06/15/99: America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities
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05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman