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Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2002 / 9 Adar, 5762

Robert W. Tracinski

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The war on terrorism and the war on reality -- HERE is the painful dilemma America faces: If we don't attack Iraq, we could risk a nuclear attack on New York or Washington by Iraqi-backed terrorists. But if we do attack Iraq, we could risk "alienating" our Arab and European allies and earning the disapproval of the "world community."

Who would regard this as a choice worth agonizing over? Why, the American press, of course.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was the first to report that President Bush had made a definite decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. But the way the Inquirer presented that news is revealing.

The top of the story reports that "Bush has concluded that Hussein and his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs are such a threat to U.S. security that the Iraqi dictator must be removed." This, believe it or not, is the story's only mention of the threat from Iraq. There is no description of Hussein's weapons programs and no discussion of the consequences if those programs were to succeed: the apocalyptic threat to Israel, the threat to American bases and allies abroad, and the threat that a nuclear weapon could be smuggled into the United States and used in a terrorist attack that would far exceed the destruction of Sept. 11.

In short, there is no discussion of the facts that justify Bush's decision.

Instead, the report dredges up every conceivable problem with Bush's policy, every reason that makes an attack on Iraq seem impractical. Such a war, we are told, "would not be as swift or virtually free of American casualties as Afghanistan." There is no reference, however, to our swift and virtually casualty-free victory over Iraq in the Gulf War. We are also warned of the danger to our allies, such as Jordan, which imports most of its oil from Iraq; and Israel, which could suffer if Iraq "lashes out" with Scud missile attacks. But there is no mention of the enormous benefit to these countries of having a new, non-hostile regime in Iraq.

These military issues, however, are sandwiched between the warnings the reporters seem to regard as most worthy of mention. Near the top of the report, we are told that "Russia and most of America's European allies have expressed alarm about the administration's escalating rhetoric on Iraq." The article ends by fretting that we could lose Arab allies whose populations are "already angered by nearly 17 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence." (Which "violence" is that? The violence unleashed by Palestinian suicide bombers?)

The authors of the Inquirer story are not alone in their approach. Their not-so-subtle bias reflects the outlook and priorities of most critics of the administration's policy. The objective threat posed by Iraq and the "axis of evil" is overshadowed, in their minds, by a more important consideration: the feelings and opinions of Europe, the Arabs and the "world community." To these critics, the possibility that tens of thousands of Americans could die in a new terrorist attack seems less real or urgent than the possibility that other nations might disapprove of us.

This distorted outlook was the essence of the Clinton administration approach that made us so vulnerable to terrorism in the first place. Clinton loved to settle almost everything through negotiation, compromise and peace processes. To a president who thought that everything "depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," there was no danger so real, no fact so absolute, that it could not be talked out of existence.

This war on reality continues in another new diplomatic initiative. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres just unveiled a new peace proposal he negotiated with the speaker of the Palestinian parliament. The plan would begin with the immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood -- then leave "details," including the location of that state's borders, to be figured out later. Meanwhile, terrorists were launching Qassam 2 rockets from Palestinian territory in random attacks on Israeli civilians.

The basic principle all of these proposals seek to evade is not a political or even a moral principle. It is the basic philosophic principle that facts are absolute. They can't be wished away, talked away or ignored in the hope that an unpleasant reality won't exist if we don't name it.

This means that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist regimes are a real threat -- and the contrary view of "world opinion" has no power to change that fact.

President Bush seems to grasp this reality. His critics are doing their best to evade it.

Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

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