Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2002/ 26 Adar I, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Nothing left to say in this argument | George W. Bush has persuaded all the Europeans he can persuade. Everybody who's going ashore has gone ashore. The clock is running, and the next tick in his ear may be a tock he doesn't want to hear.

A new poll, taken for Fox News, confirms the growing conventional wisdom that both friend and critic agree that "it's time to get it over with in Iraq and stop the uncertainty."

A solid majority - 56 percent - thinks so, and a considerable portion of the 34 percent of those who oppose Mr. Bush on going to war against Saddam Hussein nevertheless say "it's time to get it over with."

Presidents can't pay attention to polls on issues as grave as going to war, of course, any more than presidents count the crowds marching down Pennsylvania Avenue or through Trafalgar Square. But this is the statistical evidence, if he needs it, that the crucial moment for action is at hand, and by definition will soon pass.

The president gave Tony Blair a deserved hand in his eloquent remarks at the American Enterprise Institute with his promise to "re-energize" the essentially meaningless (and endless) "peace process" in the Middle East. European pressure for a "settlement of the Palestinian issue" is often merely the expression of the fashionable euphemism for anti-Semitism.

Even in Europe it's not yet polite to repeat in public the privately bruited slanders of Jews. But Mr. Blair, the staunch American ally, needs cover. So the president was right to promise a "road map" to a Palestinian state (without details), even to repeat boilerplate rhetoric about how Israel "will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state" and stop the building of settlements "as progress is made toward peace." He set no deadlines for any of this, but everyone conversant with the facts fully expects a just and lasting settlement in this millennium.

Staunch he is, but Tony Blair must coddle if not cuddle the old women of his Labor Party, and in recent days he has insisted that George W. talk a lot about "peace" in hopes of placating those who imagine that wishing will make it so. More than 120 of the old women voted this week for a motion in the House of Commons that the case for war is "unproven." Four hundred and more voted with him, but these included Tories, and such a break with the prime minister is almost unheard of in the parliamentary system.

Does anyone still think that Saddam Hussein - who once promised an Iraqi wife the return of her husband and the next day sent him home, cut into filets as if they were steaks from Omaha, in a black body bag - is not the evil monster of the Arabian nights? The president had to talk about the evil Saddam, too, dutifully denouncing his "torture chambers and poison labs."

The president had to set the nation-builders here and abroad to cheers and clapping. He assured us that bouncing Saddam, either into the street or into the graveyard (or both), would inspire democracy throughout the Middle East. "It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world, or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim, is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different, yet the human heart desires the same good things everywhere on earth."

The president sounded as if he actually believes that, against a thousand years and more of evidence to the contrary, and perhaps he does. But nothing is likely to persuade those determined not to be persuaded, nor will his assurance that American troops will stay in a vanquished Iraq only as long as necessary - "and not a day more." America made this commitment before, he said, and "we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments." Nice sentiment, but neither Japan nor Germany struggled even in the wreckage of a world war under the baggage that oppresses the Islamic world.

The only argument this president needs to persuade Americans is that sacking Saddam is necessary for the security of America and the West, of civilization as we know it. All those other goals are nice, worthy even, but irrelevant to the job immediately at hand.

A "senior diplomat" from a European country on the United Nations Security Council told The Washington Post earlier this week that the Bush administration told his country that "you are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not, because that decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final." There's only one thing left for the commander in chief to say. If he intends to say it he had better say it soon: "You may fire when ready, Gridley."

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

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