Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 2002/ 11 Tishrei, 5763

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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A clear call to arms,
and men follow | Just a little display of leadership, and soon "the wicked flee when no man pursueth."

First France, then Spain and Italy, began to retreat, crablike, from their hiding places under the bed, and, no doubt surprising themselves with their boldness and bravery, allow as how maybe they might applaud, at least with one hand clapping, when George W. and the Americans dispatch Saddam Hussein under the auspices of, but with no help from, the United Nations.

Then key states of Arabia, where a boot in the butt is the most persuasive of all arguments, tip-toed into line behind the president after he offered the United Nations one last chance to "show some backbone." Even the princes of Saudi Arabia - persuaded not by the prospect of doing the right thing but by the threat of being left alone at the mercy of their subjects - said they would bow to the inevitable and allow the use of the Prince Sultan Air Base to launch U.S. and British air strikes. A little backbone as well for the government of Qatar, sort of: It had not been asked by Washington to allow use of its territory to stage an assault on the Iraqi satrapy but it wants to "carefully study such a request" when it comes.

Colin Powell, who may or may not have been a player in an elaborately staged play, at last seems be losing his inexhaustible patience with the frightened old women of Europe. He's helping the U.N. delegates with the words to fresh resolutions reminding Saddam that he has so far ignored 16 previous resolutions to straighten up and flee right, and he better pay attention to the new ones. Or else the U.N. will adopt more resolutions.

It's clear that everything has changed over the past 96 hours. George W. and his men are, if not on a roll, at last on a fast trot.

Tony Blair is about to reveal the first definitive evidence that Saddam is indeed connected to al Qaeda, having trained several of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants in the terrorist's arts. A draft version of the dossier, inspected by the London Daily Telegraph, details how two of the lieutenants, Abu Zubair and Rafid Fatah, ran al Qaeda training camps in Iraq. Zubair's family still enjoys "privileges" in Baghdad of the sort denied to just plain folks.

The dossier will further detail how Saddam has reconstructed biological and chemical weapons factories in suburbs east and west of the capital, together with evidence of "worrying recent activity" photographed over the most recent several weeks by American satellite cameras. Mr. Blair's intelligence officials say this will persuade and quiet the skeptics howling ever louder within his Labor Party. The prime minister is believed to relish the coming showdown with certain members of his Cabinet, and will ask each of the secretaries to say whether he or she supports the coming campaign in Iraq, and if not why not.

The flurry of dyspeptic diplomacy has disguised the fact that the war on Saddam has already begun, with U.S. fighter-bombers expanding raids on air-defense batteries and other military targets around Baghdad, weakening the nation's defense grid in advance of the approaching assault. Senior officials of the administration have concluded that the U.S. and Britain and whoever can screw up enough courage to go along will win the war quickly. Enhanced American technology - the "smart weapons" of the Gulf war having become "genius weapons" - will swiftly overwhelm Saddam's depleted, demoralized and deteriorating army. The White House is confident that a "significant number" of Saddam's senior officers will refuse to fight or even assist invading troops.

No one wants to say the obvious, that Arab armies have not fought well in a pig's eye, that assassins rarely make good soldiers and rhetoric loses every round with a well-aimed rifle. Israel makes quick work of Arab coalitions, and Saddam's soldiers surrendered in '91 to whomever they could find to take surrender. Some even tried to hand over their arms to unwilling newspaper correspondents.

President Bush's call to arms, and not his ritual pause to allow the United Nations to get aboard if anyone there wants to get aboard, is what has changed everything. He understands that if a president threatens to go to war he must go to war. Osama bin Laden trained the Somali militiamen who wrote the real-life script for "Black Hawk Down," and he used the humiliation of America, a humiliation wrought by Bill Clinton and his faithless men, to recruit the assassins of September 11. "We learned [from "Black Hawk Down"] the weakness, frailty and cowardice of U.S. troops," Bin Laden gloated.

It was weakness, frailty and cowardice, not of the brave men in uniform, but the weakness, frailty and cowardice of men in Washington. George W. Bush, derided by his critics as a slow learner, turns out to be a careful study. You could ask Saddam Hussein.

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

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