Published on Saturday, August 17, 2002 in The Free Lance-Star (Fredricksburg, VA)
War Fever Rages Inversely with Plain Logic
by Rick Mercier
CHECK OUT THIS feedback that made it back to me after last week's column on Iraq--it's a great example of the "moral clarity" you get from some red-meat conservatives:
"Everytime [sic] I see the column by that wimp Mercier and read even a couple of lines, I want to puke. I would bet anything he never had a day's military experience in his life, has never fired a gun in his life and is, in general, the kind of guy in the old days whose ass we would regularly kick for being such a little nerd."
Well, mister, I hope today's column hasn't already made you run off to the bathroom to worship the porcelain god. Because I'll have you know that my steroid treatments are starting to yield results. Why, I'm big as a house, and I'm prepared to meet you out by the "Lance the Newsboy" statue in front of The Free Lance-Star building to settle this little matter between us like men.
Of course, I'm kidding. And I wouldn't have bothered even mentioning this fool's comments except that this person works for a member of Congress and used to be a political reporter. Which forces us once again to ponder the question: How much should we trust the judgment of politicians and some of the reporters who cover them?
But even though that question may cause you to reach a harrowing conclusion, do not despair, sane readers. Because despite the craziness, and even amid this torrent of nonsense concerning the war Baby Bush wants to wage to avenge Papa Bush (and to secure Iraq's vast oil reserves), there still are a few reasonable voices.
And one of them comes from the conservative National Review. (Sound the alarm! The right's famous moral clarity is under attack from within!) Yes, the world was turned upside down earlier this week when some Birkenstock-wearing peacenik by the name of Doug Bandow, writing a guest commentary for National Review Online, said "lots of arguments have been offered on behalf of striking Baghdad that are not reasons at all."
Hear, hear. Bandow, who actually is no peacenik, but rather a former special assistant to President Reagan, said taking out Saddam Hussein in the name of non-proliferation puts us on a slippery slope, since we'd eventually have to go to war against Iran, North Korea, and China, too. (Oh, you überpatriots, how that must make your pulses quicken. Why, we could fight wars from now till the end of time--which might sneak up on us pretty quickly if we follow Bush's permanent-war strategy to its logical end.)
Bandow also points out that you don't attack someone because they flout the United Nations. He's certainly right on this one. We'd have leveled a number of countries--including Israel--a long time ago if we were really interested in enforcing the will of the U.N. Heck, for that matter, we'd be contemplating a pre-emptive strike against most American conservatives, too.
And while we're putting to rest lame justifications for this Iraq war, a big thanks to everyone--including, most recently, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice--who has reminded us that Hussein is a mur-derous thug. But here's a news flash for you luminaries: We don't go to war with a tyrant simply because he brutalizes his own people. When Hussein gassed the Kurds, not only did the Reagan-Bush administration not go to war against him, it retained him as a valuable ally.
Another argument to file in the category of "sheer hysteria" is the one that involves citing the litany of terrorist attacks against the United States. This does nothing to build a case against the Butcher of Baghdad, because he didn't have a hand in any of the attacks, and, in several of the most notable cases, the people who did were religious psychos who hate him almost as much as they hate us.
The armchair warriors have also failed to explain why Hussein would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States. Ordinarily, when presenting a case against someone, you do well to suggest a motive. But no one has offered a credible motive for Hussein attacking the United States.
While it's clear the Iraqi leader is no friend of civilized humanity, it also seems clear he's not a suicidal nut, which is what he'd have to be to stage a Sept. 11-type assault on America--whether directly or through some surrogate terrorists. The only plausible scenario in which Hussein might use weapons of mass destruction against the United States would be if he were under attack by U.S. forces (or, possibly, if such an attack appeared imminent).
The weak arguments in favor of invading Iraq have obscured an embarrassing truth that the attack-Iraq crowd doesn't want to confront--namely, that if we were serious about targeting the countries that support the terrorists who really threaten us, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would be at the top of our list. But they're not. Instead, they're both key allies in the "war on terror."
So, you may ask, how do we deal responsibly with Hussein? The University of Notre Dame's George Lopez and David Cortright, scholars at the school's institute for international peace studies, offer a slate of proposals in an excellent article for the forthcoming issue of Arms Control Today. They believe "Hussein poses a significant threat to regional and international security," but urge viable options other than war "for realizing the priority national interest of preventing Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction."
However, you'll have to read about all that for yourself. I won't go into it, because I don't want to sound too nerdy.
Besides, I'm off to catch a flight to Mexico. Gotta replenish my steroids stash in case any more of these tough-guy conservatives wanna tangle with me.
RICK MERCIER is Viewpoints editor and a columnist for The Free Lance-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2002 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.