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Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2003 / 28 Shevat, 5763

Seth Gitell

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Gen. Schwarzkopf is against going to war with Iraq. Since he messed things up so bad the first time around, why is anyone listening to him now? | Take your Noam Chomskys, Edward Saids, and Gore Vidals. There's a new voice in the anti-war crowd. This one comes with all the spit-shine and swagger of a former soldier. General Norman Schwarzkopf.

Schwarzkopf, who has become an increasingly vocal and high-profile, anti-war voice is given special creedence among the peace-crowd. Schwarzkopf, after all, is the hard-nosed general who defeated Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War.

Schwarzkopf is the leading exemplar of what I would call the "warrior-dove". (Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and General Wesley Clark also fit into this category.) You can find Schwarzkopf's comments alongside more traditional peacenik voices.

But just because Schwarzkopf was a successful general on an operational level, doesn't mean we have to give his geopolitical feelings creedence now. It was Schwarzkopf, in fact, who ended the Gulf War early in 1991 -- along with Powell. And Schwarzkopf whom we can blame for allowing Saddam Hussein to reconstitute his armed forces after the war ended. Who knows why Schwarzkopf didn't take out Hussein -- he should have -- the fact remains that he could have let the war go on just one day more so that he could have destroyed the bulk of Hussein's Republican Guards.

With the perspective of 12 years, Schwarzkopf's rationale doesn't sound that persuasive now -- though it does sound familiar. "Had we gone on to Baghdad, I don't believe the French would have gone and I'm quite sure that the Arab coalition would have gone, the coalition would have been ruptured," Schwarzkopf told PBS. Never mind the fact that Hussein would not have been in a position to attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction if Schwarzkopf had gone on to Baghdad.

Schwarzkopf looks even worse in the light of history in another regard. In the waning days of the Gulf War, the first President George Bush called upon the people of Iraq to rise up against Hussein. They did and Iraqi patriots refer to that uprising as the "Intifadeh." For a time, it looked like the people of Iraq might do the work of the world for us.

But, again, Schwarzkopf got in the way. Schwarzkopf permitted Iraq -- as part of the agreement that ended the Gulf War -- to use helicopters to fly around the country. To this day, this resulted in one of the most immoral turn of events in recent US history. Schwarzkopf and his forces sat back and allowed the Republican Guards to massacre courageous Iraqis who did exactly what Bush had told them to do. Schwarzkopf voices little regret on this: "I don't think I was snookered at all . . . when they went ahead and used the helicopters to suppress the rebellions around Basra, I think they used the agreement as a ploy to to that." And asked point-blank on what he thought of the uprising, Schwarzkopf expresses no sense of doubt on his decision at all. "I have said all along . . . we need to be very careful about how much support we give the Shi'ites."

Schwarzkopf may have helped craft and execute the plan that routed Hussein back in 1991. But his opinions on matters of diplomacy or even political philosophy, bring to mind Senator Joseph Biden's infamous put down to UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in 1998: these current concerns are above Schwarzkopf's pay grade. We ought to keep that in mind in evaluating whose opinions value in the lead-up to the next Iraq conflict.

JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

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01/16/03: The Sharpton test
01/13/03: Lieberman is in a pickle --- and it's becoming increasingly more sour
12/26/02: Where does the war on terror go from here?
12/23/02: Why democracy never came to Iraq after the last Gulf War
12/20/02: Vermont governor Howard Dean hopes to bridge the gulf between New England and the Western states, and bypass the socially conservative South. Should John Kerry be worried?
12/18/02: No Gore 2004: Follow the Money
12/06/02: Gore, like Dicken's Jacob Marley, Dead as a Door-nail
10/24/02: War with Iraq may not happen, after all
10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell