Jewish World Review August 22, 2002 / 14 Elul, 5761

Edward I. Koch

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Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him? | The debate on whether or not to go to war with Iraq is heating up.

The New York Times does not believe it is in our national interest to engage in this war. It has found an ally in Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to George Bush, Sr. during the Gulf War of 1990. As in 1990 and as in the war in Afghanistan that began last year, Scowcroft is urging coalition building and patience.

Scowcroft summed up the opposition to waging war on Saddam Hussein in a recent Wall Street Journal article. He stated: "The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment (the opposition of our allies in Europe and the Mideast to a war against Iraq ) would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence."

Is Scowcroft serious? Right now we are not getting "enthusiastic international cooperation" from many countries. Saudi Arabia continues to keep us in the dark with respect to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers. It provides state support to Wahabism, a fundamentalist sect of Islam that is virulently anti-American and anti-Western. Wahabism teaches conversion of the infidel - Christians and Jews - to Islam throughout the world, by force if necessary. We still lack Yemen's full cooperation in solving the bombing of the USS Cole. In Pakistan, the supporters of Osama bin Laden are legion and probably helped him escape from Afghanistan.

In a recent meeting of the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia, a resolution was passed stating that an attack on Iraq would be deemed an attack on all of the members of that League. Why are we losing the support of former Arab allies who fought Iraq in 1990? I think they are afraid of the anti-American sentiment among their own people that they fear will boil over into outright revolt if these Arab regimes are seen as supporting the U.S. war effort. They are notoriously corrupt and repressive and have failed to spread their oil wealth to their citizens.

Saddam Hussein, in contrast, is extremely popular in the so-called "Arab street." He imagines himself, and is viewed by many, as a 21st Century Saladin, the Arab ruler who defeated the Christian crusaders in Jerusalem in 1187.

Why should we now launch a war against Iraq? Few people argue with the widely-held opinion that Hussein already possesses chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. He used chemicals against his own people -- the Kurds-- who sided with Iran in the ten-year Iran-Iraq war. He gassed and killed at least 5,000 Kurds in Halabja. Iraq also used poison gas against the Iranian army. Those who don't believe Hussein has nuclear bomb capability agree that he will have it in two to ten years. Remember, France built him a nuclear bomb facility which, fortunately for the world, the Israelis destroyed in 1981.

This past week, Russia announced a 40-billion-dollar trade agreement with Iraq. Is it beyond a reasonable possibility that Russia will either build a nuclear bomb facility for Hussein, as the U.S. believes Russia is currently doing for Iran, or that the laxness of security in Russia will permit him to buy nuclear bomb-making technology or the bomb itself on the black market?

We now know that bin Laden's al-Queda possesses at least chemical attack capabilities. CNN has just aired training videos used by al-Queda demonstrating the use of poison gas against dogs. In Japan several years ago, Japanese terrorists successfully used poison gas in the Tokyo subway system killing 12 passengers and injuring 5,300 others.

Do we wait until Hussein, supporter of terrorist groups across the world, perfects his delivery systems for chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and gives these systems to terrorist organizations? Should we accord him the same leeway given to Adolph Hitler who was permitted by the allies to occupy the Rhineland in l937 as a prelude to his later invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland and then the entire European continent including the Soviet Union?

When it comes to military action against Hussein, the question for the U.S. should not be "is he an imminent danger to the world," but rather "is he a danger to the world in the foreseeable future?" Common sense says that he is.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch