Jewish World Review July 18, 2002/ 9 Menachem-Av, 5762
a myth in Arabia
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Straws are waving in the breeze, and they all point to war with Iraq. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon.
Even our dear friends in Europe, who rarely approve of anything we do unless it serves European purposes, are resigned to the prospect.
A group of 65 Iraqi military officers, defectors over the past months, have just concluded a three-day meeting in London to talk about how to depose Saddam Hussein when war begets the opportunity.
Tawfik al-Yasseri, once a brigadier in Saddam's mighty army - the same army that cut and ran at first opportunity in '91, surrendering to reporters, photographers and even Red Cross doughnut girls when its soldiers couldn't find anyone else to surrender to - read a statement promising to put Saddam and his loyal officers, if any, on trial.
The brigadier and his colleagues say that much of the Iraqi military is prepared to turn on Saddam at the first sound of the guns. Nobody knows how much credence to put into this, but the State Department quickly called the London meeting "a useful tool," which is how diplomats talk when they prefer to deal with their own useful fools. If they don't like it in Foggy Bottom, it's probably OK.
Whether the Saudis, or Saddam, the State Department or the Europeans like it or not, all signs point to something soon, perhaps in the first few weeks of 2003. When the New York Times, on July 5, detailed what it said was the order of battle, describing how "tens of thousands" of soldiers and Marines would attack from bases in Turkey and Qatar, that hundreds of warplanes would be unleashed from bases in nine nations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, that CIA operatives would descend on laboratories and depots to destroy Saddam's dream of mass destruction, some people, probably including the editors of the New York Times, expected a firestorm of angry protest. Others, not including the editors of the New York Times, thought this published detail was little short of treason, or at least of inconvenience.
Nothing happened. There was no firestorm, no bonfire, no grass fire. Not even a fire in an editor's wastebasket. This was in part because the story, despite the self-evident detail, was not exactly new. Rowan Scarborough had reported in this newspaper the general outlines of what to expect a full fortnight earlier, describing how Saddam would be tempted to unleash his chemical and biological warheads early on if he expected to fight back at all.
What is new is the sullen sufferance, if not exactly bubbling enthusiasm, of America's allies - and "allies" - in both Europe and the Middle East. They have seen that moving finger write; they still don't like what it writ, but they understand they cannot erase it.
"Few allies are needed," John Keegan, the British military historian and analyst, writes in London's Daily Telegraph. "In 1990-91, America enjoyed the wholehearted co-operation of Saudi Arabia this time the co-operation of Saudi Arabia is more doubtful [Saudi Arabia] seems to have decided that Saddam is no longer an immediate threat, while the popularity of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world makes it more anxious not to be seen to be behaving in an anti-Islamic way.
"America is not in a mood to care. It calculates that the measures it has taken to assure alternative sources of oil supply, particularly from the former Soviet Union, not only make it less dependent on Saudi oil but actually makes the Saudis more dependent on the American market.
"All [America] needs to prosecute the second Iraq war are proximate bases - and those it believes it can find in Turkey, the smaller Gulf states and the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics."
In this scenario, the soldiers and Marines would stage from Turkey, the Navy would deploy from the Gulf states and the warplanes would strike from airfields in Central Asia, which are within operational range of Iraqi targets.
What nobody wants to say is that Arabs make lousy soldiers. Arabia gave the world the word "assassin," a killer by deceit and stealth, but war heroes have been alien characters in the region's history over the past thousand years. (Lawrence of Arabia was an Englishman, after all.) Saddam Hussein promised us the "mother of all battles" but in the event produced something like the daughter-in-law of an obscure cat fight. His soldiers quit, his air force flew to safety in Iran and in the end he only did a little of what he does best, the murder of innocents, mostly women and children, with a few Scuds lobbed into Israel.
Now his soldiers, such as remain, are sulky and sluggish,
his stocks of ammunition are depleted, his vaunted "secret
weapons" are still on the drawing board and his officers are in
London, or wish they were, trying to arrange a rope for his
neck. We're not exactly talking prime time here.
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