Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 15, 1998 / 17 Tevet, 5758
Let's get it over with
Such reluctance, so little choice -- there's no point in waiting any longer to take on Saddam
WASHINGTON -- A FEW WEEKS AGO, I asked a White House official what the United States was going to do to avoid being humiliated on a regular basis by Saddam Hussein.
The official insisted that the United States had not been humiliated in the past and would not be in the future.
But Saddam managed to kick our weapons inspectors out of his country back in November, I said. They were there to find weapons of mass destruction, and when they were getting close to the really sensitive stuff, Saddam slammed the door in their faces.
Yes, the official said, but the United States did not back down.
Depends on what you mean by "back down," I said. We left. And all the other United Nations teams left with us in order to show a united front. The point is that Saddam should not be able to pick and choose his inspectors. That would be like a paroled convict picking who his parole officer is. And, of course, when all the teams left, that helped convince Saddam that we might start bombing him.
What Saddam hoped for, the official said, was to get relief from the sanctions we and our allies placed on him. He didn't get that relief.
True, I said. But some of our allies are itching to do business with Saddam and get some of the billions he could make by selling his oil when the sanctions are lifted. So some of our allies keep mentioning how the sanctions are causing the people of Iraq to suffer.
That is the most difficult point, the official said. The children of Iraq have been doing very poorly. And some critics of the United States have insisted that the true weapon of "mass destruction" is the starvation that the sanctions are causing.
Which is Saddam's fault, I said. He is willing to let babies starve in order to feed his army.
The official agreed. It was Saddam's fault.
So what are we going to do? I asked.
We are going to do what we have been doing, he said. Enforce the sanctions. Search out the weapons.
Until the next humiliation, I said.
And that started the argument all over again.
All this took place before Saddam said this week that he once again didn't like our weapons inspectors. The team he especially doesn't like is the one headed by a former U.S. Marine, Scott Ritter. Saddam likes to find out in advance where our inspectors are going so he can either move what he is hiding or refuse to let the inspectors in.
But Ritter has been popping up in unexpected places, demanding to search out the weapons and the weapons research.
This will not be tolerated, Saddam now says. And Ritter will not be allowed to conduct further inspections.
But does that mean all the teams will be pulled out to show Saddam that we might back up our demands with force? No, in a reversal of policy, the United States now says the other teams will continue, while the Ritter team is stymied.
It also means something else: The United States is unlikely to attack Iraq as long as United Nations inspectors are still there and subject to being taken hostage. So even though the United States has two aircraft carrier groups, 350 planes and nearly 29,000 troops in the area, we are unlikely to use them.
At the White House briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked: "I think a lot of Americans might want to know why we don't just bomb the heck out this guy. Can you explain to the American people why that's not an option, given that diplomacy is going nowhere?"
White House spokesman Mike McCurry replied that "putting (the) armed forces of the United States gravely at risk is the most awesome responsibility a commander in chief has."
Which is true. But Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction put the whole world at risk.
And eventually, we are either going to have to put up or shut up when dealing with this guy. So maybe we should just get it over with.
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll