The Iraqi Dog
Saddam Hussein makes
a great punching bag. With the exception
of the Palestinians, a handful of Arab
rogue states, and the Chinese and Russians,
everyone enjoys seeing the United States
give him a pummeling. The latest beating,
however, was accompanied with such
nonsensical justifications, and seems
to have accomplished so little, that
it is difficult for even the most ardent
foes of Saddam to feel comforted.
First, how do we understand
the timing of the attack? Attempt to
divert attention from impeachment? "Ridiculous,"
said a parade of administration officials.
The timing was dictated by the issuing
of the UN report documenting Iraq's interference
with inspections and the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan.
Excuse me while I try
to digest this baloney.
The United States has
been well aware of the fact that Saddam
had no intention of cooperating with
the inspectors and was not cooperating.
They did not need to wait for a formal
report. In fact, this issue drove us
to the brink of an attack in November,
that was called off at the last moment
because of the bizarre idea that Saddam
should get one more chance — after eight
years of refusals — to comply with UN
What about Ramadan?
Well, who exactly was supposed to be
bothered by an attack during Ramadan?
The administration never said. The truth
is that war is not prohibited by Islam
during Ramadan. Iran and Iraq fought
through about ten of them. Moreover,
the administration specifically said
that it was prepared to continue operations
into Ramadan if necessary, so apparently
it was only a problem to start a war
during the observance, not prosecute
Couldn't we have waited
until after Ramadan? No, administration
officials said, that would have taken
away the element of surprise and given
Saddam another month to build up his
nonconventional weapons capability. Saddam
has survived in power a lot longer than
any American leader, yet we continue
to think he is stupid. Does the Pentagon
really believe he'd be surprised by an
attack? As Henry Kissinger once said,
you're not paranoid when people are really
out to get you. Saddam probably expects
incoming missiles daily.
And what is it he could
have done in the next month to build
up his capabilities that he hasn't been
doing for eight years? This brings us
to the bigger issue of the purpose of
the attack. If Saddam has such a dangerous
arsenal of weapons, what exactly have
we accomplished in the last eight years
of inspections, attacks and sanctions?
How is he continuing to build up his
weapons under our noses? And, if he has
been able to do this over such a long
period, what makes anyone at the Pentagon
think they could destroy in three nights
of bombing what the coalition forces
couldn't destroy in nearly two months
of air and ground assaults?
Unfortunately, it is
not only the commander-in-chief whose
credibility is at issue. During the Gulf
War, Pentagon officials kept showing
us all those gee-whiz videos of what
our weapons could do. Only later we discovered
our forces were not nearly as effective
as we'd been told. In the latest attacks,
we learned early on the bombings were
not destroying the targets they were
aiming for. In fact, the Pentagon even
showed photos designed to convince us
of the effectiveness of their attacks,
which did the opposite, as was the case
with a photo showing a group of barracks
that were not completely destroyed and
others that were missed altogether.
If the President had
come out and just said we're trying to
kill Saddam, the raids would have at
least made some sense, though the timing
would still be suspect. Maybe these attacks
did somehow weaken Saddam and it will
take some weeks to see the results. For
now, however, it looks more like another
victory in the sense that Saddam is still
there and, if the impeachment process
runs its course (even though it appears
unlikely), he will have outlasted yet
another President who tried to defeat
The irony is that the
Wag the Dog scenario worked in reverse.
People were so distracted by the impeachment
process that no one was willing to scrutinize
the justification for the attack or how
it reflected the ongoing failure of American
policy toward Iraq.