Back in-say- 1937, we Americans would have said about Adolf Hitler what many opposed to war against Iraq- both here in America, as well as abroad- today say about Saddam Hussein: that Hitler was not an immediate threat to his neighbors, that- in Hitler's case (quite unlike Saddam: see "Kuwait, August 1990")- he hadn't attacked anybody outside his own country... the military occupation of the Rhineland in 1936 in violation of the Treaty of Versailles which Germany had signed (however much it was forced to do so in order to not be fully occupied by the Allies as Germany would be after Hitler's war)?-- a local problem, something for Europe to perhaps worry a bit about- but, even then- or so it at the time appeared, not all that much. Yeah, Hitler might have been a brutal dictator but it was a German problem in particular and, at worst, a European (hence, not an American) problem in general; after all, even the giving of the Sudetenland to Hitler the following Fall (not all that long after the contrived Anschluss with Austria the previous Spring [so much for being no threat to his neighbors!]) meant- or so said British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (a European)- "Peace in our time": but what a short-lived peacetime that turned out to be! Then again, even before Hitler launched World War II with his September 1939 invasion of Poland, what could those in the Civilized World of that now long-bygone era really have said to well comfort the victims of Kristallnacht the previous Fall?
It is likewise now, only the roles between America and the leading Nations of Europe- with the exception of the U.K.- are singularly reversed: for example, the French Foreign Minister, in the UN Security Council earlier on the very day I am typing this (Friday 7 March) talked about maintaining the peace in the Middle East through increased and yet a more lengthy period of UN inspections, though he does note that Saddam might be complying- however ineffectively- with such inspections because of the some 250,000 American and British troops in the region, poised to strike. What seems to be forgotten here is that you can't keep these forces onboard ship in the Persian Gulf for an indefinite time period, though I suppose the logical extension of the French argument would be that if and when they themselves might yet perceive Iraq to be enough of a threat to the world at large so as to no longer threaten a veto of a second UN resolution, they might even consider actually joining us in any war against Iraq... of course, in such a case, they would pretty much have to, because- if one is fighting battles in order to get across the deserts of Iraq in June, July or August- the numbers of troops that might have been able to do the same job in March, April or May would probably prove inadequate because of the more adverse climatological conditions come High Summer!
Likewise, when will Iraq actually be a threat good enough for, say, the French Government (and, since France is- after all- a democracy, its People)? When a biological or chemical weapon is set off in the main business district of one of America's major cities by an Iraq-supplied terrorist?! Of course, then what does one tell the victims and their families in the aftermath of just such a hypothetical attack-- "Sorry... I guess we... uh... maybe shoulda done something earlier"??!! Rather cold comfort, I would think.
The problem is, of course, that the French representative might actually be correct: Iraq might very well be no threat to the world at large... yet, at the same time, he might still be a threat to the United States and its citizens, both at home and around the world, via his ability to disseminate (if this has not already been done) weapons of mass destruction to anti-American terrorists on the theory that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". I was thinking about this recently when I received an e-mail from Democrats.com, an organization of unrepentant Bush-bashers, offering a $1000 reward to anyone who could produce what that organization referred to as "a credible document" proving that Iraq had biological or chemical weapons; I thought: would a soldier, should war be launched against Iraq, thereby be able to collect the reward were he/she to be injured through the use of such weapons by Iraq? My own answer is "no", because such an injury- while credible- would not at all have produced a "document" (though a soldier's corpse might be considered just such a "document"!). I would think that an American injured in his/her home or office as the result of an attack launched by an Iraq-supplied terrorist would suffer much the same legal/semantic difficulty.
I want to here also briefly respond to the more than a few e-mails I have received (but re: which the authors of same did not want to have their comments printed in this site's 'vox Populi' section) in which I was blasted for my notion- as stated in my 27 February Commentary 'TURNING PRO'- of thinking "weird" in how we deal with Al-Qa'eda (one e-mailer was particularly incensed that I would even dare suggest that Al-Qae'da could not be defeated on the battlefield and, in defense of his position, cited recent reports that the capture of the de facto "commanding general" of Al-Qa'eda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in Pakistan was sure to soon lead us to a final battle with Osama bin Laden and those in his retinue):
One of my biggest fears, as my country- the United States of America- first embarked on the military mission in Afghanistan that marked the beginning of the War on International Terrorism back on Sunday 7 October 2001 related to what the American attitude would be once we had either captured or- more than likely- killed Osama bin Laden, Al-Qa'eda's de facto leader and surely its banker (under the auspices of President Bush's earlier statement- in the immediate wake of the September 11th- that Osama was wanted by the United States "Dead or Alive"). When many of us thought that perhaps Osama might, indeed, have bought that proverbial "farm" in the caves of Tora Bora a few months thereafter, I personally thought it the best possible outcome: it was quite likely- or so it seemed at the time- that he was dead and, if so, such a result- nevertheless- might not be apparent in cold, hard fact for quite some time to come; the reason I thought this is because of those very fears of mine that have now resurfaced with the quite likely possibility that Osama is very much alive and we are trying all we can to get him, again, dead or alive.
What I principally fear is an overwhelming sense of relief (with concomitant laying down of collective guard), one that might even foster quite a number of celebrations that would make what New Orleans annually deals with (as it did this past week) re: Mardi Gras pale in comparison, here in the United States. You will then have to pardon me if, should that event someday come, I don't join in the celebration of the apprehension or death of Osama bin Laden because I have no real interest in raising even the smallest glass to something that is merely soon thereafter only going to prove, at best, a pyrrhic victory. Can anyone seriously doubt that Osama has, long ago, provided for his own succession (as one might well expect of someone at the head of an organization dedicated to, among so many other things, the re-establishment of the Islamic Khalifate)? Does anybody honestly think that the capture or execution of Osama bin Laden is the absolute end of Al-Qa'eda and all that it stands for?-- that those already planning- and, under Al-Qa'eda auspices, paid for carrying out- terrorist plots against Americans in particular and/or Westerners in general are going to suddenly "stand down" because their leader happens to have been captured or killed?? Surely, such naivete is not all that good a protective cover! Therefore, I will not be quaffing even a few with the naive.
That is why I argued, back on 27 February, that we have to think "weird" in our attempts to defeat Al-Qa'eda. Again, what Al-Qa'eda represents is not a Nation-State that can be forced to surrender when its capital is militarily occupied (as was the case with Hitler's Germany); instead, it is a State of Mind (and, as I said, one that attacked America as a State of Mind- as opposed to the United States as a Nation-State). These people are fanatics: they hate us here in the West. And do they so hate Americans in particular among Westerners because we attack- or, for that matter, don't attack- Iraq? or because Israel is the United States' strongest ally in the Middle East?? Hardly! They hate us and attack us because, to take some obvious examples, women in our society demand to be able to choose- on their own- their boyfriends and husbands, can choose to work outside the home, have legal recourse against domestic abuse and date rape, refuse to cover themselves even on the hottest days of Summer, some of our women actually have the audacity- the gall, the chutzpah- to think they might even have a right to abort a pregnancy! THAT is what they hate us for! Iraq and Israel are, for them, only so much "cover material"- so many lame excuses that help in the propagandizing and recruitment of new Al-Qa'eda operatives (and, in addition, excuses that also help Al-Qa'eda blind us to their real motives by feeding on our own bias and prejudices when it comes to fundamentalist Islam [as well as the efficacy of democratic aspirations within at least a handful of Arab societies]).
And, again, I ask- in this case, those who question what I had written in that particular Commentary- what are you going to then tell the victims or their families in the wake of any terrorist attacks carried out by the remnants of Al-Qa'eda once any joy from the possible future capture or death of Osama bin Laden has long since begun to recede into memory?