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As I See It

Hal Sundin

Originally a stage play, later made into a movie, “The Madness of King George” chronicled the progressive dementia of King George III of England, which totally incapacitated him for the last decade of his reign.

But this column is not about the madness of that King George; rather, it is about the insane obsession of our King George, the current President of the United States, with invading Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, the megalomaniac president of that country

George W. Bush seems to be so obsessed with his mission of getting rid of Saddam Hussein that he appears to be blind to the potential consequences of a military incursion into Iraq.

In the first place we would essentially have to go it alone, which means that this country would bear almost the entire cost of the operation, and also the brunt of the casualties.

Among the non-Islamic countries, only Great Britain has indicated any support for invading Iraq – the rest are almost unanimously opposed.

We also have to recognize the likely response of the Islamic world, which, although not particularly fond of Saddam, may be forced by fundamentalist sentiments in their own countries to side with him. From the standpoint of terrorism, our attack on Iraq could be like beating a hornet’s nest with a stick.

Second, what are the chances of success? If we count on an uprising of anti-Saddam factions in Iraq which does not materialize, we could end up with another fiasco like the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt in Cuba.

At the present time it does not appear that there are any large armed opposition groups in Iraq, as there were in Afghanistan. If we underestimate the strength and tenacity of military and popular support for Saddam in Iraq, we could very easily get bogged down in another Vietnam.

Also if Saddam is cornered and realizes that his cause is lost, he would most likely lash out at our military forces with any and all of his weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t hesitate to set the oil fields in Kuwait on fire when he had lost that war, nor to use poison gases on thousands of Kurds in his own country.

Third, the logistics of assembling, delivering, and maintaining a major military operation in a nearly landlocked country totally surrounded by Islamic countries may well prove insurmountable.

In Vietnam we had uncontested access from the sea to the entire coastline of the country, and that still wasn’t enough.

Our military leaders, who are well aware of the difficulty, uncertainty and enormous cost in money and lives, do not share the president’s enthusiasm for such a venture. The only ones who really do are Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney’s warhawk stance really scares me. He makes me think of Dr. Strangelove from the movie of the same name, wildly waving his hat and yelling “Yahoo” as he rode an atom bomb on its way to its target.

And finally, if we were successful in eliminating Saddam in spite of all the difficulties, uncertainties and the enormous cost in lives and financial resources (both of which could serve our country in far better ways), what would we have accomplished?

Would we have only created a quagmire in Iraq in which a leader even more extreme and foolhardy than Saddam could arise to further inflame a country with hatred for the United States?

So what are we to do about this potential menace? Throughout the 1950s and 1960s we were confronted with an even greater threat from the Soviet Union, which went so far as to set up atomic missile bases in Cuba. The threat of retaliation in kind was sufficient to cause the Soviet Union to pull back from the brink.

President Bush preaches the message that the Cold War is over and we need new strategies. But we are engaged in a cold war with Iraq, so why won’t the mutual deterrence strategy which worked so well with a major world power not work with a lesser power?

All we have to do is let Saddam know that if he attacks the United States with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, we will retaliate in kind, tenfold or hundredfold, and he will no longer have a country.

Saddam knows we have the power to do just that, and should be told that we also have the will. There is no question that he is power hungry, but he is not fool enough to get into a one-sided self-destruction contest with Uncle Sam.

It is time for cooler heads to prevail, and for the present administration to come up with a more creative strategy than going to war with a country which very well may have developed weapons of mass destruction (just as Russia did) but is unlikely to use them if that would mean its annihilation.


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