Magazine article The Nation

Back off, Jack

Magazine article The Nation

Back off, Jack

Article excerpt

There's an election in America; run for the bomb shelters! No one in the world is safe when the presidency is at stake. George Bush's threats to pulverize Saddam Hussein and surrounding populations over the "standoff" at the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry were obviously occasioned by the imperatives of the campaign rather than any menace to the new world order. The response from opposition Democrats, particularly the chicken-hawkish Al Gore, had a similar origin.

Clinton--the "good cop" of his team--emphasizes the importance of including the United Nations in moves against Iraq, but his is a spurious internationalism. Ever since Harry Truman used the U.N. to cover America's entrance into the Korean War, Presidents have tried to put a multilateral face on self-interested military adventures. When world organizations have pushed policies that contradict Washington's wishes, for example on Israel or Nicaragua, the Americans go it alone. Of late the U.N. has been unusually successful in arranging settlements in trouble spots from Namibia to Phnom Penh. But the impetus for those efforts came from a genuine consensus of U.N. members, not a bought and bribed coalition imposed by Bush and his Secretary of State.

When Saddam--or was it Bush?--"backed down" over inspection of the building in Baghdad, the danger of a presidential sneak attack diminished but did not disappear. Bush is doing so poorly in the polls that one can imagine the assassination of Saddam, or perhaps capture a la Noriega, as the only move that might win him the election. A life for the presidency: Isn't that a trade-off with just cause? …

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