Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington's War Drama Moves toward Final Act

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington's War Drama Moves toward Final Act

Article excerpt


So now we observe the next scenes in the strange drama that seems to speed toward its last act, and once again the promise does not coincide with reality. This week was supposed to have marked a turning point, as Tony Blair proffered his government's indictment of Saddam Hussain and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction-but once again, there was no turning point.

The long-awaited dossier on Baghdad from Britain's Labor Party did confirm the threat of the Iraqi dictator and his adoration of heinous weaponry (as if we still needed to be convinced of that). It asserted that he has up to 20 al-Hussein missiles capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads as far as Cyprus and Israel and that, in some cases, warheads could be dispatched within 45 minutes (which is obviously terrifying).

London presented, in its words, an "overwhelming case" against Saddam; but that is not what the disturbing discussion here about going to war with Saddam-tomorrow-is all about.

Everybody is against Saddam Hussain. The question for serious people is what to do-rationally and effectively-to replace him without setting the entire Middle East aflame, and perhaps America as well.

As the Financial Times, one of the most fair-minded of newspapers, editorialized immediately after the Blair report: "The 50-page document offers no compelling evidence that immediate action is needed. Nor does it present a strong argument against a policy of enhanced containment. Its strongest impact might be in reinforcing the case for a United Nations resolution that requires aggressive inspections....The assessment of Iraq's nuclear capability is more in line with the recent independent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) than with the alarmist rhetoric that has periodically emerged from London and Washington."

The arguments over going to war with Iraq are broken down into two groups. The first is found in the administration, with its increasing and almost hysterical persistence that war must be waged immediately and at almost any cost. The second is the prudent group of diplomats and analysts who insist that the situation is so serious that it must be viewed cautiously, both in terms of Saddam's intentions and our capacities.

Between the two is suspended one question: Is Saddam Hussain such an imminent menace to America and the West that we must act immediately?

If he is, argues the administration, then it must be because he has or will soon have and intends to use-nuclear weapons.

Yet, in every serious analysis, from President Bush's speech at the U.N. two weeks ago, to the British prime minister's dossier this week, to the report several weeks ago by the IISS in London, there is a clear omission of any warning that nuclear weapons are in his hands or are about to become an IMMEDIATE danger.

So, one has to wonder, where did all of the eerie "Go to Iraqi" mania gripping this city really start?

The Guardian in London recently put in place one piece of the puzzle with several long articles by reporter Brian Whitaker, in which he revealed a paper published (publicly) in 1996 by an Israeli think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, titled 'A Clear Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." When it was issued, it was intended as a political blueprint for the then-incoming right-wing government of Binyamin Netanyahu. To many readers' amazement, it has turned out to be exactly the blueprint for the Iraq policy of the Bush administration! …

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