You know me, I can't resist a vigorous debate. Thus, my reply below. But first, I hope you and Luida really enjoy your adventure to Ireland & the UK. It should be fun despite the turmoil. Yes, we did business with Saddam in the late 70's & early 80's since he appeared to be less of a threat than the Islamic Republic of Iran; heck, we supported the Taliban & Usama himself when they were fighting the Soviets. Likewise, Armand Hammer & Occidental Petroleum did business with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. Germany and France did far more business w/ Iraq than the US especially in the post-1991 period. I suspect we would still be doing business with Saddam if he had not turned into such a rogue in the mid-80's. To me, these arguments remain a distraction to the fundamental issue. Economic sanctions have rarely worked, and Iraq is yet one more failure.
Using the dollar or euro does have advantage in terms of trade, however competition will ultimately equalize any differences. First, I doubt that an interim military administration of Iraq would take on such a political/economic issue + it would be foolish to tweak such a touchstone item. Second, if our business discipline is strong, I don't think it matters what currency is used; the cost of money issues will always be factored into the buy decision, and good business will go where the total cost of goods produced provides the greatest value. Third, this is a business decision best left to an Iraqi administration. Thus, if I was the commander, I would hold the status quo and let the eventual Iraqi administration make such a decision, as they should.
This "blood for oil" argument is such a bloody smoke screen . . . pardon my choice of words. This argument has nothing to do w/ reality and everything to do w/ political ideology of the advocates. Iraqi oil to the USA could be stopped tomorrow and would hardly cause a ripple. Yes, we use oil and we are always looking for new sources. The USA could make up the difference from anyone of a number of sources w/o missing a step. That task would not be so easy for Japan or Germany.
Chirac showed his true colors this week when he publicly chastised the new & candidate nations of the EU [all of whom sided w/ the US/UK] for "missing the opportunity to be quiet." In essence, he told them to keep their mouths shut [and that only France and Germany have the stature to speak on this question]. This is not about solving the abysmal situation in Iraq; for Chirac, this is about power and influence. He desperately wants to confront the USA on purely political grounds, rather than finding the diplomatic solution to the Iraqi situation. [I refuse to call it a crisis as some journalists have a penchant to do.] This thing had a shot at a non-military resolution after the Security Council vote on 1441. If the nations of the world had locked arms and faced Saddam with a clear ultimatum: "we can do this the easy way or the hard way . . . your choice," we could have been successful. The opportunity vanished with Chirac's move to garner political support. Chirac has done more to help Saddam than any other national leader, period. The only greater thing he could do would be to deploy French forces to defend Iraq, and I would not put that past him. Whatever respect I had for Chirac vanished this week w/ his performance at the EU summit.
Curious . . . where was Saddam on the top 10 dictators list? Kim Jung Il must be high on the list. And, my favorite, the grand ayatollah of the Islamic Republic of Iran would be no.2 behind Saddam. What sets Saddam apart from Kim and the others is, he has used these weapons more than once in the last 2 decades. If I were GWB, Saddam would be no.1 on the list of bad men to be eliminated. Kim would be 5 or 6 in my opinion. If you want a candidate for no.3, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe . . . he is literally starving his people to death.
A quagmire in the Middle East. Yes, indeed, this is a very serious concern. If we go in with anything other than overwhelming force and/or we are not prepared to keep sufficient forces to maintain the peace and allow a democratic administration to grow, it will become a quagmire and this effort will fail. The reformation of Japan took 10+ yrs; the reformation of Germany took 20+ yrs. I think we are looking at those durations here. If we are not prepared to go the distance, then we should give up now, and save the blood for when they attack ConUS. The reality is, this is not an unsolvable puzzle; it just takes strength & resolute persistence.
Interesting question re: Italian press. It is hard for me to say with precision. However, taking a view of Italy, the people I work with, and the European press in general, I would say their is general and broad support in Italy largely because I think the Italians feel the heat of the Middle East more than the Germans. The ultra-left press, i.e., communists, are predictably 'anti-war.' While the demonstrations in Roma were fairly large, it was predominately the communists and hard-core socialists who rallied the troops as they always do on issues they feel further their causes; and, right now, there causes are anything opposite to Berlusconi. I think your assessment of Reagan vis-a-vis GWB is spot on. GWB does indeed scare the Europeans. I can remember cartoons in European newspapers in the early 80's that had Reagan pushing "the button" just cuz he wanted to see what would happen, or he thought it would be fun to watch the fireworks, and such. GWB was wrong when he took those thumb-your-nose unilateral steps in his 1st year, like the Kyoto Protocol. There is no doubt in my mind it was a bad agreement, but he went about withdrawal in the wrong way. GWB had better do everything humanly possible to support Tony Blair. The PM is w/o question the most articulate & eloquent orator for this intervention. The world would do well to listen to what he is saying.
There is a good answer, in my humble opinion . . . let's get this nasty business over with and empty the trash as quickly as possible, so we can move on to a safer world. If Saddam forces us to pull the trigger, the only acceptable outcomes for him are death by his hand or a protracted death via a military tribunal – no exile, no life in prison – those options vanish if we have to spill blood. If we do this correctly, the other dictators will get the message . . . they're next if they step out of line. The last time the UN tried this kind of intervention was in Korea, and it failed. As long as Chirac & Shroeder want their time in the spot light, any UN action will be destined to failure as well. I'm not a big fan of unilateral action by any stretch of the imagination. However, if that is the position we are forced into by Chirac & Shroeder, then so be it. The threat of Saddam is far greater than the public knows, and his elimination is worth the risk to our stature. This may be a bit cynical but . . . people respect a winner and especially a strong one. People, including Islamic Arabs, will come around when they see for themselves that the world is safer, that they are safer, that their lives are better for this action. And, who knows, with a strong action, we might actually be able to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. We have been so close too many times to miss the opportunity that is sure to come. Saddam has been a big [Iran is the biggest] supporter of Hamas et al. With him gone, we stand a chance to cut off the money & weapons that support Hamas et al. I have hope and I see a brighter day beyond this darkness.
"That's just my opinion, but I could be wrong."
Date: 2003/02/18 Tue PM 02:13:53 EST
To: Cap Parlier
Subject: update no.64
I sent your update (without your name) to a friend in LA. She is involved in the entertainment industry and was born in England...very liberal type. Her husband is a musician. song writer and also works for SONY is even more liberal. Below is her response and my response to her.
Love your thoughtful response. Unusal for a liberal. I am sure you are right about the 80s. In the 40s...Germany, Italy and Japan were our enemies. In the 50s - 90s Russia was our enemy...circumstances do change. Europe also hated Reagan until he came to Berlin and said "Mr G. , tear or take down this wall. He was called a cowboy early in his term. He later became a hero.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2003 12:17:30 EST
Subject: Re: update no.64
Interesting and a very valid point of view. No argument that Hussein is evil incarnate and is one of many out there, unfortunately. If he has the weapons that we believe he does, the nuclear ones are manufactured with items that USA sold to Iraq back in the '80's. Cheney was involved in some of these sales to Iraq through the company he worked for. Not only is Iraq one of the major oil fields of the world, but they are also causing USA a loss of $$$ by choosing to opt for the currency of the Euro over the currency of the dollar. I'm not going to pretend to understand the total finance picture, but my reading suggests that there is a choice of currency for oil, either the dollar, which has been most prevalent and beneficial to us, or the Euro. When Saddam switched to the Euro as a sign of defiance against the USA, it was a surprise to some as it was believed that Iraq would lose money also in the deal, but strength has been gaining for the Euro, other countries have opted for it too and the governing body (NATO?) is considering making the Euro the official currency for oil, which would be bad for USA. It is projected that if Bush can oust Saddam, they will install a temporary military leader while a new regime is set up and as a first order of business they will change the currency of oil for Iraq to the dollar. I know, I know, so blah blah blah. He said, she said. There's no argument that Saddam is a horror, but without shrugging off his crimes, he is no worse than a dozen others (just look in Parade magazine from this Sunday's paper -- gives a top 10 of worlds dictators) it's just hard not to look at all this other info and ask, is there something more stimulating this military action? The Middle East is a weird place that the west will never fully understand and get along with. This can become the Hatfields and the McCoys. We may just begin a never ending tit for tat between the west and the east if we jump in shooting. I am glad for us to be seen as militarily strong and able, but not as a world power bully. I would be curious to hear what the papers in Italy say about it all. My freinds in Europe are afraid of Bush. They think he's crazy, a bully cowboy with no diplomatic finesse. I do think about the point your friend makes, what if this is the next Hitler, Stalin, whoever. Maybe it's the best thing if we just eliminate him. But then again, I think I am very affected by the media (which I try never to watch on TV because it's all baloney) and the media is trying to make us all feel that this is the only way.
There is no good answer ....
Family Update from Italy
10.2.03 - 16.2.03
Dominating this week in the news over here was the build-up to last Friday's Security Council meeting and Saturday's anti-war demonstrations worldwide. Needless to say, I cannot resist one more opportunity to exercise my freedom of speech.
I have been to many countries on this Earth from Japan to Russia to England and now Italy. In all my journeys, one common fact marks all human existence including all religions, all nationalities, all races . . . all humanity. We want peace. We want our children to thrive and enjoy a better life than we have enjoyed. Reality is just that simple.
It is easy to demonstrate for peace. Everyone wants peace. No one is against peace. It's like demonstrating against crime. If we do, does that mean there will be no crime, and thus we need no police? Doing what must be done to rid the world of an Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein or Usama bin Ladin for the peace-loving, freedom-loving peoples is far harder to do. Where were the demonstrators when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia? Where were the demonstrators when Saddam Hussein killed tens of thousands of innocent Kurds -- men, women and children -- indiscriminately with Sarin gas? Where were the demonstrators when Usama bin Ladin bombed the embassy in Nairobi or attacked the World Trade Towers & Pentagon? It is easy to demonstrate for peace. Fortunately for all of us, the Liberty Tree is watered with the blood of those willing to defend the freedoms we cherish and enjoy.
Oddly, the anti-war protesters wish to ignore the central, underlying issue and use such fallacious sloganisms like "no blood for oil," "drop Bush not bombs," and the one that is the most antagonistic, "Americans are the real terrorists." I could resort to profanity at this juncture, but I shall resist the temptation. The protesters accuse the USA of being motivated by hegemonic desires and some obscure intention to homogenize the world in the US mold. Did these protesters miss the full captured video of Al-Qaeda chemists experimenting with Sarin gas on a calm, innocent, beautiful, little dog to perfect their skills? Have any of these protesters seen the grotesque death throes produced by chemical agents? Did these protesters forget the innocent lives claimed by an obscene anthrax release in late 2001? I have and I have not forgotten. Unfortunately, I have seen far too much of the destruction done by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Let's see . . . when was the last time the USA or the UK, or the USSR for that matter, used nuclear, chemical or biological weapons? For the USSR, never that I know. For the UK, 1918. For the USA, 1945. [Yes, we dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan to end the war and literally saved millions -- yes millions -- of Allied AND Japanese lives. I make no apologies for Harry Truman's agonizing decision to use those weapons. God bless him for his strength. If my father had not been severely wounded during the Battle of Leyte, he would have been among those ordered to invade the Japanese home islands. His younger brother survived the Huertgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge. And his youngest brother was destined to join them.] So, when was the last time Saddam Hussein used these weapons? 1988!! Yes, 1988 on his own people. And perhaps, if the facts ever become public, I suspect in 2001.
George W. Bush is not the most eloquent president we have had, but he does understand the sacrifices necessary to defeat the forces of evil and the enemies of freedom. Tony Blair gave a speech on Saturday morning to the Labour Party Conference. I suspect not many heard his speech in toto. He delivered a focused, direct argument for the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein if necessary. Two sentences best sum his words. "Removing Saddam is act of humanity. It is allowing him to remain in power that is inhumane." The oddity in this is the Labour Party leader advocating war today to avoid a far more costly price to be paid later. In Great Britain during the 1930's, it was the Conservative Party in power and believing appeasement would preserve the peace, and the Labour leader, Clement Attlee, growing to the arguments and evidence offered by the annoying Conservative Party backbencher, Winston Churchill. In the USA, the Democrats were in power, but it was the Republican Party voicing the mantra of the isolationists and anti-war America-Firsters that caused Franklin Roosevelt to baulk when the Italians invaded Ethiopian in 1935, the Japanese invaded China in 1937, and Chamberlain & Daladier carved up Czechoslovakia in a desperate attempt to satisfy Hitler's voracious & insatiable hunger. War is a terrible, ugly, nasty business which is why it must always be the choice of last resort. The essence of the current debate is time. Very few are defending Saddam. The protesters and Saddam want to make the USA the issue. The truth is, this nasty business should have been completed 12 years ago.
I repeat . . . this is NOT about inspectors or inspections. Does anyone really believe that the inspectors are going to find the anthrax or VX or botulinum or Ricin or mustard gas? Inspectors will find only what Saddam wants them to find. The Iraqis were required to account for these terrible agents they developed, produced, stockpiled and used. They have not done so! I suspect they have moved these unaccounted for agents to Syria or Yemen or worse yet given some of them to Al-Qaeda. The absence of WMDs on Iraqi soil is quite likely, and the UNMOVIC inspectors have no authority to enter Syria even if they found direct evidence of transportation of forbidden weapons there. The Iraqis had to just provide clear & verifiable documentation and evidence that they destroyed these weapons as required by UN resolutions dating back to 1991. They have produced nothing of the sort. Why are the protesters not demanding that Saddam produce that evidence or suffer the consequences? Just a few small drops of VX among the tight ranks of the anti-war protesters would provided an all-too-graphic demonstration of the stuff Saddam possesses and is capable of making more. Would that be good way to convince them who the real evil one is?
There is an old maxim in business . . . don't just present problems, offer solutions. Where are their solutions? Vilifying the USA & UK for trying to do the right thing does nothing to solve the real problem. It is easy to be against war; no one likes it or wants it . . . especially the warriors who must fight it. The correct, necessary action is far harder to take on. Despite his coarse image and ineloquence, I, for one, am enormously thankful we have a president and prime minister who understand the threat and have the courage to carry out what must be done before Saddam and Usama increase the price to be paid for freedom and peace.
No one wants to see another human being emaciated from hunger and especially a child too weak to suckle at his mother's breast or a mother too dehydrated to lactate for her child. We can say these are universal truths. There are few among us cold hearted enough to say I don't care.
We also witness an endless string of these calamities instigating rock stars to sing for the needy, and generous citizens donating millions of their precious resources for the benefit of others. The wealthier nations carve out portions of their tax revenues to aid those less fortunate. We see pseudo-statistics like " The wealth of the top 225 richest people in the world equals the annual income of the 2.5 BILLION poorest " -- meant subtly to shame us into giving more.
James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, has quite articulately pointed out that providing funds to developing nations in an atmosphere of corruption accomplishes little beyond wasting precious resources. He undoubtedly knows quite well the truth behind his observation. Redistribution of wealth is an easy and convenient remedy, and yet it will only be a mere Band-Aid on a gapping wound. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor maybe a popular notion in fairy-tales, but it will never solve the underlying issues.
With the interest of furthering the debate, let us take a longer, broader view of this issue.
Before there were nations, early humans hunted and gathered for sustenance, not particularly different from other animals, just with mounting sophistication and cunning. In those times, humans were driven by the same forces that affect wild animals to this date. Life and death resulted from individual and collective skill and providence . . . as well as the cycles of nature. Mice populations expand and contract based on rains enabling grains to sprout. In a drought, when the region has little to offer, the weaker individuals within the population die and litter sizes decrease. The cycle of nature has been the same for many millennia, long before humans began to band together, cultivate the land, raise their livestock, and form communities and nations. There is a natural balance to populations of plant and animal life.
Human culture evolved along with intellect in what we call civilization. Humans banded together for self-protection, pooled their resources for the collective good, traded their excess capacity for other goods, made machines to make their lives more efficient, and formed nations with imaginary lines that have no bearing on nature. By civilization, the natural processes were altered. Through the application of modern medicine and efforts to find diplomatic solutions to territorial conflicts rather than resorting to force of arms, life expectancies in general have been extended.
Paul Erhlich wrote a prophesy book in the 1960s -- The Population Bomb -- in which he predicted human population growth and the cataclysm that would result when the population exceeds the capacity of the plant to support life. While the specifics of his premonition may be debatable, the logic is sound and nearly irrefutable.
Civilization has eliminated any serious natural predator other than mankind itself. There is little to check the exponential growth of the human population. The tension of the expanding population, less virgin inhabitable land and the constraints of national boundaries brings the specter of famine -- the land cannot support the humans attempting to live there. In Paul Erhlich's model, famine, disease and war will become more frequent and virulent as the unchecked population tension increases.
There have been many attempts at population control, most notably the People's Republic of China. The PRC method is arguably inhumane and totalitarian. However, they at least acknowledged the problem and made a valiant attempt to remedy the situation before it became a crisis. Nonetheless, it is not likely that other countries would attempt such an effort even if they were willing.
As cold as it may seem, in general, hunger is a fact of life and will become more so as the population tension mounts. This statement must not be construed as applicable to specific events like earthquakes and such. However, oddly, it appears that procreation is the most rampant where the land is least capable of sustaining life locally -- Africa specifically. Redistribution of wealth or relocation of populations are only ephemeral Band-Aids; they can never be the solution. Agricultural technology can help, at least temporarily. However, there is notable resistance to the use of such technology. In fact, a repressive regime in Africa has rejected humanitarian grain shipments from the USA because they might contain genetically engineered food. [Question: in the worst possible case, is it better to die from famine today or 'possibly' some genetically induced disease in a few or many years?] Thus, population control or inter-planetary colonization appear to be the only choices, and the former is not likely given contributory realities.
Poverty is a more circumspect issue and directly related to hunger. Hunger is readily and scientifically definable, e.g., calories per kilogram body weight. Poverty is not so easily quantified. We tend to use metrics like "annual income of $400" or "live on $0.55 cents per day." These terms have relevance to us largely from a sympathetic perspective. The claim is much harder to make that these metrics are meaningful in a focused argument. While hunger is an absolute, poverty is a relative term. Poverty is portrayed in grim terms of human suffering often including hunger or malnutrition. Poverty is now a popular rationale for extremists to inflict injury upon others, like a justifiable rage. Poverty is also commonly used as a moralistic reasoning for redistribution of wealth -- tax the rich and create state welfare programs to eliminate poverty -- sounds a lot like take from the rich and give to the poor.
To use an extreme example, an Amazon basin native tribe lives a bountiful, rewarding and happy life with no money, no trade or any other accoutrements of civilization; $0.55 per day has no meaning or relevance for them. Our mistake and perhaps arrogance is bringing civilization to native peoples in the name of civilization and "making their lives better." In reality, we only bring them into the sphere of poverty, disease and welfare. A small community that was in balance with nature was virtually forced out of balance never to return again. There are other local societies across the globe that function quite well without the trappings of "western" civilization. Thus, our common and popular metrics do not apply to the world's population. We must not apply our standards of living on others who do not wish or seek the creature comforts so prevalent to western societies.
Add on top of these arguments, the autocratic rule of a dictator, political limitations upon the freedom of choice and the corruption associated with unchecked power various forms of economic oppression are manifest. These created constraints add a depressing pall over the debilitating effects of abject poverty. Then along comes a megalomaniac seeking only the extension and preservation of his power, and the suffering of bona fide poverty becomes more tragic.
My conclusion will not be particularly popular, and all I can ask is careful contemplative consideration from the reader.
The human existence must be placed back into some form of balance. If people choose to live in regions not able to support themselves with water and food, then the process of natural selection should be allowed to prevail. The continued over-population of inadequate land cannot be allowed to justify hobbling prosperous people who remain largely in balance. Words such as these do not solve the complex problems of poverty. However, they might enable a more reasonable debate. And, the reality is, those who should think and perhaps heed the meaning of these words are the least likely to do so.
Thus, if redistribution of wealth and population control will not work in the practical sense for a long-term solution, our only choice is find more sustainable land -- human inhabitation of the oceans might provide a little more time. However, the only real choice is inter-planetary and inter-stellar expansion. Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy offers a reasonable and thoughtful colonization scenario for Mars and adjacent planetary bodies. The sooner we get on with the inevitable, the less traumatic the societal pressures will be. Until then, let us bring some rationale debate to this sensitive topic and reduce the emotional rhetoric that clouds the potential for a meaningful, long duration solution.
"That's just my opinion but I could be wrong."
At this historic moment, the debate rages over the situation in Iraq. Many countries in Europe as well as voices in Islamic regions castigate American, the United States in general and especially President Bush for what they believe is his "cowboy" attitude and unilateralism. The mood of many media and public comments liken the Americans to global bullies. The phrase "American Empire" and "America's intent to dominate the world" in their rhetoric and broad condemnation of the United States. To add insult to injury, in the recent elections in Germany, Gerhard Schroeder resolutely stated that Germany would not join in any American action in Iraq (regardless of the facts, it might implicitly added), and his Justice Minister compared President Bush's actions with those of Adolf Hitler . . . creating war to deflect attention from domestic conditions. Saddam Hussein and his lackeys claim innocence, proclaim to the world they have no weapons of mass destruction, and try to present themselves as modest, human victims of US hegemony just like their brother Islamic states.
To respond succinctly and concisely, these notions are outrageous, bizarre, and blatantly ignore historic facts. However, I cannot leave this discussion at the simple state.
First, I ask the citizens of the World:
1. What countries has the United States conquered, occupied and annexed in the last 100 years? And, for what reason, how long and did we annex those lands?
2. Who gave the precious lives of so many in several generations to defeat fascism, tyranny, and oppression, and then turned right around to spend trillions of taxpayers' funds on rebuilding those nations shattered by war?
3. What neighbors has the United States attack?
4. What and how many Americans have been attacked by the United States with lethal chemical or biological weapons?
The list can go on for quite a distance should the need arise. However, questions such as these (and implicit comparison with Iraq) would trivialize the generous, commitment and fortitude of the United States. Thus, I shall avoid it and leave that to the inquiring citizen.
Those accusatory voices among us say, how dare the United States threaten Iraq regarding weapons of mass destruction when the United States is the only country to use two atomic weapons against another country. Again, this implies a rationale that diminishes the sacrifice of the United States to make the world a safer place, and blatantly ignores the historic facts. While the destruction wrought by those two devices was enormous, their usage cannot, should not and will not be taken out of context. And, so the record is straight [and the subject of another essay], I will offer no excuses or any apologies for the judicious use of those atomic weapons. Incalculable Japanese and Allied lives that were saved as a result of those weapons. I choose to think that any freedom loving person placed in Harry Truman's shoes in those times faced with a grim reality would have somberly given the same order. With that said, let us take a closer look at this situation with Iraq.
There are publicly available documents that record the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Saddam Hussein over more than two decades of his ruthless, dictatorial domination of Iraq. In 1980, while brutally suppressing Shia Muslim unrest in the southern provinces of Iraq, Saddam Hussein attacked and invaded the Islamic Republic of Iran sparking a bloody war that last several years. As his armed forces were occupied with the debilitating war, ethnic Kurds in the north began to rail against their oppression. The populations of several villages were savagely eradicated with Sarin gas, killing indiscriminately men, women and children along with domestic animals, livestock and any other living thing. These events are the only time since 1918 that any country has used chemical warfare -- and, he did on Iraqis. He has systematically sent his goons around the world to assassinate exiled dissidents and opposition leaders, and others who got too close to his criminal activities like Jonathan Moyle, a good friend of mine. In 1990, he carried out a surprise, unprovoked attack and total invasion of another neighbor, Kuwait, and carried out more atrocities against innocent Kuwaiti citizens unlucky enough to get caught in the cities. During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition efforts to liberate Kuwait, he fired multiple SCUD missiles -- not a military targets -- at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel in a desperate attempt to provoke other neighbors and relieve pressure on him. Any one or all of those missiles could have contained chemical or biological material, or a nuclear device. We all witnessed his senseless, spiteful destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells creating a gargantuan environment catastrophe. He built uranium separation and purification facilities that have one purpose only -- nuclear weaponry. Several key defectors have documented his biological warfare development programs. While his people suffer under the burdens of the United Nations sanctions, he builds many more lavish palaces -- edifices to his megalomania and egocentricity. As President Bush so precisely stated in his United Nations speech of 12.September, Saddam Hussein has defied 16 United Nations resolutions intended to disarm him and prevent any further work on weapons of mass destruction. These are facts, publicly documented facts, not political rhetoric. These are not Tony Blair's and George W. Bush's imaginings; most of these facts occurred before either man rose to lead their countries.
Now, as the noose tightens around his neck, Saddam moans and groans, and tries to convince the world he is the innocent victim of the big, bad, bully Americans. His minions wail about how unfair the United States and United Kingdom are being toward the innocent Iraqi people. He claims all of the accusations are lies fabricated by the big, bad, bully Americans in order to invade Iraq, occupy the country, steal their oil, and use the country as a staging base to dominate all of the Middle East, just to satisfy its insatiable thirst for oil and to rule the World like Ancient Rome. Somehow this seems so familiar.
Sadly, the "Make Love Not War" crowd appears to believe this tripe and has found some magic formula for ignoring the facts. They shake their damning fingers at the United States, and say shame on you. The baffling part of all this whining is, what do they think Saddam Hussein is going to do with all the destructive weapons development? Perhaps, they feel quite safe as long as it is the United States that is the target, that it is Americans who will die. What a self-deluding process!
Oddly, as I absorb the events of the last two or three decades and listen to the rhetoric from both sides, a premonition comes to me. We have been down this path before. We have faced this evil before and tried desperately to believe that it was not evil. This is one of many benefits of my "In the Clarity of Hindsight" project. I have researched, studied, collected and written about the words that define World War II. [I hope someday that the book will be published so that others can read, learn and appreciate what our ancestors did for all of us.] The similarities between the 1930's and the 1990's is striking and leave an ominous cloud over today's events.
I cannot encapsulate a book in a few sentences. However, having taken the time to study those events, I see exactly the same characteristics. This is where the villainy of Adolf Hitler comes to play.
When you read Hitler's words and listen to his speeches in the context of his actions, the similarities are dramatic. Hitler denied any designs on his neighbors, denied mistreating German citizens, and claimed to the end he was doing the world a public service and that he and the German people were the victims, reluctantly provoked into warfare. He claimed he only wanted that which rightfully belonged to the German people and had wrongfully been taken away by the Versailles Treaty. He just wanted living room for the German people. Oh yeah, and while he was at it, he would rid the world of the blight of communism. And, oh by the way, communism was a Jewish manifestation, so it was only right to take care of them too. We must not forget, that he could not tolerate the contamination of pure Germanic blood with the substance of sub-humans, which was everyone not Arian or Germanic.
In the 1930's and even the early 40's, there were more than a few voices supporting Hitler and vehemently attacking Winston Churchill as a warmonger, and Franklin Roosevelt as a criminal, illegally taking the United States to war against the wishes of the American people. There were famous and powerful voices in the camp of the so-called "America First-ers." Charles Lindbergh was an ardent, vocal and tireless advocate for Hitler. Joseph Kennedy, then US ambassador to the Court of St. James, openly proclaimed Hitler's legitimate and beneficial work for the German people, and told Churchill personally that isolated British politician simply did not understand Hitler. Neville Chamberlain allowed Hitler to blatantly violate international treaties and actually agreed to carve up a sovereign country, all in a desperate attempt to do anything for peace. Appeasement did not work then, and it will not work now.
Except for a miniscule fraction of the radical right that believe Hitler was indeed a victim, the rest of humanity sees Adolf Hitler for what he was a megalomaniac, ego-centric dictator who oppressed his people, killed his citizens, and invaded his neighbors. Does this sound familiar?
There is a fallacy in this argument -- to compare Saddam Hussein with Adolf Hitler would give the Iraqi dictator far more credit than he deserves. The scale of the two dictators is vastly different, but the motives are nearly identical. It is impossible and would be foolish to claim that Saddam Hussein is worse than Adolf Hitler for the scale factor alone. It would also be ludicrous to suggest that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat than Adolf Hitler was. That clearly is not the case. Unfortunately, however, Saddam Hussein is the Adolf Hitler of his time, and the miracles of modern technology have amplified the capabilities of this otherwise minor dictator into a force that must be reckoned with before we reach the state of "I wish we had done something sooner."
Today, Saddam Hussein and his henchmen can call by telephone anywhere in the world with seconds. They can travel virtually anywhere in the world within a day. They can carry a small spray can of material that can kill thousands of people within minutes. And, the potential exists for them to carry a heavy suitcase containing a device more powerful than an entire air force of B-17's and detonate it to render New York harbor uninhabitable for thousands of years. Adolf Hitler did not have these things. The German dictator did not have the quick reach that Saddam Hussein possesses today. Technology has amplified this otherwise minor dictator.
To all those who point their scornful fingers at the United States, I ask you, how would you feel if you were the target of this maniacal dictator? How would you react if your country was the singular focus of their hatred? Are you willing to give up your freedom to live under his oppression? I think we all know the answers. Then, how can you accuse the United States of something that does not exist and ignore Iraq for those things that do exist?
In the name of candor and forthrightness, I must say that I do not agree with some of the unilateral actions taken by George W. Bush. His almost casual rejection of the Kyoto Protocol made the United States appear arrogant, self-righteous and cavalier -- we will do whatever we wish and you can't stop us. I think he was wrong. I must also profess to wincing when he speaks sometimes. He is certainly not the most sophisticated president we have elected. I will apologize for his lack of polish on the world stage. And, I certainly do not agree with some of his policies and actions. On the other hand, I think the Kyoto Protocol was a foolish thing for President Clinton to sign without understanding the consequences. Nice philosophical principles are just fine in the debate room or on a university campus or as fluff to make us feel better; they often do not translate into the real world. All that said, he may very well be the best possible leader for the United States and the World in these troubled times and to deal with these madmen who have and still intend to do us harm. History and the American people shall judge his performance.
Lastly, to my fellow citizens of the world, I will categorically state that Americans simply wants to live in peace like all other decent, law-abiding citizens. We simply want to enjoy the fruits of our labor and trade freely with our neighbors. We seek no territory. We wish no harm to anyone. We respect the right of any free people to choose the laws under which they wish to live. We are a reluctant and humble, most powerful nation in history. If you choose to despise us because of our power, that is your choice, and we will respect your right to think and say such nonsense. We use our power to destroy or render impotent those dictators than intend harm to us or others. We have no interest, desire or intention of dominating anyone, other than those who intend us harm. If you wish to live without freedom of choice, so be it. Likewise, we choose to be free, and we will not tolerate anyone who seeks to diminish our freedoms. We will not apologize for or be ashamed of our power. We used our strength to eliminate the scourge of Adolf Hitler, and now we shall use it to eliminate the threat of Saddam Hussein. We will make no apologies for either.
A young woman on a BBC citizens' panel admonished the panel and audience for the politically incorrect implied linkage between the horrific deeds of those evil men and her religion. She challenged them to use a less offensive term (to her) like male terrorists or Egyptian terrorists.
There is one aspect of her argument that is relevant and appropriate. The unfortunate linkage of the qualifier does leave an implied image that, while terrorism is the issue, somehow Islam is a secondary issue. This threat is not from a religion. It is from a few whom wish to use a great religion to further their aims to garner power.
However, politically incorrect or not, it is the best descriptor the world has. Yes, the terrorists were male, but that is certainly not differential enough. The 11.September terrorists were mostly Saudi and yet they were not all Saudis. They were not in the majority Egyptians, and those 19 young men were not the only terrorists among us. The one element they had in common that is descriptive and differential is their claim of an Islamic affinity. [They clearly were not truly Islamic or they would not have done what they did, and yet they claim Islam as their rationalization for mass murder.]
Yes, the actions of those 19 were criminal in the largest context. Their deeds established that label. But, what of the others who have not yet carried out any criminal act. Are we to view them as simple citizens or visitors until they commit some dastardly malevolent act? My answer, no! We do not enjoy that luxury.
The most fundamental issue here is not the criminal actions of some or the terrorist plotting of others. Radical fundamentalist Islamic vitriol is the issue. It is the rabid, malignant fraction of Islamic believers and the clerics who have incited them that remain the greatest threat to freedom and world peace. Intolerance, oppression and hostile focus of this radicalism on the freedom and liberty that are represented by the United States amplified the megalomania of some Islamic clerics. We have allowed this radicalism to fester. We must now treat the disease.
So, it is most unfortunate the vast majority of other believers must endure the linkage and label. However, just as the innocent Germans, Japanese and Italians had to endure their heritage of the villains, so too must the peaceful believers endure the reality that connection with those evil young men who perpetrated these atrocities. And, the War is a long way from over.
Whether you like it or not, or whether it is politically correct or not, 'Islamic' is the most accurate, complete and descriptive qualifier. Now, let us get on with dealing with the malignancy and treating the root cause of this tragedy.
In the last century, the United States has largely been the reluctant warrior. Yet once more in my lifetime, we have been trust into war. Once more America shall rise to the threat with a new generation hoisting the banner of freedom and liberty.