in the Ranks?
August 14, 2002
By Patrick Ennis
George W. Bush moves ever closer to donning his ten-gallon
Commander-in-Chief hat and sending troops toward Baghdad to
finish what his father started more than a decade ago, his
hawkishness is receiving criticism from all the usual corners
(read: liberals and Democrats). But it comes also from at
least one unexpected and very prominent corner - that of outgoing
House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
Speaking in Des Moines, Iowa on August 8, Armey said "My
own view would be to let him bluster, let him rant and rave
all he wants. As long as he behaves himself within his own
borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources
against him... If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as
obnoxious as he is, without proper provocation, we will not
have the support of other nation states who might do so."
Now, it isn't like Texas Republicans, who usually tend to
stick together like old-fashioned mafiosi, to oppose their
own Don Capo's wishes in public. Did I mention that Mr. Armey,
who once called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from
Israel, is the outgoing House Majority Leader? As Janis
Joplin sang, freedom's just another word for nothin' left
to lose. For the first time in, well, in a long time, Armey
can really afford to speak his mind, and to take his lumps
Bill O'Reilly, host of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox "News"
Channel and still part of the clubby conservative cabal -
he works for Rupert Murdoch, after all - was careful not to
rebuke Armey too directly, but criticized his stance, saying,
"So what Mr. Armey's policy seems to be is, wait and see if
Saddam uses the weapons he is trying to develop. But some
other Americans and people all over the world agree with Mr.
Armey. However, it doesn't make any sense to Talking Points.
And indeed, a new Fox News poll shows that 69 percent of Americans
would support a U.S. attack on Iraq." A Fox News poll,
Bill? Yeah, that's convincing.
But now that Mr. Armey has a measure of freedom of speech
and is taking advantage of it, he has a point. The reports
of Saddam's "provocation" are anything but concrete, and would
be more credible if the post-Sept. 11 anthrax mail attacks
hadn't been initially blamed on Iraq, in a suspicious rush
to judgment, before the deadly concoction turned out to be
home grown. It also would be more believable if the current
President Bush, and the whole Bush clan, weren't suffering
a legacy of perceived failure for not having taken Saddam
out when he had the chance in 1991. But then if he had, we
wouldn't be having this debate now, would we?
It is true that the Iraqi dictator is guilty of paying off
the families of Palestinian suicide bombers to the tune of
$25,000 each, which is clearly indefensible. And yet, he's
not the only one. His isn't even the only government in the
region to overtly abet terrorism in Israel. The Iranian parliament
has long earmarked funds in its annual budget for Hezbollah
guerillas operating in Lebanon. And there are private donors
in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and probably some others who
do the same covertly. And these are countries with rather
autocratic governments which would presumably have the ability
to curb the practice if they chose. So why isn't the administration
rattling its saber at them?
It is also true that some former UN weapons inspectors believe
that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs were
anything but destroyed during the Gulf War and in the subsequent
7 years of UN inspections, but I stress that this is only
speculation. In fact, former marine officer and chief weapons
inspector Scott Ritter suspects just the opposite. He also
suspects that the impending carnage of Gulf War II has more
to do with election year politics than any real threat of
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. What the first Gulf War
did for his father's approval rating is certainly not lost
on this President
The Columbus Dispatch, hardly part of the infamous, albeit
invisible, "liberal media elite" said in an August 9 editorial,
"President Bush's attempt to invoke Sept. 11 as an excuse
for war with Baghdad just doesn't add up. There is little
evidence of Iraqi involvement in the terrorist attack and,
in fact, a connection would not make sense. Saddam's hostility
to the West is not based on religious ideology, as is that
of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist network... If
there is to be a war against Iraq, there must be a good reason.
If there is a compelling case, neither Congress nor the president
have made it."
And we still don't even know what the post-Saddam future
of Iraq is supposed to look like. Barbaric as he is Saddam
has ruled Iraq since 1979, and to oust him would create a
power vacuum in this strategically located, oil-rich nation.
Are there suitable candidates to replace him, despite Saddam's
reputation for the brutal elimination of political rivals?
Or will post-Saddam Iraq be ruled by an U.S. backed puppet
regime? I wonder what that would do for the price of
a gallon of gas on Main Street?
Dick Armey is not the only member of President Bush's party
to be hanging up his electoral hat in the near future, but
he is so far the only prominent Republican to criticize the
White House's stated desire to remove Saddam Hussein from
power. Perhaps others will follow, now that Mr. Armey has
set the precedent. If so, then we may finally have the bi-partisan
cooperation we were promised during the 2000 election campaigns.
Patrick Ennis: articulating the viewpoint of the secular,
liberal, midwestern working class because, frankly, somebody
has to, and nobody else is.