The Hussein "Hit" Reconsidered

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by Stephen Phillips

I’ll never forget a cowboy movie called Rooster Cogburn, starring that great iconic figure, John Wayne, as a grizzled old one-eyed avenger.  There’s a memorable scene where Wayne rides hell-bent-for-leather across a wide open space, the reins of his horse clamped between his teeth while a pair of six shooters in his hands blaze away at the bad guys.

In that scene, John Wayne typifies a lot of things America holds dear to its collective heart:  the gung ho attitude, the do-or-die mentality, the belief that in the face of adversity, good will triumph over evil. It makes stirring material for movies, and I love them as much as anybody.   But reality doesn’t always work out that way.

Ever since the Bush administration embarked on its fight against global terror, its focus seems to have been shifting on an almost daily basis.  First it was a hunt for the perpetrators of the terrible acts of September 11th.  Then the action shifted to Afghanistan, culminating in the removal of the Taliban. This, it seems, was not enough to satisfy America's thirst for revenge.  Riding a wave of patriotism, the government decided that its next objective would be to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

A good idea in theory, as it could bring some stability to a region that has long been wracked by war and conflict. But in practice, this could well turn out to be a Pandora's box of awful magnitude.   Once opened, it could prove hard indeed to close.

The Iraqi regime has proved time and again that if, forced into a corner, it will retaliate with absolutely no concern for the consequences of its actions--which, in the present unstable climate of the Middle East, could have repercussions around the globe.

At the present time in Europe, there is strong opposition to another armed conflict with Saddam Hussein.  Among the powerful and influential people who have lined up against it are Gerhard Schroeder, the Chancellor of Germany, who has made it abundantly clear that Germany will not support any action against Iraq at this time.   Public opinion seems to support him. 

Meanwhile, England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair is in an extremely awkward situation.  Britain is historically seen as America’s staunchest ally, but there is dissention within his own ruling party about the prospect of any kind of military action.  He therefore seems to vacillate on a daily basis as to whether or not to support America.  We could end up with a fracture in Europe’s common alliance, with Britain seen as a puppet of the U.S., and pandering to its own needs rather than looking at the situation objectively.

What is not in doubt is that Saddam Hussein has proven to be an unstable individual who, when faced with any kind of opposition within his country, will crush it ruthlessly and without regret—as was made abundantly clear in his dealings with the ethnic Kurds in the north of Iraq.  What is especially worrying is that if he is forced to defend himself against attack from a U.S.-led alliance, he could well find himself in a corner, believing himself to have no way out except to deploy whatever weapons of mass destruction he may have.

Another question that has not been answered is,  If America is successful in toppling Saddam, who or what will replace him?  There is no credible opposition, either in Iraq or in exile, and Saddam enjoys great popularity among his own people and his military machine.

This will definitely be no mere Grenada or Panama.   Added to America’s ongoing involvement in Afghanistan and the pursuit of al Queda, can we be sure how a war with Iraq will actually pan out?

Diplomatically, there is always a chance that the United Nations will be able to intervene, and persuade the Iraqis that it would be in their best interests to heed the warnings of the International community and let weapons inspectors return.  However, this would require a great deal of restraint on both sides--and the Bush administration continues to use inflammatory language, which does nothing to help ease an already tense situation.

Cool heads need to prevail here.  Saddam is mortal like everyone else. One day, he will relinquish power.  Hopefully, this change of administration will return Iraq to the world community.

However, at this time, to continue to antagonize Saddam only exacerbates an already dangerous situation, the consequences of which are unthinkable.

A military assault on Hussein will be no cakewalk.  A great loss of life, both civilian and military, appears inevitable.

Although this situation has very little in common with Vietnam, it is worth noting that when America first got involved in the Southeast Asian conflict, many people thought it would be over quickly, and democracy would prevail in the end.  As history showed, that war dragged on and on, culminating in America running away with its tail between its legs and a very bloody nose.

It is a shame that the current wave of patriotism has clouded so many people's objectivity.  Like a horse wearing blinkers, America seems to be rushing headlong to the finish line, without seeing the bigger picture.


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