Chickenhawk Daydreams
    by Gene Lyons

     The most crucial question facing Americans this election year is whether an
unelected president will drag us into an undeclared war in Iraq. Most Democrats,
however, don't want to talk about it. Try finding a Democrat running for the U.S.
Senate--Arkansas' Mark Pryor comes to mind--who's taken a strong position for
or against what President Junior smugly calls "regime change" with the passionate
conviction of the CEO of a fast food chain touting a new line of fries.

     Fortunately, brutal internal strife has broken out among Republicans. For now,
Democrats appear willing to let GOP factions fight it out. Broadly speaking, foreign
policy "realists" aligned with Secretary of State Colin Powell oppose an unprovoked,
unilateral attack on Saddam Hussein's nasty despotic regime. Repeatedly humiliated
by the-so-called "hardliners" around Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Powell appears to be striking back as only a veteran
bureaucratic warrior knows how.

     It's possible that the New York Times' stunning story citing "senior military officers"
stating that the Reagan-Bush administration gave Iraq intelligence data helping it target
Iranian troops reached the newspaper without Powell's knowledge. But I doubt it.
The intelligence was passed, the officers say, despite U.S. knowledge that Saddam
Hussein's army was using poison gas weapons. Keep that in mind as you watch those
sickening CNN tapes of al Qaeda gassing dogs.

     Kind of takes the edge off the "weapons of mass destruction" chant doesn't it?

     Meanwhile, an unkind way of characterizing the GOP split would be to say it's
between real warriors and chickenhawk theoreticians. The Bush stalwarts most eager
to invade Iraq are mostly bookish types who avoided Vietnam and subsequent shooting
wars, but are keen on abstract geopolitical schemes requiring the sacrifice of other
people's children.

     If you think this too harsh, consider the bitter exchange last week between Richard N.
Pearle, a Bush Pentagon appointee,and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran.
The two differed over a column by Brent Scowcroft, the retired Army general who was
the first President Bush's national security director, in the Wall Street Journal.  Scowcroft
wrote that "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy the
global terrorist campaign we have undertaken."

     Scowcroft helped put together the international coalition that expelled Saddam from
Kuwait in the Gulf War. His article is widely seen as a public message to Junior from
Poppy Bush. Scowcroft argues that Iraq has been successfully contained for a dozen
years, while "if we were seen to be turning our backs" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
"in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us" among
American allies and enemies alike.

     Pearle's rejoinder, and remember, Junior appointed him, was to say "the failure to
take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of
confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism." A neighbor
asked me why Pearle shouldn't be fired for insubordination. Good question.

     Sen. Hagel responded bitterly in the New York Times. "Maybe Mr. Pearle would
like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad," he said. But unless they start
producing "Meet the Press" on location from the Baghdad Hilton, that won't happen.

     Hagel pointed out that it's far simpler to start wars than extricate yourself after
hostilities have begun. He said that the CIA has "absolutely no evidence" that Iraq has
or will soon have nuclear weapons. He might have added that unlike Osama bin Laden,
Saddam isn't a religious zealot but a hard-eyed, brutal realist--a sort of Arabic-speaking Stalin.

     That Saddam would guarantee his own destruction by attacking the U.S. is a
preposterous fantasy dreamed up by ideologues with their own crackpot schemes of
global domination. See Nicholas Lemann's unjustifiably-neglected article "The Next World
Order" in the April 1, 2002 New Yorker for details. In their own words, the so-called
"defense intellectuals" around Dick Cheney plan "to preclude the rise of another global
rival for the indefinite future" the kind of mad-scientist stuff normally left to the villains
of James Bond movies.

     There's no question that the U.S.can defeat Iraq militarily. Then what? Who do you
know that wants to spend years patrolling the Iraq-Iran border? Meanwhile, another real
warrior warning against the dangers of stampeding into Iraq is Little  Rock's own Gen.
Wesley Clark. Writing in Washington Monthly, the former NATO Supreme Commander
argues that would weaken, not strengthen the U.S.

     "The longer the war [against terrorism] goes on," Clark writes "the more we are going
to need cooperation and support from other nations--not just troops and ships and airplanes,
but whole-hearted governmental collaboration. Instead, we seem to be getting less as time goes on."

           If endless terrorism and war are what Americans want, attacking Iraq is the surest way to get it.

Privacy Policy
. .