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03/15/2003 Archived Entry: "I Stand Corrected"

Yes, I have been away for a while. It has been nearly a year since I last submitted an editorial. I can explain the absence – work, family, etc – but these reasons pale against those that compel me to set aside my client work today.

I must admit that have been riding the fence all these past months regarding the impending war with Iraq. Indeed I have taken the chicken’s way out in discussions with friends and colleagues, nodding my head when they exclaim: “I don’t like GW either, but I’m no friend of Saddam's”; “if the NO countries are really committed to preventing war, then let them assemble troops around Baghdad”; and my personal favorite: “France hasn’t been right about a single world issue since they helped us win our independence.”

And while I think Saddam’s complicity with Al Qaeda was as about as unlikely as an Orthodox Jew joining forces with a Southern Baptist to attack Turkey, I succumbed to that infamous Sun Tzu cliché: "Your enemy's enemy is your friend."

I condemn myself for being a bobbleheaded simpleton trying to avoid a sticky conversation. While the population dances to the war drums, I have had a festering, gnawing fear that this country is about to make the worst strategic blunder in history (since, perhaps, the French helped America win its independence). Lesser countries might be vanquished by the magnitude of this error, yet I fear that this country will be in for a world of hurt.

The first shot of my bow came as I was listening to Arianna Huffington’s comments on Bush's failing foreign policy during a recent broadcast of a semi-conservative talk show. I cannot offer you direct quotes, but I think you’ll get my meaning when I say that her angry and vitreous remarks were punctuated with such phrases as “absolute falsehood,” “a complete whitewash of the real facts,” and finally “liars.” The latter of which was aimed squarely at Bush’s assertion that Saddam was working on a nuclear weapons program.

Not that Huffington is the absolute authority – she was no fan of Clinton’s either – but the strength of her conviction bears reason enough to dig deeper into the question.

Few people have quarrel with the ultimate goal of seeing Saddam Hussein go the way of Idi Amin or Pinochet. Nevertheless, the list of pundits who previously supported Bush's policy on Iraq, and who have since publicly submitted their capitulation, is growing at an alarming pace. Many are finally saying that not only is Mr. Bush wrong, he is the wrong man to do the job.

And what of the leaks from within government – the very latest from the State Department, but also from the Treasury and even the Pentagon – that openly question the leadership, the strategy, the tactics, and even the administration’s sense of reality.

Consider the string of debacles: the aborted attempt to hammer together a ‘collation of the willing’ (with emphasis on the verb), the loss of esteem of close allies, and the general irritation over American arrogance and political superciliousness.

Bush has done everything – pulled every spin trick ever developed, every propaganda ploy devised – he has waved the bloody shirt of 911, even issued vague and not so vague threats of the consequences should others fail to fall in line. And yet, the world remains circumspect – and as a result of his badly aimed rhetoric, angry by his attempt to shoe them in.

Bush has alienated our most valuable allies – and to what end? The budget deficit is exploding, the economy is stalling, and our non-existent policy for North Korea is wrought with peril. There in that stubby little thumb of a peninsula near one of our closest allies lay as clear an example of present danger as a hawk could ever wish, cavalierly set aside by this administration as a mere ‘regional conflict’. No wonder Kim Jong Il is laughing at us – no wonder our allies are sneering at our backs – no wonder that the whole of the world appears to be against us.

If war is truly inevitable, then I pray that it is a swift victory with a minimum of collateral damage (e.g., civilian and military deaths). Yet, and as more people realize, even if all goes well with the battle, we could loose the war from lack of the moral and ethical reason. -HP

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