As this is being written, we are 17 hours into the 48-hour war ultimatum delivered Monday in President Bush’s pop-up screen announcement to Iraq. By the time most of you read this, the 48-hours will have elapsed. We won’t be at war if Saddam Hussein and his sons leave Iraq—at least not for now. We will be at war if he doesn’t leave. As true American patriots and conservative radio pundits like to remind us, it’s Saddam’s choice. Freedom of choice, they say, is something Saddam never allowed his own people, thus proving that we Americans are a benevolent lot, not inclined to overt acts of aggression.
Yet, sometime in the next few days, that may change. Regardless of how we may feel about despotic, murderous, cynical, lecherous, lying world leaders—the type we typically prop up—the United States is but a pubic hair away from losing its virginity when it comes to entering a war without provocation. Sure, sure, theories abound about what Saddam possesses in the ways of mass destruction. And there are equivalent theories about how and when he might use them. Some snigglers might even point out that the Spanish-American war and the Vietnam war were without provocation, too, since historians often refer to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the sinking of the Maine as bogus excuses for making war.
Bogus or not, we’re in up to a camel’s rear end. As one with strong 9/11 residue sentiments, I’ve tried to buy into what the Bush presidency has been telling us. But Bush hasn’t sold me. I’ve hoped the negotiations would go on. I’ve hoped Colin Powell could succeed and build a more credible coalition. Powell has found out it’s the Secretary of Defense who wields the real power, not the Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, we’ve sent our sons and daughters well within the range of whatever nasty weapons Saddam has built or acquired. Our generals reassure us that we will prevail, because that’s what generals say. I believe them, but as Forrest Gump knows, shit happens. And a big pile of it awaits. Post-Iraq, the world must come to grips with the Bush Doctrine—the global equivalent of stopping fires before they start—as America aggressively protects its self interests. Some countries remain reluctant to climb aboard. Why, they quietly wonder, should they jump into what looks to be the seed bed for an American-led global regime?
The right answer, the conservative right answer, is that they should be on the side of right. Yet, for many European countries, it boils down to our own arrogance and lack of respect for those countries and cultures. We don’t really know the French, the Greeks, the Russians, the Italians, the Persians, the Turks, or for that matter, our new best friends, the Bulgarians. They know us pretty well, though, great exporters that we are of our culture. They know there is a price for our friendship. Thus, they know we will talk fast and fight hard. And they know the battlefields and graves will be in the soils of their lands, not ours.
We have 9/11. Greece has Kalavrita. You’ve only heard of one. Look up the other and you may understand that others appreciate freedom as much as we do, but they remember too well what it was like being in the crosshairs. We’ve put them in the crosshairs again.