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A Call to Arms 

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Come on, all you big strong men

Uncle Sam needs your help again

Got himself in a terrible jam

Way down yonder fightin’ Saddam

So throw down your books and pick up your guns

We’re goin’ to have a whole lot of fun

Apologies to Vietnam War-era rockers Country Joe and the Fish, but if you didn’t get that déjà vu feeling all over again following Vice President Dick Cheney’s call to arms at a recent gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Memphis, then perhaps you’re too young to remember Joe McDonald.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we fightin’ for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

Next stop—look out Saddam

And it’s four, five, six, open up the Pearly Gates

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee, we’re all goin’ to die

But this is America, after all, and we like our wars. The latest Knight Ridder poll indicates that 67 percent of Americans favor military action against Iraq. The reason, according to Cheney—Saddam may soon have weapons of mass destruction. Why wait until he has nuclear weapons when we can blast him now?

Well, there are a couple of sticking points: The connection between Al Qaida and Saddam has not been made. The War on Terrorism, it appears, does not stretch to Iraq. No other country, save Israel, would support such action. Eventually, we may get Britain in, but not Canada, not France, not Germany. Not Egypt, not Jordan, not Saudi Arabia.

The gambit is so tenuous that Brent Scowcroft, Thomas Eagleburger and even James Baker III, all members of the first Bush administration, warn against such unilateral imperialism. These seasoned hawks say an invasion could lead to an unraveling of the entire Middle East, endangering moderate Arab governments who are still American allies.

Despite Cheney’s argument that a preemptive strike would immobilize Saddam before he could unleash his weapons of mass destruction, cooler heads remind us of the Gulf War and that Americans soldiers will no doubt be exposed to chemical and biological agents. An invasion of Iraq would be very costly in American lives.

It also would require a massive bombing of Baghdad and the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi noncombatants, including women and children. That would, at the very least, strengthen the political hand of fanatical groups seeking to punish this country.

There is no guarantee that Saddam would be replaced with a democratic government, as the president suggests. There is no tradition of democracy in Iraq. Nor is there in Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, where we unwaveringly support present regimes.

Nonetheless, Cheney and Bush seem determined. So throw down your books and pick up your guns, we’re goin’ to have a whole lot of fun.

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More by Christopher Smart

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