|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Don't Know Much About History
Friday, September 1st, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|In Salt Lake City, in between conferring with Mormon leaders and raising three quarters of a million dollars for Orrin Hatch, Mr. Bush made the case for hanging tough in Iraq. Were we to bring our troops home, he told an audience of American Legionnaires, “We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al-Qaida terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban."*
So we went to Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using his weapons of mass destruction against us. When he didn’t have any, we stayed to bring the Iraqis democracy. When they had a vote and elected leaders inimical both to the U.S. and to each other, we remained to keep the peace. Now that their various factions are killing each other wholesale despite us, we’re there indefinitely. If we leave, a strongman might step into the vacuum, brutalize the different sects into submission, kick out any foreign terrorists, and restore the peace. If he started boasting about his homemade W.M.D. program, we’d have it all to do over again.
Hmm. Far be it from this page to question the president’s logic, but Mr. Bush and his team are overlooking the obvious solution to the circular maze we’ve blundered into. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is the key. He just gave a vitriolic speech, denouncing those who question our Iraq policy as intellectually and morally confused. War opponents don’t see the parallels between Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler and our departing Iraq, which are very clear, at least to Mr. Rumsfeld. The anti-warriors are therefore dangerously ignorant of history and invite the start of World War III.
The Secretary of Defense is certainly on to something here, but he’s got hold of the wrong incompetent’s history. It’s not Chamberlain’s dark past that should concern him, but his own.
Mr. Hussein, the strongman who kept Iraq under his thumb, used to be our ally. We shipped him arms, bought his oil, handed him farm credits to buy our groceries, and encouraged him to fight a bloody eight year, million casualty war with Iran. Ronald Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to shake hands with him, in 1983. Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t arrive at Saddam’s door empty-handed; the helicopters and poison gas he brought as gifts came in handy for later use against the Kurds and the Iranians.** The future Secretary of Defense left town having restored full diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein.
Iraq was a nasty dictatorship and a regional bully, but it was our dictatorship and bully. So much so that when April Glaspie, Bush I’s ambassador to Iraq, gave Saddam Hussein the impression we countenanced his proposed invasion of Kuwait, he took her at her word. That’s when all the trouble started, the Gulf war, the years of containment and embargo, and today’s bloody occupation.
So what is the lesson for such students of history as Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld? Put a strongman back in charge of Iraq, buy his good will with arms and goods, and leave the place to take care of itself. Give him our surplus W.M.D. so he doesn’t start a scary program of his own. Keep him busy by restarting the war with Iran. That’ll get the Iranians out of our hair as well.
Picking the right strongman will be tricky, but Iraq is rich in brutal thugs. There’s bound to be a good candidate among them. And if not, Mr. Hussein himself is still available. President Bush can send his Secretary of Defense back to Baghdad to seal the deal with another handshake.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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