November 26, 2001
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The lead editorial in today's New York Times runs under the headline, "The Wrong Time to Fight Iraq."
The editorial argues that "War in Iraq would also undermine whatever possibility now exists for damping violence between Israelis and Palestinians and restarting efforts toward a lasting peace. . . . Moving militarily against Iraq now would hobble America's power as a Mideast peacemaker."
This stands in utter contradiction to the historical reality. In fact America's last war in Iraq, from 1990 to 1991, is what made it possible to convene the October 30, 1991, Madrid peace conference, which was the starting point for America's current peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization had sided with Iraq, and the defeat of Iraq left Mr. Arafat in a weakened position with respect to his usual Arab patrons. He was thus forced to the bargaining table.
Rather than hobbling America's power as a peacemaker, a successful American war against Iraq might well strengthen it. It would do so not merely by strengthening America's prestige at the bargaining table, but by directly eliminating at its source a cause of the violence between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. As reported by the Washington Post, Saddam Hussein's regime has been awarding $10,000 "martyr payments" as an incentive to the parents of Palestinian Arabs who die attacking Israel. As reported yesterday by the Associated Press in Amman, Jordanian authorities arrested an Iraqi truck driver, Jaafar Mansoor Ali, 45, who authorities said was trying to smuggle 40 hand grenades from Iraq to the Palestinian territories. As reported yesterday in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Israeli authorities recently arrested 15 Palestinians who were trained and financed by Iraq and who planned "spectacular" terror attacks at Ben-Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. It's rare for this sort of information to make it into the news section of the New York Times -- one has to subscribe to Iraq News or read other newspapers to find out about it.
The Times editorial goes on to assert that "the military challenges of war in Iraq are far more formidable than anything yet seen in Afghanistan." This is pretty rich, given that only a few weeks ago, the Times editorialists were busy assuring us that the military challenges of war in Afghanistan would be far more formidable than anything Americans saw in the Gulf War in Iraq. The exact language used in a Times editorial on September 21, 2001, was "As Mr. Bush noted, this war will not resemble the quick and easy triumph of the gulf war." It's almost enough to make a cynical reader believe that what the editorialists are writing has nothing to do with the actual military challenges but has a lot to do with the Times' reluctance to face the enemy.
The Times editorial goes on to assert that "The Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella opposition group supported by Washington, is a feud-ridden collection of exiled politicians who command no combat forces." That's just false. The Kurdish factions in Northern Iraq are part of the Iraqi National Congress. A September 24, 2001, column by William Safire in the New York Times reported that "Some 75,000 Kurdish warriors, protected from air attack by our fighter patrols, are headed by longtime rivals Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani." The Barzani Kurds and the Talabani Kurds are both represented in the Iraqi National Congress, as are the Shiite Iraqis who have been combating Saddam Hussein in the South of Iraq. In any event, there's a gaping factual chasm between Mr. Safire's description of "75,000 Kurdish warriors" and the Times editorial's assertion of "no combat forces."
The Times editorial goes on to claim that "Mr. Hussein can count on the loyalty of a large army." But a few paragraphs later the editorial acknowledges "there are hundreds of thousands of discontented Iraqis." If there are so many discontented Iraqis, how can the Times be so sure that Saddam's army is so loyal?
Finally, the Times editorial asserts that "unlike the situation prior to the Persian Gulf war, Washington could not count on the use of staging bases on Saudi Arabia." Well, that is assuming that Washington adopts the same supplicant relationship to Saudi Arabia that has been America's habit. If the Saudis were shown that America were serious about advancing its interests, perhaps they'd be a bit more cooperative. And if not, then they are protecting the terrorists, with all the implications.
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