WHEN WILL THE WAR BE?
by Joe Shea
American Reportter Correspondent
Los Angeles, Calif.
LOS ANGELES, March 6, 2003 -- As he prepares to speak to the world tonight, President Bush surveys a diplomatic landscape more daunting than any Bosnian minefield. The reluctance of Russia, France and Germany - and now, formally, China - to support a second resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime has irrecoverably stranded his team's effort to get the world on his side on a proposed invasion of Iraq.
This is the outcome we anticipated, but one shoe has yet to drop: The American people have to put their feet down and tell President Bush that this is not the time for war with Iraq. That expression will be decisive. As Americans listen tonight, their support or opposition to an American-led war will be determined not by evidence the President may present linking Iraq to the masterminds of Sept. 11, nor by discovery of additional longer-range missiles, nor by yet more skimpy evidence of a real Iraqi readiness for nuclear, chemical or biological warfare, although any of those might help make his case. What no American worthy of that name can accept is that our nation will launch a first-strike war against any other nation that does not have the clear intent and capability of attacking our own. We do not hit first; we do not start wars; that is our ethos, and that is our heritage.
Perhaps this ideal is flawed in practice, as it was when evidence for the Gulf of Tonkin incident was falsified, and Congress adopted a war powers resolution based upon a lie President Johnson knew to be a lie, according to his own notes. We will not launch another war - not if anyone can help it - based on another lie. But we do not doubt the veracity of the President's claims about Saddam and his preparations for war or his cunning approach to disarmament. We do doubt that Saddam Hussein has any intention of attacking the United States, and we are unconvinced that he had any percipient role in the events of Sept. 11. Moreover, we are profoundly concerned that to launch an invasion of Iraq will be to set loose the cannons of a genuinely dangerous and determined enemy of the United States, the president of North Korea, Kim Jong Il.
Kim's preparations for war and other intrigues is apparent; his diplomatic efforts focused on South Korea have been alarmingly effective; his reopening of a nuclear plant and reprocessing facilities for the creation of plutonium leave no doubt what he plans. It did not take a missile test at the height of these tensions to convince us he will strike like a viper the first chance he gets. Americans sense this, too; they can tell the difference between an artful dodger like Saddam and a dangerous enemy such as Kim Jong Il. So what the President must accomplish tonight is, one, to convince us of the unbelievable, that Saddam is poised to attack, and two, to persuade us of the impossible, i.e., that Kim Jong Il is not the greater threat upon whom our attention would be far better focused. Can the President do that? He cannot, and so even his strongest ally, England's Tony Blair, is sidling away towards compromise, drafting our own diplomats into his wake. All that is all right; we will not be the worse for it. And should Saddam attack anyone ever again, we can be certain of an instantaneous and global outcry that will functionally devastate his awkward regime. But not only will it do no harm; it will finally allow us to concentrate ourselves on a genuine threat, and to carry the world with us as we approach its various dimensions. There will be no war against Iraq, thankfully. The President has enough wisdom and enough solid advice to read the writing on the wall. But he is not left without a severe and immediate challenge: containing North Korea's relentless march to the south. That crisis will soon require much of his attention and all of his capacity for leadership.