Richard Cohen: Idiot
OK, so it's not an original title. But that doesn't make it any less true. Let's look at the latest nonsense
extruded from the brain of the WashPost's resident fool (well, one of them, anyway):
The Vietnam Syndrome is not dead. Certainly the United States is no longer gun-shy -- the Gulf War proved that -- but a different Vietnam Syndrome not only lives but seems to be thriving: the willingness of Washington to exaggerate the threat. This is happening now with Iraq.
Really. And you know this because...?
Right; you don't know it, but it's a way to work Vietnam into the discussion, so that's OK.
Not that Iraq is no threat. Under Saddam Hussein, it has twice invaded neighbors -- Iran and Kuwait -- and used chemical weapons against both foreign and domestic enemies. It also has biological weapons and is trying to secure nuclear weapons. If it gets the latter, the entire balance of power in the Middle East will be changed -- and for the worse.
It's also supported and continues to support terrorists, may be connected to the September 11th attacks, and on and on and on. It's also reneged from day one on the promises it made as part of the cease fire that ended the Gulf War. Any of which by itself is reason enough to remove Saddam Hussein.
But there is no -- that's no -- evidence that Iraq has nuclear weapons. Intelligence suggests, in fact, that Iraq is five or so years away from either securing or developing a bomb. The nuclear threat is not an imminent one, and it is not one, in any case, directed at the United States. We are a world away and have ample means to retaliate. Iraq would cease to exist.
And we know this because...?
Oh, right, we don't. The last time inspectors were in Iraq was 1998.
And that five year estimate? Hey, Richard! Are you willing to bet your life on it? I'm not willing to let you bet mine
And the threat of annihilation...well, that's great. But is that really the best policy? Wait until Iraq obtains the ability to kill several hundred thousand of us in one go, and then kill them all when they actually go ahead and do it? That's madness.
So what explains the Chicken Little remarks made by Bush administration spokesmen on the Sunday TV shows? In the formulation of Vice President Cheney, Iraq somehow morphed into the old Soviet Union: "If we have reason to believe someone is preparing an attack against the U.S., has developed that capability, harbors those aspirations, then I think the United States is justified in dealing with that, if necessary, by military force." You bet.
Chicken Little? No. It's their job to assess the threats against us, and to defend against them. Part of the job, you know.
But what is the evidence that Iraq is preparing to launch an attack on the United States? There is none. And just how would Iraq accomplish such a thing? With its Al-Hussein missiles, which have a range of about 390 miles? With its Al-Samoud missiles, which have a range of about 90 miles? Or maybe in a suitcase brought in by terrorists? Some suitcase that would be.
This is so stupid that words fail me.
The "suitcase bomb" has been one of the primary arguments by opponents of missile defense, along with the shipping container bomb, etc. If Cohen doesn't believe that's a legitimate threat, he's a fool.
Besides which, the threat is not just to the continental U.S., but to American forces in the middle east. And, of course, to Israel. What d'ya think, Rich? A nuke lobbed into downtown Tel Aviv, do you consider that something we ought to try and prevent from happening?
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, also reading from the administration's playbook, echoed Cheney on CNN. "I don't think anyone wants to wait for the 100 percent surety that [Saddam Hussein] has a weapon of mass destruction that can reach the United States," she said. Once again: You bet. But again, what's the proof (1) that Saddam has such a weapon, (2) that he has the means to deliver it, and (3) that suicide of this sort is his intention?
Cohen doesn't want to wait until Saddam has nukes. But he does want to wait until we have absolute proof that he has it, can deliver it, and plans to do so. How's that work, exactly? Maybe Saddam will send out a fax? A press release? A CNN news conference?
Or maybe Manhattan, or downtown DC, or Tel Aviv will just get vaporized one day, and we'll have hundreds of thousands dead. Then we'll have proof, and we'll have Richard Cohen's approval to go after Iraq.
I have always thought there is a plausible case for going to war against Iraq. But the more I hear from the administration -- the more it exaggerates its case and turns a potential threat against the region into an imminent one against Peoria, Ill. -- the more I have to wonder if such a case exists. From everything I know, Cheney and Rice are taking a worst-case scenario further than the facts warrant.
From everything you know. Is there a unit of measure for something that small?
I concede that I don't know everything -- and no one can be certain about what goes on in Iraq. But I can find no one with any expertise who thinks Iraq has an imminent nuclear capability. Similarly, I can find no one who thinks Iraq is directly linked to al Qaeda and thus to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. If this is wrong, then the Bush administration ought to come right out and say so -- and offer proof.
Well, if you're not looking outside your pals on the WashPost editorial page or Mo Dowd's house, no, I guess you won't find anyone who thinks that. But so what?
Back to the Vietnam Syndrome. The old one is gone. The dire predictions that preceded the Gulf War or the one in Afghanistan were not proved true. The Arab street did not erupt. But just as we were once hobbled by a reluctance to use force, the easy wars of the recent past have given us a certain cockiness.
As evidenced by what, exactly?
Oh, right. Nothing. But since when does Richard Cohen need evidence?
War is still a messy business, though, and almost anything can happen. It's conceivable we could have a so-called regime change in Iraq -- and in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, moderate regimes basically friendly with the United States, as well. If the new rulers are Jeffersonian democrats, terrific. But if they are religious fundamentalists, then we only will have traded one headache for another -- and long lines at the gas station to boot.
Well, if Richard has to wait at the gas station, that's a reason not to act.
And the Saudis a "friendly" and "moderate" regime? Cohen's idiocy knows no bounds.
Iraq must be dealt with. But the trap must be closed methodically. Bring back the arms inspectors. Vacuum the country. If Saddam agrees, fine. If he doesn't, then war becomes his choice -- and the world will understand.
The inspectors were thrown out by Iraq four years ago and not allowed back in. The sanctions regime has been violated since day one. The only point of trying to get inspectors back in is to allow Iraq and the U.N. bureaucrats to argue over the shape of the negotiating table for six months, and drag the process out endlessly. And if inspectors are sent back in, why would any rational person believe that they would be any more successful than the last time they were there?
But by its warnings without evidence, by its penchant for unilateralism and by its initial disregard for Congress, the Bush administration is sowing seeds of doubt. The palpable urgency of this administration to go to war is, at this moment, just downright inexplicable. It either is failing to make its case or, worse, has no case to make. I'm ready for war -- but just tell me again why.
The case has been made. You just aren't paying attention, or don't want to hear it.