When Dick Armey and Margaret Thatcher get crosswise on an issue
of the moment, it gives their overlapping fan clubs pause -- to put it
Time out, accordingly, for a few observations on the matter
separating our hero and heroine -- the matter of whether to heave out Saddam
Hussein by his thick, black mustaches. Baroness Thatcher wrote in The Wall
Street Journal June 17, "Saddam must go." Dick Armey, Republican leader of
the House, says, "I don't believe that America will justifiably make an
unprovoked attack on another nation. ... As long as he behaves himself
within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources
It is hard to find a westerner of any philosophical stripe with
anything good to say about the Butcher of Baghdad. Whether to coerce his
early retirement is the question. Backers of President Bush, to say nothing
of Americans at large, are divided. Some say yes (because Saddam seems to be
producing weapons of mass destruction); others say no (because we don't
really know to what extent he is doing so).
Further obfuscating the matter, liberals demand -- demand, I
said -- that the United States stay out of Iraq. Now, it is usual that when
liberals start demanding, conservatives start huffing. (Such is human
nature, and you wonder why liberals haven't figured out that civility would
serve their interests better than truculence.) On the other hand, here is
true-blue conservative Dick Armey saying, "As long as (Saddam) behaves
himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or
resources against him."
Much would seem to depend on the meaning of the word "behave."
Do well-behaved dictators develop and manufacture biochemical weapons?
Saddam has been known to do so in the past; suspicions are strong that he
still does. As Baroness Thatcher correctly notes, "We have to assume that if
those who hate us are confident that they can threaten us or our allies by
this means, they will do so."
Not to head off such a prospect would seem the supreme act of
moral irresponsibility. Thus, the sensation of fingernails scraping a
blackboard when a gaggle of lefty British Christians -- including the newly
designated archbishop of Canterbury -- preachily enjoins that "An attack on
Iraq would be both immoral and illegal." Come again, your worships? Heading
off attempted mass slaughter affronts morality and the law?
This much we would have to concede their worships: Outside the
most rarefied political and intelligence circles, factual grounds for
appraising the Iraqi threat, pro or con, are minimal. We form opinions in a
vacuum. We trust those we are predisposed to trust, and we mistrust those
... The administration has not laid out the case for military intervention.
Clearer and clearer it becomes that before the American people can make the
terrible judgment that war is inevitable, they must know the measure and
magnitude of the stakes.
This task, as it happens, the Iraqis perversely assist through
their adamant defiance of U.N. overtures aimed at gaining the right to
inspect sites that may be used for manufacturing weapons capable of killing
half the planet.
Lately, war opponents have taken encouragement from the fact of
a renewed U.N. dialogue with Iraq. That ole dog no longer hunts with vim. On
Monday, Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, announced on Al
Jazeerah TV that "inspections have finished in Iraq."
Is it just possible the Iraqis might be rebuffing the inspectors
on account of having something to hide? If theirs is at least as lovable a
society as Zimbabwe, would they not bend over backward to prove it?
Before he leads the nation into war with Iraq, President Bush
will certainly have to lay his poker hand face up for close scrutiny.
Meanwhile, outside presidential circles, betting of a different kind goes
on -- to the effect that the president's cards are high ones.
We'll know in due course. Only then can we decide intelligently.