In the tense hours before military action, as the countdown clock was ticking, eyes turned to the Persian Gulf and all the world held its breath.
Too bad some people kept on talking.
There was Sen. Tom Daschle, standing by this week's "saddened, saddened" soliloquy in which he declared President Bush had "failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war." And to think, he might as well have added, after all that Iraq and France have done for us.
This "saddened, saddened" speech, by the way, is not to be confused with last fall's "outrageous, outrageous" address in which Mr. Daschle accused President Bush of politicizing the debate over Iraq. (Which, of course, was -- give it a whispery sibilance -- "outrageous, outrageous.") By now, it seems, the senate minority leader has passed the point of outrage, outrage. And he is additionally, but singly, "saddened," as he said, that "we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."
What hateful, shameful words. Mr. Daschle articulated neither strategic disagreement, nor respectable political dissent; instead, he baselessly accused an American president of compromising the lives of American military men and women on what was the very brink of battle.
Mr. Daschle also made no sense. The diplomacy that "failed" was designed to swell the ranks, via the United Nations Security Council, of the international coalition arrayed against Saddam Hussein. France will be France, of course, and U.N. solidarity against the Iraqi despot crumbled like some of the cheeses I'm not buying these days. Which leaves us with a measly 35 nations supporting our "unilateral" war effort against Iraq. If it gets any more unilateral than that, Mr. Daschle will probably say we're piling on.
Not to be forgotten was Bill Clinton's argument last week that weapons inspections never had a chance. I would agree, only not for the same reasons. These latest inspections were doomed from the start, the ex-president said, not because of Saddam Hussein's obstructionism and deception -- or France's, for that matter -- but because of the United States'. Sending troops to the gulf after the U.N. Security Council passed the 17th resolution in 12 years requiring Iraq to disarm "convinced everybody we weren't serious about U.N. inspections," Mr. Clinton concluded. "That's how we got into this political mess."
Right. Too bad we didn't follow Mr. Clinton's strategy -- and see Saddam halt weapons inspections as he did in 1998. Meanwhile, wasn't it Hans Blix himself who credited this same troop presence with pumping a little iron into recent inspection efforts?