George Will

As I was walking up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish, I wish he'd stay away.
--Hughes Mearns

WASHINGTON--The Bush administration wonders whether a man who is there may say something about a man who is not there.

Intrigued officials have noticed a familiar face in an unfamiliar setting. A man believed to be, or perhaps to have been, Saddam Hussein's personal bodyguard, hitherto was almost always seen standing behind Saddam in televised appearances. Now he has been seen on television standing behind Iraq's defense minister.

Because it is uncertain whether Saddam has been seen at all since the ``decapitation'' attack that began the war, a senior administration official dryly says of the bodyguard: ``It could be that Saddam no longer needs his services.'' Because it is unclear even whether Iraq's head of government is alive, judgments about the war's course should be tentative.

Because there has not been a wave of uprisings against the regime as coalition forces have approached, some persons have inferred an unanticipated strength in Saddam's regime. This inference ignores two facts. Iraqis remember 1991 and U.S. officials may remember 1956.

When many thousands of Iraqis rose against Saddam after the Gulf War in 1991, they may have expected U.S. assistance. Instead they died by the thousands, unassisted. And in the wake of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 speech to the Twentieth Party Congress criticizing Stalin, there was anti-Soviet unrest in Poland that reverberated in Hungary. U.S. policy--broadcasts on Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and underground cells that the CIA helped organize--encouraged a revolt.

But when it occurred, Hungary, landlocked and surrounded by communist states and neutral Austria, could not have been helped by the United States, even if President Eisenhower had wanted to act on the reckless rhetoric of some Republicans about forcibly ``rolling back'' the Iron Curtain, which he did not. This inglorious episode taught the United States not to encourage tyrannized people to put their lives on the line until they can be given more than mere encouragement.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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