Anti-war argument based on emotions, not facts

Posted: Feb 07, 2003 12:00 AM
If I were the sort of high-ranking Iraqi official who gets briefed on what's going on abroad -rather than spoonfed propaganda -I would be telling my wife and kids to pack their bags and check into a French hotel as quickly as possible (Lord knows the French would welcome them). Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council Wednesday seems to have forced a tectonic shift toward Iraq. In America, a sizable and growing majority of Americans now feel the case has been made for war. The Europeans, who had been strongly against a war, are now overwhelmingly on our side to the score of 18 nations to 2 (France and Germany). That doesn't necessarily reflect attitudes on the European "street," but it counters the notion that the United States is going it alone. But that's not why I'd be practicing my French if I were a Saddamite thug in Baghdad. No, all I'd need to see is the op-ed by Mary McGrory in the Feb. 6 Washington Post. McGrory, a columnist and fixture of the Beltway since the Kennedy Administration, wrote an article with the succinct headline, "I'm Persuaded." She begins her confession by saying, "I don't know how the United Nations felt about Colin Powell's `J'accuse' speech against Saddam Hussein. I can only say that he persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince." Now, I don't mean to say that as McGrory goes, so goes the nation. Even to suggest she has that kind of influence would disqualify me from operating heavy machinery. Rather, if McGrory's convinced that means Powell convinced pretty much everybody capable of being convinced, at least in Washington. Indeed, just hours after Powell's speech, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced that Powell's "very impressive chain of evidence" caused her to "shift" her position toward war. But McGrory's explanation reveals how dishonest and even dishonorable many anti-war liberals have been. She calls President Bush a "flighty thinker," and says, "I have resisted the push to war against Iraq because I thought George W. Bush was trying to pick a fight for all the wrong reasons -big oil, the far right -against the wrong enemy." She adds, "Among people I know, nobody was for the war" and "We wished Powell would oppose the war, because it seemed like such a huge and misdirected overreaction to a bully who got on the nerves of our touchy Texas president." This is a woman who writes a regular column for The Washington Post, and not one of her reasons has anything to do with the actual facts at issue. She doesn't like Bush. She doesn't like his advisers. Comments about Bush's intelligence seem to be the lynchpins of her opposition to war. When she says that "among the people" she knows, "nobody was for the war," she sounds like Pauline Kael, the New Yorker writer who famously said in 1972 that Nixon couldn't have won because, "I don't know a single person who voted for him!" Ultimately, McGrory says she's convinced because Powell's on board with a war and she likes Powell. She deserves credit for publicly changing her mind, but that is what's so damning about the knee-jerk opposition of so many anti-war liberals -it's based in animus, not logic. Almost every week I have to debate some opponent of the war on CNN or radio, and most of the time, I get the sense that their reasons for opposing Bush are echoed in McGrory's sentiments. They don't like war for vague, emotional reasons. They think, in the words of that noted geopolitical strategist Sheryl Crow, "war is based in greed" and the best way to avoid it is "not to have enemies." And while they concede Saddam Hussein is evil, they can only get passionate about the perfidy of our own president. One gets the distinct sense that if Al Gore were in office, they'd have no problems with toppling Saddam. It's nice to have McGrory and her crowd on board. It would be nicer still if they were persuaded by more than Colin Powell's charm.