'Saddened' by Daschle's anti-war statement

Posted: Mar 19, 2003 12:00 AM

So, it's going to be war. In his somber but forceful address to the nation, President Bush "showed his cards," as he likes to say, and now everybody else is showing theirs, too.

Within 24 hours of the president's announcement our friends rallied to our cause, including the Japanese, the Israelis, the Australians and several East European nations.

The Turks turned on a dime and announced they were going to do everything they could to help out. Prime Minister Tony Blair told his party and his parliament that the United Kingdom must stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States or stand alone without him as prime minister.

Meanwhile, the French whined that they were being unfairly singled out for forcing the failure of diplomacy at the United Nations, saying, in effect, "the Russians did it, too!" Also, staying true to their weasely form, the French announced that if Saddam Hussein used chemical or biological weapons on the United States they would, in effect, come to our rescue.

The French may think they're doing us a big favor. But, at this point, they shouldn't do us any favors. If Saddam can be deterred by the French military juggernaut, but not by the U.S. 101st Airborne, then he's even more of a madman than we were all led to believe.

But it was Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's read-'em-and-weep statement that was the most outrageous. A few hours before President Bush addressed the nation, Daschle had been tipped off to what Bush would say. In turn, Daschle told a meeting of union leaders, "I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened 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."

Now, I have no doubt that Daschle is truly "saddened, saddened" by Bush's decision. After all, that's a pretty low threshold for Daschle. Being "saddened" is his favorite rhetorical device. George W. Bush could pet a puppy and Daschle would hold a press conference sighing, in that stage whisper of his, that he's "saddened and disappointed that President Bush couldn't muster more than a token level of affection" for the poor creature.

But someone needs to explain to me how we've been "forced into war" because Bush "failed so miserably at diplomacy." I largely agree that Bush failed at diplomacy, though this was forced by the French when they announced they'd veto any diplomatic compromise. It's hard to play a game fairly when another player says he'll take the ball and go home no matter what you do.

But what does Daschle think Bush was employing diplomacy for? For the last month or more, Bush wasn't employing diplomacy in order to forestall war, he was employing diplomacy in order to corral more allies for a war that was going to happen so long as Saddam continued to flout his obligations. "Failed diplomacy" didn't force war, it merely forced war with fewer allies.

Surely, Daschle doesn't believe that more deft diplomacy would have convinced Saddam Hussein to finally disarm and abide by 17 U.N. resolutions? Surely, he doesn't believe that if Colin Powell had only succeeded in winning passage of an 18th resolution telling Saddam "for the last time we really mean it" that -abracadabra! -Saddam would suddenly become the Arab Gandhi and shed his weapons of mass destruction like a snake shedding its skin? Twelve years of sanctions, no fly zones, cruise missile attacks and international condemnation amount to a whole lot of "diplomacy" in my book.

We know Daschle is aware of this because twice in the last five years he's supported a U.S. president to use force against Iraq. In 1998, he defended President Clinton's Iraq policy to reporters: "Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so? … This is the key question. And the answer is, we don't have another option. We have got to force them to comply, and we are doing so militarily."

Again, last fall, Daschle supported the use of force when he voted to authorize President Bush to disarm Iraq if he deemed it necessary. And with that vote in his pocket, George W. Bush went to the United Nations and extracted a 15-0 vote from the Security Council telling Saddam -for the 17th time -to disarm.

Saddam refused, and the president tried to get the French and others to support him. He failed at that because the French showed their cards: opposing Bush is more important than their integrity. It's sad to say, but it looks like Daschle is holding the same cards.

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