Dumb and dumber

Posted: Sep 20, 2002 12:00 AM
DALLAS -- This past week marked round two of President Bush's diplomatic offensive against Iraq, clarifying the dividing lines. The team advocating "Zero Tolerance for Terrorism" is lead by President George W. Bush and includes Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The "Dictators and Diplomacy" crowd boasts the likes of Saddam Hussein, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The question for members of Congress is which coalition they will embrace when President Bush asks for their vote to take out Saddam and his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. It was also the week that congressional Democrats and the United Nations earned the monikers, "Dumb and Dumber," when it comes to fighting the war on terrorism. While many members of Congress blame the intelligence agencies and administration for failing to prevent 9-11, they continue to drag their feet on the evidence that Saddam Hussein poses a threat that could make Sept. 11 pale in comparison. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Kofi Annan displayed all the symptoms of the diplomatic equivalent of "Battered Woman Syndrome," insisting that unlike the dozens of other occasions when the Iraqi dictator gave Kofi and his inspectors the back of the hand, this time the world really could trust Saddam's promises to cooperate. Fortunately, others around the world are not so naive. After Bush delivered his ultimatum last week to the U.N., one nation after another stepped up to the plate and acknowledged Iraq's continued defiance of over a dozen Security Council resolutions. Faced with such a dramatic shift, Saddam invited U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq. While Kofi Annan foolishly declared victory, most observers greeted Saddam's announcement with appropriate skepticism. After all, the Mad Dog of Baghdad has rolled over and played dead many times before. Since Security Council Resolution 687, which compels Iraq to unconditionally accept weapons inspectors, was passed in 1991, Iraqi authorities have consistently impeded U.N. access to its military and research facilities. U.N. inspectors in Iraq have been fired upon, assaulted, stripped of documents incriminating to Iraq, and denied both air and vehicular access to "sensitive" areas. In 1997, a new crisis was precipitated when Iraq banned Americans from participating in U.N. inspections. Iraq's history of permitting such "unconditional" inspections has made a mockery of the U.N., but it won't make a fool of George W. Bush. "All they've got to do is look at (Saddam's) record," Bush said. "I'm convinced that when we continue to make the case about his defiance, his deception, the fact that time and time again -- dozens of times -- he has told the world, 'Oh, I will comply' and he never does, that nations who care about peace ... will join us." But as nations that care about peace were lining up with the president, Saddam was receiving unsolicited help from many congressional Democrats. After demanding that Bush consult the U.N. and Congress before acting against Iraq, Democrats suddenly developed cold feet. "I'm sort of disappointed the administration is reacting negatively" to the Iraqi move, said Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member who also opposed military action against Iraq in 1991. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., another opponent of the 1991 Gulf War, welcomed Saddam's latest announcement by pleading with Bush to "build on this latest piece of good news instead of walking away from it." Over in the House, Democrats were openly assailing Bush's strong posture on Iraq as a shameless bid at helping Republicans in November. "I've heard the 'Wag the Dog' idea from quite a few people, including my constituents," Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., told reporters. President Bush has not suffered these congressional fools gladly. Forcefully rejecting the notion that Congress must patiently await the passage of another U.N. resolution before acting to stop Saddam's acquisition of offensive weapons, Bush appropriately castigated Democrats for their divided loyalties. "I can't imagine an elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, 'I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision,'" Bush noted. "It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States," Bush pressured before sending his own resolution to the Hill for consideration. When the Jerusalem Post invited me to Israel this summer to broadcast my radio show, I spoke to numerous members of the Knesset, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and spokesmen for current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. I asked them what might happen during a second war with Iraq. "If Saddam Hussein attacks us with a weapon of mass destruction," they all said, using almost exactly the same language, "we will respond the only way we can." The warning was clear: an Israeli retaliation to such an attack would change life as we know it forever. The only way to prevent such a catastrophe is to stop Saddam Hussein from ever acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction. George Bush understands that. Tony Blair understands it. Even the Saudis, who reversed course this week and rolled out the red carpet to the American military, have come to accept it. The question is, will Tom Daschle and Kofi Annan ever see the light?