February 21, 2003
As Saddam Hussein’s options diminish, anti-American rhetoric has grown more extreme. Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, added his shrill criticism to the chorus January 30, when he spoke at the International Women's Forum.
Mandela claimed that President Bush wants to “plunge the world into a holocaust." He also claimed the U.S. “has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world.” As usual, he provided no specifics.
Mandela also said, “Iraq produces 64 (sic) percent of the world’s oil. All Bush wants is the oil.” Actually, Iraq produces only about two percent of world oil. Mandela seems disconnected from reality with both his numbers and his charges of “holocaust,” and “unspeakable atrocities.”
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, responded to Mandela in a letter, “Your criticisms of President Bush and America are inappropriate and offensive. And to attack America, which has been the leader in bringing freedom to so much of the world, as a ‘country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world’ and that doesn't care for human beings is grossly unfair, prejudicial, and simply wrong.”
Bush critics have charged him with being everything from a “cowboy” to a “megalomaniac.” Some have even compared our preparations for Iraq with Germany’s actions in World War II and the Holocaust.
But as Foxman correctly described Mandela’s tirade, such extreme accusations are “grossly unfair.... and simply wrong.” And any comparison of the United States, Great Britain, and those willing to join them, with the Nazi regime is extreme for even Mandela and his ilk.
Still, it’s not surprising that disciples of hate are the most vocal war critics they are anti-American, anti-West, and in some cases, even anti-Christian. They turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to accurate recitations of facts that counter the “blood for oil” claims. They either can’t or won’t understand Saddam Hussein, and they ignore his weapons fixation.
Even my mild article, “Iraq: This Time It’s Different,” that recently ran in this space, came in for criticism in some quarters. So I checked around for other opinions to see how they compared. I was surprised to find a New York Times editorial, “A War for Oil? Not This Time,” published 17 days after my piece appeared.
Another article, “Iraqi oil is not America’s objective,” by John Tatom, in the London Financial Times, ran 16 days after my piece was published. So it seems I may have been early, but not alone, in perceiving that this time in Iraq is different.
I think we can all agree that war is bad. The dilemma faced by Bush, Blair and the Coalition is that if nothing is done to disarm Iraq, then what is to be done?
Others in the region are trying to persuade Saddam Hussein to avoid war. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, referring to the “devastating consequences” of war in the Middle East, urged Iraq to fully comply with U.N. demands for disarmament. Yakis said, "We therefore solemnly call on the Iraqi leadership to move irreversibly and sincerely toward assuming their responsibilities in restoring peace and stability in the region."
One of the more insightful reports from Europe was by Josef Joffe, editor of Germany’s Die Zeit, who wrote in early February, “Power corrupts, but so does weakness. And absolute weakness corrupts absolutely. We are now living through the most critical watershed of the postwar period, with enormous moral and strategic issues at stake, and the only answer many Europeans offer is to constrain and contain American power. So by default they end up on the side of Saddam, in an intellectually corrupt position.”
Herr Joffe pretty well sums up the limited choices we have in dealing with Iraq, and the problem faced by those who support or oppose the war.
The U.S. position supported by Britain and others recognizes the weakness of the United Nations in dealing with a Saddam Hussein. If it’s not done from strength, it will fail. The Saddams and Hitlers aren’t moved by weak, nicely worded entreaties.
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