Archive for the ‘INVASION OF IRAQ’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR   3 comments

HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR

John Chuckman

A few columnists and commentators who questioned or opposed the invasion of Iraq, now say, having been touched by pictures of Iraqis bravely casting ballots, that George Bush was right.

Such is the persuasive power of positive propaganda, which works by focusing on true details, ignoring their ugly context, and such is the wisdom imparted by need-to-get-a-column-out thinkers.

First, much as I admire the Iraqis who voted, any human being’s sense of fear or horror is relative to his or her circumstances. People do become inured to horrible conditions. That is how they survive wars, plagues, slavery, and even death camps.

And George Bush’s Iraq is a pretty horrible place. Not just a bloody invasion but civil chaos have worked to make it so, and Iraqis were already hardened to horrors by the decade-long American embargo and the devastation of the first Gulf War.

Second, the Iraqi election was only a tiny step in a long and highly uncertain journey through an uncharted land. No one knows whether democracy will become established soon in Iraq. It is possible to make a strong argument that the invasion will prove to have delayed the ultimate coming of meaningful democracy to Iraq. Before the first Gulf War, Iraq was the most advanced and thriving of Arab states. There was a growing, educated middle class who would certainly have shed absolute government before very long. Much of what they achieved lies in ruins today.

Third, democracy, even if it should be achieved in Iraq, does not imply a magical state of human freedom. It matters in a democracy who writes the rules, who has the vote, and what are the attitudes and intentions of the majority. Democracies have demonstrated time and again they are just as capable of brutality and injustice as other forms of government. The original intention of the Bill of Rights in the American Constitution was to protect minorities against the will of a malicious majority, but in a number of terrible examples it failed utterly to do so for two centuries because it was simply ignored.

Many democracies have not had even paper protections for individuals. There could be no written protections for British subjects under the Empire. How could you define freedoms for those living under colonialism? Israel doesn’t have a Bill of Rights. How could you have a meaningful one in a country where religion pretty much defines citizenship? Apartheid South Africa was a democracy for those qualified to vote but could afford no broad protections to its residents.

Fourth, the enthusiastic participants in the Iraqi election were Kurds and Shiites. The motivating interests of each of these groups today does not necessarily reflect conditions for stable Iraqi democracy.

The Kurds, roughly 20% of the population and non-Arabic Sunni Moslems, have an intense desire for independence, a fact the U.S. has used to exploit this unfortunate people more than once into supporting its aims. But Kurdish independence is not possible. When modern Iraq was created by the British, the northern (Kurdish) area was included because it had oil, because it grew grain for much of what is modern Iraq, and because it had no natural defensive barriers. Independence for the Kurds also would be intolerable to Turkey whose own sizeable population of Kurds has caused much civil unrest and would be inflamed by the possibilities of such an event.

Shia Moslems, people with a strong Arab identity in Iraq, are the majority of Iraq’s population. They were suppressed by Hussein, but his behavior was not unique. The Ottomans (Sunni Turks) ruled the area more than a century ago and did not trust the Shia. Local Sunni were given the important posts under the Ottoman Empire. The British followed the same practice, and Hussein only continued a long-established policy.

The great dilemma for the Shia today is that if they wish to govern and overcome their history of being suppressed, they must do so under the shadow of American power. So we have to ask how a government representing about 60% of the national population, ruling under the sufferance of foreign occupation, can be meaningfully democratic? Does the situation not parallel in many respects the rule of the Protestants in Northern Ireland under the power of Great Britain? How stable has that been?

Although the Shia of Iraq have a different ethnic identity than the Shia of Iran, they necessarily share many interests and sympathies. Hardly a day passes that Bush’s government doesn’t threaten Iran over weapons or the supposed movement of agents and volunteers into Iraq.

The most profound reason for rejecting favorable judgment of Bush’s policy comes from a brief thought-experiment. Iraqi losses have been convincingly measured at a hundred thousand dead. Hundreds of thousands more were maimed or wounded. Millions were reduced to no means of earning a living. The total loss and devastation are comparable to America’s dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and likely exceed it.

Those who say Bush was right are telling us that it was a sound decision to drop an atomic bomb just to change the government of Iraq, a government that was no longer a threat to anyone outside its borders.

Now consider the American government encouraged by such facile judgments. It consists of an almost cult-like group of rich and arrogant people who cannot spend money fast enough on their military, despite the country’s having no seriously-threatening opponents. It even is funding a new generation of nuclear weapons, sometimes described as “useable.” The members of this cult-like group generally themselves avoided military service and show little concern for the welfare of others, even the ordinary people of their own land.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: INSANITY IN AMERICA   Leave a comment

INSANITY IN AMERICA

John Chuckman

It’s always satisfying to have a pet theory supported by new data. A large and authoritative study, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms a favorite hypothesis of mine, that there is more mental illness and insanity, far more, in America than you find in other advanced societies.

The study, led by a Harvard Medical School researcher, found evidence of mental problems in 26.4 % of people in the United States, versus, for example, 8.2% of people in Italy. The researchers were concerned with matters such as lack of access to treatment and under-treatment, but for those concerned about a safe and decent world, I think the salient finding is simply America’s high percentage. The world is being led by a nation where more than one-quarter of the people have genuine mental problems.

The finding is strangely both comforting and disturbing.

It is comforting because it helps explain why Americans continue supporting a man proven wrong every time he opens his mouth, a man who has de-stabilized parts of the world in the name of creating stability, a man claiming sound business principles who has pitched the United States into deficit free-fall, and a man who arouses suspicion and fear throughout the world.

The study is comforting, too, because it helps explain an opposition candidate like John Kerry. How can liberals generate excitement over this stale, fly-buzzed doughnut of a candidate? I suppose the same way they get excited every time Bush’s polls dip by something little more than statistical noise. Perhaps the same way a man like Michael Moore – who makes gobs of money playing to the suspicions and prejudices of the paranoid segment of America’s great political market – could so eagerly embrace a crypto-Nazi like General Wesley Clark as “his candidate”?

The finding is comforting in explaining all those Americans shocked and appalled over The New York Times’ recent apology for its drum-beating, pre-invasion coverage of Iraq’s non-existent weapons. Here is a newspaper that, more often than not, comes down on the wrong side of human rights, always protects Establishment interests, always ignores abuses until they can no longer be ignored, and yet it somehow retains a reputation in America as guardian of treasured values and as the nation’s newspaper of record.

Well, the “record” part is easily explained, since The Times often takes one position before an event and another after, adjusting its emphasis according to shifts in public opinion or facts discovered by someone else. With that kind of coverage, you surely do qualify as some kind of paper of record.

But nothing could be a bigger nonsense than The Times’ reputation as guardian of values in a free society. Just ask Wen Ho Lee, or Richard Jewell, or the woman who accused a Kennedy of rape, or all the people who died unnecessarily at the Bay of Pigs. Go back and examine The Times at key points in the communist witch hunts or at the outbreak of the Korean War. Go back and examine its views and emphasis when President Johnson offered his Hitler-like lies about the Gulf of Tonkin. Go back and see how often The Times has done any real investigative journalism – when it mattered, not in retrospect – about subjects as vital as the FBI’s huge abuse of power during the 1960s or the shameful backgrounds of many of the country’s leading politicians. Just examine the statements of the paper’s signature columnist, Thomas Friedman, who sounds like Henry Ford condemned to bizarre re-incarnation as one the Jews he so hated.

But the finding also is quite disturbing. America, for many years to come, will dominate world affairs. The world will continue to be treated as though it were the backyard sandbox of the Bushes, Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Liebermans, Kerrys, Albrights and other privileged, selfish, and not particularly well-informed American Establishment figures.

I explain American insanity by a gene pool fouled with the heavy early migration of Puritans, mentally disturbed fanatics if we accept the rather detailed historical record in Europe, plus the immense stresses of a society run along strict principles of Social Darwinism. An almost unqualified admiration for greed now dominates American culture. Yes, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” involved self-interest, but go back and read that thoughtful and compassionate philosopher and compare what he says to the chimpanzee screams we hear from America.

As to the stresses in American society, I refer not only to the struggle of individuals to survive there, but to the fact that the whole story of America has been one of unremitting aggression. It is the story of “a pounding fist,” as Tennessee Williams’ Big Daddy described himself.

Had America somehow come to be in Europe, its story would most closely parallel that of Germany and its long, belligerent effort to dominate the continent. It is only because so much of America’s aggression has been against what seemed lightly settled places – the Ohio Valley, the Great Plains, Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii – that people think any differently about it. Other places were not so lightly settled, and opposition in places like the Philippines was crushed with great bloodshed.

My criticism of the United States is not concerned with how it wishes to order its own society, but about how its activities spill over into the rest of the world. Its actions in the world too often resemble those of an ugly drunk pushing his way into your living room and puking all over the carpet.

Iraq provides a textbook example. The net effect of the invasion of Iraq is a badly de-stabilized country, now full of people who resent Americans for their brutality and arrogance, where once there were undoubtedly many who dreamily admired America at a distance. Saudi Arabia also has been de-stabilized, as many warned Bush that it would be before he set his crusaders marching. Many old friends and allies, like France or Canada, have been stupidly abused for offering sound advice and declining to join the march to hell. Tony Blair’s pathetic rag of a government hangs by threads after working against the clear wishes of the British people, and Blair has found the voice he thought he had earned in the councils of war arrogantly dismissed by Bush and his fanatics. Israel’s state-terror in the West Bank and Gaza, cheerily accepted by Bush (and Kerry), has risen to nightmarish levels, and if you think that has no connection with all the hatred for America in the world, you are either foolish or qualify as part of the more than one-quarter of Americans who need professional help.

Oil prices are high and unstable, as are American deficits. International security arrangements, those things so loved by police-mentalities but which have never been known to stop real bad guys, are becoming stupidly cumbersome and heavy-handed. Yet America still supports Bush, no matter what its small tribe of liberals chooses to believe. Knowing America’s record on small tribes, I suppose it’s healthy self-interest to pretend enthusiasm for tiny dips in Bush’s polls and for an alternative as insipid and meaningless as John Kerry.

While I am glad for the confirmation of my hypothesis, I can’t help feeling, as with so many studies, this one does little more than confirm the painfully obvious.

Posted May 31, 2009 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: THE PARABLE OF SAMARRA   Leave a comment

THE PARABLE OF SAMARRA

John Chuckman

Front-page stories announced the greatest battle since the end of combat in Iraq with fifty-four insurgents killed and not an American soldier lost. We were given breathtaking details about two separate, coordinated attacks, the firing of rocket-propelled grenades at American vehicles, and the fact that many of the attackers wore Fedayeen militia uniforms associated with Saddam Hussein. Early reports even claimed eleven insurgents were captured.

In addition to headlines, we had sources like CNN pouring on the infotainment-interviews and instant wisdom. I noticed on the Internet that the redoubtable Wolf Blitzer exchanged schoolboy fantasies with a CIA dropout in search of his fifteen minutes. Never mind whether the attack happened, America learned that it would represent new tactics by insurgents, massing large forces against an armored American column. Oh, that does sound ominous and impressive.

Gradually, enough bits of information, including a story that it was actually an attempted heist of new Iraqi banknotes being delivered, raised serious questions over the battle. The idea of a heist made a little more sense than insurgents in uniform since Iraq under U.S. occupation is a country full of angry, unemployed people with streets too dangerous to walk at night.

There were so many doubts, the kinds of clues and irregularities that make a good detective avoid accepting first appearances. Not a single American killed by two large forces firing at them? And you had to wonder what desperate man would come close enough to a 60-ton Abrams tank to be seen firing a rocket-grenade capable of nothing more than scratching its paint? And how about those guys, before and after the attack, running around occupied Iraq in uniform? Where were the captives?

On the same day the Washington Post and other major American publications featured the dazzlingly fuzzy tale, a few sources like al Jazeera quoted the local hospital as having received the bodies of eight civilians, including a woman and a child, plus sixty more wounded by American fire. American tanks and other armored vehicles, said witnesses, had sprayed heavy fire recklessly over an urban area, including a pharmaceutical plant where at least one worker was killed

We now have enough information to be sure there was no battle. Yes, there was plenty of shooting and destruction, but not a single dead insurgent has been produced by American authorities who worked tirelessly to get pictures of the blood-soaked corpses of Saddam Hussein’s sons quickly beamed around the world. Not a single militia uniform has been produced, nor any of the dozens of weapons necessarily left behind by dead insurgents dragged away by comrades.

The reports of residents, reports from the hospital, and the blunt, published observations of at least one American soldier tell us there was only a big shoot-up by Americans, blasting away at anything that moved, shattering buildings and the people huddled inside and leaving the street littered with tank-crushed cars. Who knows, perhaps a landmine or gunshot somewhere triggered it all, and trigger-happy soldiers, angry about being in what they regard as a hellhole, let loose enough firepower to level a city block.

It could be that American authorities actually believe there was a battle, with the dead and wounded having been dragged away by survivors. There is an irresistible tendency for people to create acceptable fantasies around the work they do, even when that work is killing.

I think it unlikely a retraction is coming. With a number of senior military men quoted by name that first day on non-existent details, a retraction would be impossibly embarrassing. Has there been any retraction of the fantasy about nuclear and other deadly weapons that sent American armies hurtling into Iraq? Bush just stopped talking about weapons and started talking about democracy. Good stuff, democracy, and it’s hard to argue even with tongue-twisted platitudes praising its merits.

America’s press will soon forget the Battle of Samarra, as it soon forgets everything from which most of the easily-squeezed juice has been consumed. I very much doubt Iraqis will forget it, certainly not the relatives, friends, and neighbors of those killed and mutilated by fear-crazed Americans rolling through their streets with terrible weapons at the ready.

Perhaps the New York Times will do some digging, following its usual practice of joining the mob in its first bloody howls, and only later, when ardor has cooled, doing an investigation that keeps the paper technically accurate for the record. It’s a way of enjoying the best of both worlds, although generally the conclusions of its follow-up investigations are left ambiguous enough not to embarrass the establishment the paper serves.

The war’s main goal – smashing Iraq and resurrecting it as a liberal democratic state – is also a fantasy, although one on a vastly greater scale. There is no historical authority whatever to support even the plausibility of this idea.

I recently heard an American academic pontificating on the subject as though it were something one could study and be expert in, but it is not. Much like the numerous American experts in terror who make substantial livings giving scare-lectures to corporate leaders on expense accounts or Pentagon working lunches, this man is an expert in a subject at which it is virtually impossible to be expert.

Terrorism is not a science, it is an opportunistic approach to hurting a militarily superior enemy, although it is clearly possible to put a lot of cumbersome words around the topic. The pseudo-science of smashing closed societies and rebuilding them as democracies is loaded with the same kind of coined, self-serving words that fill ephemeral, anecdotal books on psychology, management, and healthy living. The subjects are close kin to the junk science that clogs the arteries of America’s courts.

In the isolated, paranoid, and money-drenched atmosphere of Washington, junk science is serious stuff. Bush, in making his foolish decision to invade Iraq, may be seen ultimately as the victim of well-paid quacks.

Perhaps the only cases in history with superficial resemblance to what is intended for Iraq are those of Germany and Japan after World War II, but, in truth, there are almost no parallels here.

Germany and Japan had suffered war with millions of casualties. In the massive, late bombing of Japan, before America resorted to atomic weapons, there were no primary or secondary targets left standing. What has been inflicted on Iraq is nothing quite so terrible. Japan or Germany was as close as you can get to being a tabula rasa.

The successful conversions of Germany and Japan to liberal democracy occurred in the extraordinary context of the Cold War. The people of Germany and Japan were faced with the stark choice of joining one camp or the other. The correct choice, despite many qualms about America, was pretty clear with Stalin’s terrifying face glowering over the Soviet Union. Today, the United States is not viewed by the world as the alternative to a tyrannical, frightening Soviet Union; it is viewed as an arrogant, privileged land that does pretty much as it pleases.

The case is even stronger than that because America today is so intimately associated with Israel. Even though Arab states are resigned to Israel’s existence, they can hardly be expected to embrace occupation and constant abuse. Moreover, parallels in the circumstances of occupied Palestinians to those of occupied Iraqis are unpleasantly close and appear to grow more so each day.

Germany and Japan were both advanced countries, undoubtedly on the cusp of developing their own democratic institutions, Germany having already gained some experience between the world wars. Police states simply do not survive over the long term in advanced countries. Democracy comes precisely out of the overwhelming force of middle-class interests that flood an advanced economy.

It is almost universally true that poorly-developed countries are not democracies. There are few enough institutions of any kind in such countries, and certainly none to sustain democracy. There is no balance of interests where there is a small privileged group and a great mass of poverty and ignorance. Purchased courts, purchased police, and laws written to favor the powerful are the rule. This kind of imbalance is felt even in the United States. In a poor country, its influence is decisive. Where such countries are officially designated as democracies, we typically find rigged elections.

Germany and Japan were both old nations with strong identities. Iraq is an artificial construct of British imperialism dating only to the last century. It is composed of groups having little in common, having been held together only by the brute force of a dictator. Each of these groups is also subject to many external influences, a reflection of the arbitrary and recently-set boundaries in the region.

There is also difficulty with the notion that you can have popular democracy in a place like contemporary Iraq and yet have a country friendly to American interests, especially as those interests are reflected in the activities of an uncompromising, combative, nuclear-armed Israel. Bush has achieved nothing in pushing Israel towards peace, so why expect favorable decisions from an Islamic population voting freely?

In other places in the Middle East, like Egypt, America supports a combination of winked-at authoritarian government and substantial bribe-paying. Why does America support this if there are realistic alternatives? That was the situation that existed in Iraq until the Gulf War. The populace of Egypt, so far as we can understand in the absence of genuine measures of public opinion, is not one that would freely elect a government friendly to a number of American interests. The same is almost certainly true of Iraq.

Is the U.S. likely to leave behind in Iraq either a highly unstable government, one whose quick collapse would bring civil war between the major groups, or a democratically-elected government, stable but hostile to American interests? These and so many other questions only show how little Bush thought before he reached for a gun.

We are unlikely to learn the truth from officials about the Battle of Samarra, and so it is with the entire reckless adventure of invading Iraq. American troops are going to be in Iraq for a long time, and there is no reason to expect they are going to make any more friends for America than the boys doing the shooting in Samarra.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: IT’S NOT ABOUT OIL   Leave a comment

IT’S NOT ABOUT OIL

John Chuckman

I do get tired of reading claims that oil is the reason why Mr. Bush wants to attack Iraq. Perhaps, commentators pick oil because it seems to give clarity where there is so little, evoking the slightly romantic image of 19th century troops in pith helmets scrambling for colonial resources.

I don’t want to be guilty of discouraging Americans from giving up on their horribly wasteful and polluting SUVs, for there are many important reasons to encourage them to do so, but at least for now, oil supply is not one of them.

Yes, of course, Bush’s light-truck constituency cares about oil, and Iraq’s reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia’s. But the notion that a great power needs physically to control sources of a plentiful raw material is simply outdated. The nationalization of oil reserves, a world-wide phenomenon of a few generations ago, is something not likely to be undone, and, besides, a very comfortable modus vivendi has grown up between producing and consuming governments.

Anything resembling American expropriation of Middle East oil fields would produce tidal waves, not just in the Arab world, but in places like Mexico and Venezuela. I cannot think of a better way of causing al Qaeda recruits to line up in a dozen countries much the way alarmed, idealistic young Britains lined up in 1914 to fight “the damned Bosch.” Even with the hillbilly-crowd running the White House, I think it safe to say this approach is not on.

Iraq’s reserves are of no value to Iraq unless their production is for sale. No matter who runs Iraq, it is a sure bet that its oil will flow for as long as the reserves hold out, at prices worked out under those cozy arrangements of producing and consuming countries. In recent years, it has only been America’s harsh economic restrictions on Iraq that prevented a possible glutting of the oil market.

Iraq’s reserves represent a gigantic future revenue stream, many hundreds of billions of dollars. Bush’s crowd definitely wants this future revenue stream put into hands that are friendlier to American policy.

The uncertainty that Saddam Hussein represents for American policy-makers is not uncertainty over the availability of oil, it is uncertainty over what Hussein may choose to do with the revenue stream over the decade or so possibly left to his rule, and it is the uncertainty of what Israel may do in response.

Hussein’s army is not a serious threat to Israel. Its leadership and equipment make it inferior in almost every respect to the IDF, and it certainly doesn’t have the United States supplying round-the-clock military intelligence, new technical capabilities, a bottomless supply of spare parts, and diplomatic pouches full of cash.

But Hussein with a small nuclear arsenal is quite another matter. Israel is a small country, and just two or three nuclear devices could devastate its highly-urbanized population. And you wouldn’t need missiles to achieve this. School buses, delivery trucks, aircraft, or fishing boats are all more accurate delivery systems than Iraqi Scuds.

That is the reason why Israel not only has nuclear weapons but has more of them than it would at first appear to need as a deterrent. The concept at work here is having a deterrent that compensates for Israel’s small size vis-à-vis a threat from a much larger country or a group of countries.

The United States, it seems almost childishly unnecessary to say, does not care about how wicked or unpleasant Hussein may be. Nor does it care about his record on human rights. The truth is that he is no worse than the many cut-throats the U.S. cozily does business with.

The problem with Hussein is that he won’t play the game under rules the U.S. has laid down. Oh, he has cooperated in the past, and for considerable periods of time he was treated as one of America’s useful clients, receiving many special favors. He was especially useful when he went to war against revolutionary Iran and ground down that nation’s ardor and resources and young people with years of bloody conflict.

America’s role in that conflict was the same utterly amoral one it has so often taken where it saw that the shedding of someone else’s blood might achieve some desired dirty work.

But when it became clear that Hussein was working to arm himself with nuclear weapons, an excuse to flatten him and remove his capacity had to be found. Ergo, America’s secret diplomatic wink at his intention to invade Kuwait, setting him up for Desert Storm. This was a conflict that also had little to do with oil, except that possession of Kuwait’s reserves would swell Hussein’s revenue stream and speed the day when the U.S. would be required always to address him as “sir.”

After killing perhaps a hundred thousand innocent people with its bombing, destroying much of Iraq’s water and sanitation systems (something not widely known in the U.S.), its electricity grid, and much other infrastructure, the U.S. never expected Hussein to survive in power. How much better to let internal pressures do the work rather than U.S. troops, it being certain that the coalition would have collapsed over an invasion of Iraq itself. All the arguments militating against an invasion today were the same then. No-fly zones, intended to irritate and embarrass him, CIA plottings, and, most of all, a murderous embargo were supposed to quicken events.

The policy has miserably failed. Hussein remains firmly in control, and no opposition worth mentioning exists. And talk about evil, more than a million Iraqis have died prematurely since Desert Storm as a result of America’s embargo combined with the devastating effects of bombed water and sewer facilities. The U.S. unquestionably bears a terrible moral responsibility for all that death.

So despite clear evidence that Hussein had nothing to do with al Qaeda, had no nuclear weapons, had no ready prospect of having any, and ignoring the many valid arguments against invasion, the Bush crowd seized the opportunity offered by the angry haze around 9/11 to topple him.

Bush displays classic American impatience and petulance about having a problem cleared away as quickly as possible, even if it is done at the cost of other people’s lives. What Bush is really telling the world is that instead of allowing a patient U.N. regime of inspections continue until the day Hussein departs the scene, he would rather start a war that will kill tens of thousands more innocent Iraqis, infuriate millions of people in other countries, and be done with the matter.

Bush has no reasonable successor to put in Hussein’s place, and, as with almost all the U.S.’s inglorious postwar interventions, the poor people of Iraq will certainly be left afterwards in their smoking, rat-infested ruins to cope. The U.S. has no more patience for long-term assistance and planning than it does for the long-term efforts at diplomacy and international cooperation that could readily maintain the status quo.

Of course, Mr. Bush has a very noisy cheering section in Mr. Sharon and Mr. Netanyahu and their American supporters. It really is not possible for America to damage and cripple Iraq enough to satisfy them.

Were the policy summed up in concise and accurate terms, “Do you favor killing maybe another hundred thousand people (mostly civilians as is always the case in modern war) in order to get Iraq quickly off our diplomatic plate?” I wonder just how many Americans would continue supporting Bush? Of course, Mr. Bush’s teams of hacks and propagandists do not use such terms when addressing Americans, and all Mr. Bush’s words to them are charged with cheap emotions rather than facts.

But many of the world’s leaders have conspired to blunt Mr. Bush’s drive to war. We now hear from Mr. Bush an entirely different argument from what we heard not many months ago. The issue now is clearly weapons, not garbage about terror or evil or the need for democracy in the Middle East. But, of course, if the issue is truly weapons, an efficient inspection regime is all that is required, not a major war. In effect, Mr. Bush’s pathetic arguments have been turned diplomatically on their heads.

This change is thanks to the brave efforts of some genuine statesman. Perhaps, it is most of all is owing to the heroic efforts of Mr. Blix and his team of U.N. inspectors. If Mr. Blix succeeds in stopping Bush’s rush to war, he will be one of the most deserving candidates for the Nobel peace prize on record.
The inspectors work against tremendous odds. Bush has pulled out all the stops in trying to browbeat, coax, or bribe others nations to support his goal. He has forgiven loans, dropped strictures, hinted at reprisals, and thrown around tons of money, and Mr. Blix has worked against a nasty White House campaign to harass and vilify him.

Of course, Bush’s attitudes are inextricably linked to the experience of his father. If you don’t think that such highly personal attitudes often play a role in history, you haven’t studied enough of it.