by Patrick J. Buchanan – September 18, 2002
Whatever one may think of the wisdom of invading Iraq and opening a third front in the war on terror, President Bush’s address to the United Nations was a tour de force.
The president gave it to the Tower of Babel with the bark on, as “Cactus Jack” Garner used to say. With Kofi Annan seated behind him, Bush bluntly told the U.N. what it already knew: A decade of its commands had been treated by Saddam Hussein with utter contempt. Either the U.N. acts now to enforce its resolutions, or the U.N. becomes as irrelevant as the League of Nations in the 1930s when it failed to sanction Mussolini for his invasion of Ethiopia.
As a final thrust, the president told the assembled: Whether you authorize the United States to go in and destroy Saddam and his weapons, or deny us the authority, we’re going in and doing the job. Wednesday, the president gave the U.N. as well as Saddam an ultimatum: Either you are with us, or we are no longer with you.
By the time the president sat down, only one man could save Saddam: Saddam himself. But given Bush’s resolve to rid the world of him, and Bush’s conviction that only U.S., not U.N., inspectors in Baghdad can guarantee Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction, even Saddam may be past the point where he can save himself.
When the president walked off the podium, the U.N. was left with this alternative: Send Iraq an ultimatum to open up its arsenals to U.N. inspections, and authorize force to back the ultimatum if Iraq balks, or America will go it alone.
Leadership creates consensus, and the president’s address demonstrated that truth. The Security Council is now beavering away on an ultimatum to Baghdad.
Congress, too, was jolted by the speech and the president’s follow-up demand that both Houses authorize him to invade Iraq before adjournment in October. Even the New Republic is disgusted with the Democrats’ evasion of their duty to endorse, or to oppose, the pre-emptive war the president intends to launch.
The pleas of Democratic leaders that we all put off voting until after the elections are rationales for cowardice. The people have a right to know where their elected leaders stand. And the president’s mockery of the congressional leaders who have to see how the U.N. votes first was amply justified.
Why is the president winning? Why are the U.N. and Congress, under the lash of his rhetoric, hustling to meet his demands?
Simple. Who dares, wins. Those who believe deeply in a cause, even if it is wrong, usually prevail over those who believe only in their political survival. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of this policy of pre-emptive war on a nation whose complicity in 9-11 has never been established, the president believes in it. He is willing to go to war, to shed American blood, to put his presidency and his place in history on the line. In poker parlance, he has shoved his whole stack in.
But the price he will have to pay for this war is rising. The Russians are signing on in return for full payment of Saddam’s debts to Moscow, a piece of the oil action in post-Saddam Iraq and a free hand in dealing with Chechen rebels in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. Our old friend, Georgian President Sheverdnadze, is finding out how fickle Americans can be when the stakes are high.
In return for their acquiescence in our smashing Iraq, the Chinese have gotten our acquiescence in their crushing the Islamic independence movement in Eastern China. At Beijing’s behest, the State Department has declared the rebels to be terrorists. In war, truth may be the first casualty, but moral clarity is a close second.
Even the Saudis, sensing war is unavoidable and the United States will emerge as the victorious hegemonic power in the Gulf, are “crawfishing,” as the president would say. They are signaling that, should the U.N. approve a resolution calling for inspections and should Iraq resist, they, too, will ride with the posse. America may be allowed to use the Saudi bases after all.
With the exception of Germany, where Chancellor Schroeder is trying to ride anti-war and anti-American sentiment to a second term in Sunday’s election, Europe, too, seems to be using the U.N. sanctions resolution as a bridge to get back to America’s side.
The only man standing who can now disassemble the coalition that is forming against him is Saddam, by bowing to U.N. demands and letting inspectors back in. The president and his War Cabinet are betting that he won’t, and probably praying the same way.