Will Saddam have his Samson moment? Does the security of the world really hang on a Bush family psychodrama?by Derek Coombs / October 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
There was speculation from the earliest days of George W Bush’s presidency that he might blunder into Iraq with the aim of redeeming his father. Then came 9/11. Bush senior held George W’s hand. Junior stumbled, then rallied. Then came the “axis of evil.” Iraq was back. But Bush senior was less enthusiastic than Bush junior-and said so through James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. Was this the moment when the tables could be turned? When anxious and maladroit “Dubya” could escape from under the shadow of his father, by finishing what Bush senior-CIA background and all-had failed to do?
The trouble is that if Saddam does give in now and let in the UN inspectors, how will George get his showdown? Can it be that the security of the world really hangs on this Bush family psychodrama? It seems absurd, but so many arguments for regime change now are inadequate that it is hard not to feel that something else is in play.
Saddam is bad, of course. But mad? When, in 1991, James Baker threatened his regime with a disproportionate response if he used weapons of mass destruction, he behaved rationally and did not use them. In fact, since then deterrence has more or less worked.
What is the evidence that this has changed? Dick Cheney recently said in public that “We only have part of the picture,” and that the risk of serious trouble from Saddam is “10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent… we don’t know.” Does that justify war? Or the nuking of Iraq? (A senior Israeli minister recently said that his country would be happy to “take out” Iraq if the US asked.)
The report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (which the government’s “dossier” is unlikely to better) records the familiar evidence for his chemical and biological weapons but is cautious about a nuclear weapon.
The IISS says that in theory Iraq could build a weapon within months but only if it can acquire the fissile materials-highly enriched uranium or plutonium-from abroad….