The Saddam cancer: will we remove it in time?
Years ago, I saw a movie in which a college professor, who was one of the world’s great rifle shots, had a chance to shoot Hitler. The professor was parachuted onto a peak over looking Hitler’s Bavarian retreat. As Hitler gazed down from his balcony, the professor’s mission was to pull the trigger and rid the world of the madman.
But, when time came to pull the trigger, the professor couldn’t do it. Today, with perfect hindsight, we know that killing Hitler would have prevented 1,079,162 Americans from being killed or wounded in World War II. One shot could have saved over six million Jews from Hitler’s death camps.
President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have their fingers on the trigger to remove the madman Saddam Hussein from power. But many of Europe’s continental powers, our supposed allies, won’t place their fingers on the trigger as well.
Nation-states are supposed to act in what they perceive as their own selfish, best interest. Perhaps, that explains why so many Europeans can so easily forget that the Americans and the British saved Europe’s bacon in World Wars I and II and, more recently, in the Balkans. As they say in Washington, D.C., if you want loyalty, get a dog.
The liberal Chablis and Brie crowd thinks European culture is superior to ours and, therefore, the Europeans know best. Yet, while the Europeans may make tastier wines and cheeses, when it comes to living peacefully among themselves, they couldn’t boil water on the Sun.
Now, the Europeans are faced with a certifiable madman who has both chemical and biological weapons and is doing all he can to obtain nuclear weapons in order to become the dominant power in the oil-rich Middle East. One atomic bomb dropped on Tel Aviv would make Saddam the absolute ruler of the Muslim World and place him in absolute control of a major portion of the world’s oil supply. But the fall-out would extend, literally, around the world and our gas lines would extend from coast-to-coast. If Chernobyl was an accident, just think of the devastation Saddam could cause with atomic weapons -- on purpose.
Saddam is like a cancerous tumor growing in the world’s belly. Allowed to go unchecked, it will metastasize and will threaten life, as we know it. But, if operated on in time, it can be removed and the body politic will recover. Good medical practice is to err on the side of caution, to operate before the tumor gets out of control. Once it is too late, it is too late.
This then, is both the art and the science of the decisions that confront President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. History teaches us that the Europeans cannot manage their own affairs. When they think they are acting in their own selfish best interests, it turns out that they are doing the opposite and the New World must come, once again, to the rescue of the Old World. History teaches us that the United Nations has yet to prevent a war and, even after the fighting stops, does a poor job of keeping the peace – much less restore the status quo ante. The UN is an expensive farce which, more often than not, bites the hand that feeds it -- namely, the U.S. taxpayer.
So, when is the cancer of Saddam sufficiently advanced that it warrants removal? That’s the 64 billion dollar question. In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are standing now. They have their fingers on the trigger the professor would not pull. But if they want love, thanks and loyalty, they better get some more dogs.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on the water systems in the Colorado high country.
©2002. William Hamilton.