- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Like a chorus of Hamlets, a number of Republican elders have recently begun wringing their hands in public over President Bush's evident determination to liberate the people of Iraq and, thereby, end the mortal peril Saddam Hussein poses to them and the rest of us.
To be sure, few, if any, of the president's fraternal critics seem to want Saddam to remain in power.
Unfortunately, their public and highly publicized angst about whether "to Iraq, or not to Iraq" will not avoid conflict with the Iraqi regime, just make it more likely to occur at a time and circumstance of the Butcher of Baghdad's choosing, not ours.
In their recent forays on the subject, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, outgoing House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger and Sens. Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar have posed many questions. These include:
Will Saddam use weapons of mass destruction if we attack him? Will the Arab world rise up against us? Will any of our allies support us or, as they now insist, will they all oppose our initiative? Will the Russians support their Iraqi client or acquiesce in his removal?
Will we have to fight our way into Baghdad against determined opposition and, once there, will we have to stay indefinitely?
These are not unreasonable questions. Indeed, they are assuredly ones with which the president's national security team is actively wrestling. They will doubtless be the focus of attention at the highest levels as Pentagon leaders and others hold talks with Mr. Bush in Texas over the next few days.
The problem is that the answers are currently unknowable.
It has ever been thus, however. Great strategic endeavors notably, victory in World War II and resisting and defeating Soviet communism held immense risks and grave uncertainties. Would Adolf Hitler get the atomic bomb before we did? Would the D-Day invasion fail? Would the Soviet Union collapse with a whimper rather than an apocalyptic bang?
At the time, we could not be sure. Providentially, we found leaders who were able to appreciate there were risks either way. Far from being paralyzed by the prospective danger, they chose to minimize it by acting assertively. While hindsight tells us that was, of course, the right thing to do, it was no more, or less, clear at the time than is the present need to move with all deliberate speed to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
It may pass for statesmanship at the moment to say that unless we know the answers to the many questions associated with a U.S. campaign to free Iraq and, what is more, can tell them to the American people and persuade the international community of their correctness then we must do nothing. Or, rather, we must continue doing what has proven to be a dismal failure so far: trying to "contain" Saddam by ever-less-effective diplomatic, political and economic measures.
If that is statesmanship, it will never be confused with, nor suffice for, leadership. The nation is fortunate to have in George W. Bush a man who is under no illusion about the dangers associated with the United States moving forcefully to end Saddam's tyranny. He appears, moreover, to appreciate that if the war against terror is to be won, we will as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once memorably put it have to "drain the swamps," not simply swat at all the individual terrorists or "mosquitoes" who threaten us.
Some say there is no evidence Saddam was involved in the September 11 attacks and, therefore, that we have no right to act against him. Yet there is some. It happens to be precisely the sort of evidence notably, reports of an April 2000 meeting in Prague between the lead September 11 hijacker and a senior Iraqi intelligence officer and a jet aircraft-equipped training camp near Baghdad where terrorists can hone their skills in commandeering planes that one would expect from Saddam. Similar circumstantial, fragmentary and arguably inconclusive evidence suggests he may have played a role in the first attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing.
But think about it: If you were bent on revenge against the United States as Saddam clearly is would you not use cut-outs and track-covering? After all, if there were a smoking- gun, even the second-guessing Scowcrofts and our fair-weather allies would be hard-pressed to find fault with giving the Iraqi despot and his ruling clique the Taliban treatment.
Mr. Bush is in the unenviable position of having to address questions and concerns before he is ready to act. Doing so, particularly in a public way, probably would not appreciably alleviate the foreign and increasing domestic opposition his "regime change" policy is facing. It could well translate, though, into eliminating the element of surprise upon which untold numbers of American lives, and perhaps even our ultimate success in the liberation of Iraq, may turn. Worse still, it may accelerate Saddam's timetable for using weapons of mass destruction against us.
On balance, however, it would appear the president has no choice but to finalize his plans for liberating Iraq at the earliest possible moment this week would not be too soon. He should then summon the congressional leadership as the representatives of the American people and their more junior colleagues to receive a highly classified briefing on the plan and to secure their support for a declaration of war, to be debated and adopted as soon as practicable.
One of these leaders, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, is expected to commit himself to such a course of action in a speech tomorrow. As he clears the decks for action, Mr. Bush must also ensure that not only the Congress but his executive branch is fully on board. The New York Times confirms that the State Department is actively encouraging the Republican Hamlets in the hopes of sabotaging the president's policy. That is clearly intolerable. Ditto the idea that one of the chief abetters of that effort, Brent Scowcroft, is the best man to run the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Let those who oppose Mr. Bush's leadership do so from outside his administration.

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