- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

When a French chess player touches a piece only to adjust its position within the square and not to make a move, he first says "J'adoube" meaning I adjust. It may be time for President Bush to say J'adoube regarding his Iraqi policy. There is probably nothing wrong with his policy, but it is increasingly mispositioned in the minds of Washington journalists and politicians.

While the public still massively supports invading Iraq, many supporters in Washington are confused, while opponents are beginning to cynically mutter aspersions about Mr. Bush's Iraqi policy and the "axis of evil."

The esteemed former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, in a scandalous, flannel-mouthed blatherskite in Newsweek, straight out accuses the president of trying to wag the dog. The benign looking Ms. Quindlen asserts that the "tripartite" axis of evil is really an "axis of re-election … creating a kind of continuing low-level foreign conflict to substitute for the one that is winding down and so shift attention from economic insecurity [in order to] benefit the president and his allies politically."

Other prominent liberal journalists such as Eleanor Clift, David Corn and Howard Fineman also have been blazing this path, if less flamboyantly than Ms. Quindlen, for the elected Democratic politicians who have not yet screwed up the courage to utter such charges.

Many other pundits have jumped on the phrase "axis of evil." In a fit of literalism and metaphor-measuring, they are joyfully quibbling over exactly what nexus need exist before they will condescend to permit Iraq, Iran and North Korea to be deemed axis-mates.

But the question shouldn't be whether these terrorist-supporting countries could win an Olympic gold medal for synchronized swimming, but whether they pose a mortal and immediate threat to 280 million Americans. And it is on this point that the president risks losing his natural supporters.

The very solid Republican foreign policy and defense expert, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, has publicly doubted that Iraq is a threat. That doubt is shared by other respected members of the Republican Party establishment. (The Israeli government is reputed to believe that Iran is a more immediate threat than Iraq.)

These Republican supporters of the president fear that an ill-considered attack on Saddam Hussein's Iraq could unleash vastly destabilizing forces, and bring on the much-feared world struggle of Islam vs. the West. They wonder whether Iraq is really an immediate danger. They think, perhaps, an effective inspection regime might be sufficient.

It is harder to judge the sincerity of our European friends who express the same views, because they suffer from terminal appeasement and are filling their coffers with Iraqi and Iranian profits.

As long as the public supports the president's Iraqi policy, he can push on without dealing with these rising sincere doubts in Washington. He can easily brush aside the liberal media sniping. But the danger to the president, and the country, is that the continuing sniping and doubting may take its toll on public support. If public support shrinks before the president is ready to act, congressional opponents may then try to legally block his actions.

After all, the war powers authority passed by Congress is technically limited to going after the perpetrators of the September 11 attack. If the president cannot prove to Congress that Iraq was so implicated and if lower levels of public support emboldens Congress he may be denied the authority to protect us from the equal or greater danger posed by Iraq's possible use of weapons of mass destruction.

For many Americans (I include myself) recognizing that the president and his advisers possess classified information to which we are correctly not privy, we support the president on faith. But democracies do not run just on faith. It would be vastly useful perhaps essential for our government to release, if informally, some evidence to support the argument for invasion.

According to the British newspaper The Observer, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is himself under increasing domestic fire for supporting the president, is beginning to tell his inner circle that he has seen evidence of Saddam's attempt to amass a rudimentary nuclear device and prepare a way to launch a dirty nuclear bomb.

It may well be that, in consultation with Washington, Mr. Blair will release documents establishing the immediate Iraqi threat just as he released a document last fall proving Osama bin Laden's responsibility for September 11. Until then, we most all rely on bits and pieces.

A CNN report earlier this week may be noteworthy in that regard. CNN reported that Victor Bout, the notorious expatriot Russian arms merchant, may have been transporting Iraqi weapons to al Qaeda forces around the world.

If that report proves true, it may provide an important link between Iraq and the September 11 attack. Collecting and purveying such accurate information around the world sounds like a good mission for the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, or whatever other agency will be assigned to carry out that vital function.

However the president chooses to disseminate the information, millions of Americans look forward to being able to support the Iraqi mission on more than just faith.

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