- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Yesterday was a momentous day at the United Nations. Only a few months after the Security Council split deeply over sanctioning a war against Saddam, the same Security Council acquiesced in America’s and Britain’s de facto control of the country, pending a new Iraqi government. France, Germany and Russia all voted in favor. Only Syria objected, and even then, did not cast a lone vote against, but left its seat empty.

Earlier this week, Le Monde articulated the French reasons for a surrender: “‘It’s not the role that we would have hoped for the United Nations, but there has been real progress in the American text, and maybe there can be even more progress,’ said the Elysee Palace.This vote would liberate the Evian summit from a weighty subject full of conflict… And then, you have to look at the facts:’There is no alternative,’ they say in Paris. A majority of the Security Council is in favor of the American text.

Germany and Russia hope to avoid relaunching another battle at the United Nations, and France, said one diplomat, ‘does not have an interest, for the future, of disassociating itself from them because it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Americans could again look to implement their policies by force of arms. The advantages and inconveniences of an abstention [at the United Nations] should be weighed against all that.” And it was duly weighed, and Paris caved. All this is worth recalling, because it gives the lie to the notion that occasionally standing up to the United Nations, especially with regards to American national security, is always a recipe for diplomatic disaster. It isn’t. Showing the world conviction and determination can lead to a bumpy road while the world adjusts, but smoother international relations in the long run. Now for the hard part of constructing a real Iraqi government. And for this, we really don’t need the French.

The unasked question

The strangest postwar phenomenon I’ve observed is not the indifference of most people to whether Saddam Hussein really did have the weapons of mass destruction the United States claimed he had. It may still be too soon to tell what a full accounting will eventually reveal about Saddam’s prewar capacity. The really surprising thing is that no one seems to be even the faintest bit interested in the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.

It’s clear now that his iniquity and despotism are the real justifications for Western intervention, and yet the architect of this horror is nowhere to be found. Is it possible he could just disappear into the suburbs of Baghdad? Which foreign country would quietly give him harbor? I suppose the object lesson of Osama bin Laden has rendered most of us more tolerant of being unable to locate a single person in the vast expanses of the Middle East. But finding Saddam wouldn’t only be a matter of justice. It would also remove the terrible fear some Iraqis still fear about his potential re-emergence. What exactly is being done to find him? Is Tamara Chalabi on the case? Is President Bush?

A new McCarthyism

This is the tired line now being pedaled by some of those too embarrassed to admit that they were wrong about the war on terror, wrong about the war in Afghanistan, wrong about the war against Saddam. They are now complaining that criticizing the far left’s embrace of anti-Americanism is equivalent to McCarthyism. Hooey, of course. Tough criticism in a free society is not McCarthyism; it’s free speech. But what to make of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough? Mr. Scarborough launched a TV campaign against Danny Glover’s lucrative spokesman contract with MCI on the grounds that Mr. Glover is a left-wing extremist, backing Fidel Castro, fulminating against the president and so on. After a wave of viewer calls and e-mails, MCI has apparently now canceled Mr. Glover’s contract.

Is this kosher? As a matter of principle, I loathe boycotts and the screeching and self-righteous rhetoric that often accompanies them. I even defended Dr. Laura’s show against the mau-mauing gay left. So Mr. Scarborough’s campaign leaves me with not a little distaste in my mouth. Still, it’s not McCarthyism. The government is not involved; the argument is a valid one; no one has a right to be a spokesman for corporate America, without public controversy or opposition. No one would complain if a similarly extreme right-winger were passed over by a major corporation. Danny Glover can choose between his views and his corporate contracts. Perhaps, for his ideological consistency, it’s about time he did.

Poseur alert

“Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel … Oh! There you are. This “Diary” creeps up on you in the most unguarded moments. I recently improved my condition from self-intoxication to self-obsession, and I was just doing some lunchtime exercises — I ate lunch around 1:30 today; my cat Maya poached some salmon from Citarella — meant to bring me to the next stage, which is self-absorption. Dr. von Hoffenshtoffen, whom I mentioned yesterday, devised these “identity calisthenics,” as he calls them. I think they’re helping, but this Diary, with its emphasis on “I,” gave me a “soul hernia” (another Hoffenshtoffenian phrase).” — Lee Siegel, in Slate.


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