Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Every once in a while Maureen Dowd hits one out of the park. Like today:

Osama bin Laden came to the rescue of George W. Bush yesterday.

The president and his secretary of state had been huffing and puffing to prove a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. George Tenet, who presides over a C.I.A. full of skepticism about the tie, did his best for the boss, playing up the link to the Senate.

Ignoring all the blatant Qaeda hooks to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan; ignoring the fact that Osama has never had any use for the drinking, smoking, womanizing, secular Saddam; ignoring the fact that Saddam has no proven record of sharing weapons with Al Qaeda, the Bushies have been hellbent on making the 9/11 connection.

The world wasn't entirely buying that rationale for war.

And then who but Osama himself should pop up on an audio tape, calling on Muslims to fight the U.S. if the "infidels" attack "our brothers in Iraq."

Osama's disdain for Saddam still gleamed through. He barely mentioned the Iraqi leader and seemed to be holding his nose when he gave permission to his Qaeda brethren to fight "the Crusaders" alongside Saddam's Baath Party, "even if we believe and declare that the socialists are apostates," and whether Saddam remains in power or not.

She goes on to make the obvious point that bin Laden is doing this because a war serves his interests (which the rest of our press has struggled to avoid), and also slams the administration for broadcasting the whole tape themselves, potential "coded messages" to sleeper cells and all. But read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman continues with his current project --- trying to make Steven den Beste look like a deep thinker. He's worried about the state of the Western alliance:

The tension that is now rising within the Western alliance, NATO and the U.N. over how to deal with Iraq is deeply disturbing. It raises fears that the postwar security system, which stabilized the world for 50 years, could come unglued if America intervenes alone in Iraq. At the birth of this security system, Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a memoir titled "Present at the Creation." Can we deal with Iraq and still ensure that Secretary of State Colin Powell's memoir is not titled "Present at the Destruction"?

Yes, we can --- if we, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all take a deep breath, understand our common interests and pursue them with a little more common sense and a little less bluster.

But fear not --- he has a solution: the French, Germans, and Russians should agree to a fig-leaf extension on the inspections, and then let Dubya have his little war:

We need a compromise. We need to say to the French, Russians and Chinese that we'll stand down for a few more weeks and give Saddam one last chance to comply with the U.N. disarmament demands --- provided they agree now that if Saddam does not fully comply they will have the U.N. authorize the use of force.

What do the French, let alone the Russians and Chinese, get out of this?

There is no way their preferred outcome, a peaceful solution, can come about unless Saddam is faced with a credible, unified threat of force. The French and others know that, and therefore their refusal to present Saddam with a threat only guarantees U.S. unilateralism and undermines the very U.N. structure that is the best vehicle for their managing U.S. power.

But the disintegration of the evidence in Powell's presentation (NB that was last week; it looks worse now, and the Germans are openly calling Powell on his fibs) shows that the US will have something to present at the end of a few weeks as a case for concealment of weapons --- even if they have to make it up. So what this boils down to for the French is that, if the US doesn't go to war with them, then the US will go to war without them. I can just see them quaking in their boots.

Link to the article on German response was a late addition, from Tom Spencer; also added a bit more MoDo paraphrase.


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