William Safire will soon be gone from the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, thank goodness, so it might have been a bit of prenostalgia that suckered me in to reading yesterday’s column.
The piece imagined what would have happened if Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq and, predictably, shows things going horribly. It gets off to a rousing start by suggesting that, with tensions from terrorism ratcheted up and intelligence showing Iraq harboring evildoers and seeking weapons of mass destruction, Secretary of State Colin Powell suggests “relaxing U.N. pressure on Iraq” and easing sanctions to “persuade Saddam to permit inspections.” Bush goes along!
Fact: United Nations sanctions, despite Hussein’s perversion of the oil-for-food program, were working, including keeping him from building weapons of mass destruction. Fact: Hussein permitted inspections, and they worked, finding no weapons of mass destruction.
Safire goes on to conjecture that an emboldened Hussein would “increase contacts with Al Qaeda ... take leadership of the Arab world by developing WMD or pretending to have them already and .... openly challenge Bush.”
Fact: Iraq and Al Qaeda were not allies. They were ideological opposites. There is no reason this would have changed while Hussein was in power. Fact: Hussein could not build WMDs and was already pretending to have them. Strangely, this was not making him the darling of the neighboring governments. In general, they loathed Hussein. Question: Openly challenge Bush to what?
Safire imagines that when Hussein finally does shoot down one of our aircraft — in his terms, Hussein would have “gloriously faced down the U.S.” — “Saddam becomes an iconic, heroic figure in the Arab and Muslim world.”
Question: For shooting down a warplane? While it might have boosted his stature a bit, would it really stand up compared with Osama bin Laden killing 3,000 Americans in New York and attacking the Pentagon? Fact: Hussein had been shooting at our planes all along. It would be more likely that Arabs and Muslims would consider it about time a shot succeeded.
“Cut to Libya,” Safire writes, “where Qaddafi ... shifts his fear of the U.S. to fear and envy of Iraq, and presses ahead to produce a nuclear bomb of his own.”
Question: Since Safire postulates that Hussein’s success would lead to Iraq strengthening its ties with Palestinian terrorists and those of Al Qaeda, what is it exactly that Libya, a fellow terrorist nation, would have had to fear from Iraq? Invasion, as Kuwait suffered in 1991? Doubtful. Between Iraq and Libya are Egypt, Israel and Jordan. But Safire does not explain.
What he does do, unfortunately, is go on and on and on with this nonsense.
But Safire will be gone toward the beginning of next year, and this nonsense will not go on and on and on. And it will not be missed or missed or missed.
That is, unless he were writing coherent columns that made sense. And if I had a different mother and father and had been raised in a red state. And if on Sept. 17, 1979, Ronald Reagan had traveled to Damascus and met a Norwegian transvestite prostitute named Mona who carried a disease known to be deadly in people wearing cowboy boots. And if this antagonized Greenpeace, causing the group to shatter into several splinter groups. And if one of them started selling a gourmet popcorn called “The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold.” And if a ferret ate the popcorn and became king of Utah.
And if ...