March 20, 2006


My Ideal War: How the international community should have responded to Bush's September 2002 U.N. speech. (Christopher Hitchens, March 20, 2006, Slate)

So, now I come at last to my ideal war. Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead? The threat of unilateral veto from Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Private assurances to Saddam Hussein from members of the U.N. Security Council. Pharisaic fatuities from the United Nations' secretary-general, who had never had a single problem wheeling and dealing with Baghdad. The refusal to reappoint Rolf Ekeus—the only serious man in the U.N. inspectorate—to the job of invigilation. A tirade of opprobrium, accusing Bush of everything from an oil grab to a vendetta on behalf of his father to a secret subordination to a Jewish cabal. Platforms set up in major cities so that crowds could be harangued by hardened supporters of Milosevic and Saddam, some of them paid out of the oil-for-food bordello.

Well, if everyone else is allowed to rewind the tape and replay it, so can I. We could have been living in a different world, and so could the people of Iraq, and I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Note that the ideal is what we did and that it's most everyone else who failed the test.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2006 8:52 PM

When Hitchens is on, as he is here, it's really a thing of beauty.

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at March 20, 2006 9:49 PM

Makes me almost willing to forgive him for his Mother Teresa nastiness. Almost, mind you...

Posted by: Kirk Parker at March 20, 2006 11:14 PM

I am tempted to add Hitchens to my little pantheon of Heisenberg and Hoffer, but then my rural Vermont roots would insist I find the 4th-H.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 21, 2006 1:07 AM

Geoffrey Hill

Hawthorne, Hayek...

Posted by: oj at March 21, 2006 6:45 AM

Salma. Of course!

Posted by: ghostcat at March 21, 2006 12:08 PM

Toward the end of the piece as posted he sounded a bit like Orianna Fallaci ... to his credit.

Posted by: Genecis at March 21, 2006 2:13 PM


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