Back from Baghdad

They're not even thinking about the casualties. It's horrible. I think part of it has to do with modern weaponry. This is something that, at some perverse level, people are excited about. We have never tried these weapons; finally, we get to see what they work like. The Defense Department is delighted because finally all these strange and very expensive weapons systems get to be tested and we get to see if they work or don't work. The whole question of who they're working against has been moved off the agenda. I was horrified the other day listening to an interview with a pilot from one of these extremely sophisticated new bombers. A reporter asked him, "Have you seen the enemy yet?" And he said, "I don't want to see the enemy. To me, the enemy is a blip on my radar screen and all I want is to make that blip go away. I don't want to know my enemy." It's horrifying.

By framing the conflict in terms of defeating Saddam Hussein, Bush has simply removed the whole question of civilian casualties off the agenda.

That's not the only thing he's managed to move off the agenda.
Yes, remember sanctions? By moving all these troops over there in such rapid measure, Bush managed to take sanctions or any other alternatives off the agenda. Every single expert that testified to the Senate and to the House said that the sanctions were working - that they were biting very, very deeply. And I found that myself, when I was in Iraq. That whole debate, Senator Nunn's valiant defense of sanctions versus war, has all been swept away.

When we started moving massive amounts of troops in and war became a very serious possibility, I asked myself, is there any way we could possibly do this and come out the winner in this situation?

There isn't. There's a frenzy of anti-Western feeling in the whole Third World, particularly in the Muslim world. These sentiments are going to focus on this event. None of the rhetoric about the international coalition and about the fact that this is being done under the United Nations' auspices will make sense to these people. The Arabs have seen international laws applied inconsistently for decades. People outside the United States are incredibly politically sophisticated. They know the kinds of political and economic deals that the U.S. cut with each and every country that's been supporting it in this whole initiative, except maybe Britain and the European countries. China, for instance. For backing U.S. in the Gulf, the Chinese have now been forgiven for Tiananmen Square. They're back in the fold. No more economic sanctions. The Egyptians have had their entire military debt forgiven by the United States. The Syrians are getting arms. They got the green light from the U.S. to move all the way into Lebanon. This is costing the U.S. billions of dollars, not just in terms of the troops that are deployed, but all the money that we've committed to different countries. As far as I know, at this point, the American taxpayer is still responsible for about 70 percent of these expenses.

When this all started I thought, if we go through with this, the Arabs will never, ever forgive the U.S. and we will be entangled there in the worst way for the foreseeable future. That was my fear.

That's absolutely true. And this argument cuts into the second part of the answer, which is our oil interests. How are we going to maintain our oil interests, or even keep a steady flow of oil coming out of the region, if Israel gets involved and this becomes a regional war, or if the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Syria and Egypt topple and become anti-American, or if you have a condition where it doesn't really matter what the governments are saying because the people are doing something else (and that is very possible). In Pakistan, for instance, which has troops in Saudi Arabia ostensibly to protect the holy places, Muslim fundamentalists have started recruiting their own private army to fight on the side of Saddam Hussein. Jordan is technically neutral, but how long can it remain so if its Palestinians, which make up 60 percent of the country, go off to fight for Saddam? I wouldn't make any bets on what the Syrians and the Egyptians are really thinking and feeling at this point.

Saddam seems to have scored a great political coup in making Palestine a central issue, despite American objections that it has nothing to do with the invasion of Kuwait.

Despite the fact that each of the Arab countries has at some point or another massacred Palestinians or treated them very, very badly, Arab governments can't afford to be on the wrong side of the Palestinian issue simply because of popular sentiment. Linking the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza is the only political card Saddam Hussein has. But that's not really what's at stake. What's at stake is the stability of regimes throughout the region. When [Iraq Foreign Minister] Taliq Aziz said, "Yes, absolutely," when asked if Iraq would attack Israel, that wasn't meant for Israeli ears. It wasn't for American ears. It was a threat to the other Arab leaders who are allied with the West. It was a direct challenge: "What are they going to do then?"

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