August 15, 2002
I don't want to give away any secrets here, but guess what? America may be planning a surprise attack on Iraq -- in fact, even as you read this, the "secret" war plans might have gone into effect.
Whether the bid to unseat Saddam Hussein and dismantle his suspected nuclear weapons arsenal is a good idea for America largely depends on the effectiveness of the campaign. The last one went well, yes? The war to end all wars. On one hand, we had relatively few casualties (less than 150), but on the other, we're back to square one, except for the fact that since he survived the Persian Gulf War 10 years ago, Saddam doesn't seem to be afraid of America. Perhaps he's just posturing, maybe he's insane -- or both?
"The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs, to die in disgraceful failure, taking their schemes back with them, or digging their own graves, after they bring death to themselves on every Arab or Muslim soil against which they perpetrate aggression, including Iraq, the land of jihad and the banner," Saddam told the Iraqi people in an Aug. 8 speech marking the 14th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.
But just because the man is bellicose, doesn't mean America has to attack. And just because the father did a poor job, doesn't mean the son shouldn't try to put things right. (Maybe someone should remind W. of the biblical verse: "The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son.") But there has to be better reasons than a competitive father-son relationship and a love of all things military in order to go to war.
Of course, there are reasons to attack. Iraq may be building a cache of nuclear/biological weapons so powerful that this might be our last chance to attack. The evidence is not clear. It is also unclear whether an attack at this time would be good for America. Would it detract from the War on Terror (or is it the War on Terror)? Do other world powers support it? Could Americans suffer another war, with many more casualties on both sides?
Questions like these are being debated now in Washington and international circles, in this surrealistically public debate over the pros and cons of war on Iraq.
But, we have to ask the usual questions:
Is it good for the Jews?
Is it good for Israel?
"Why should it be a Jewish or Israeli issue?" Morris Amitay, a pro-Israel activist and former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "We should stay patriotic as the next guy, but not be out front."
The reasons that the Jewish community is staying relatively quiet (for Jews, anyway) are manifold (see story p. 28).
"If the Jewish community has been quiet, it may reflect the fact that there is no particular Jewish angle to a policy matter with national and global implications," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
Who are they kidding? Clearly a war on Iraq has a Jewish angle and it is an Israeli issue. No. 1, Hussein might be supplying biological weapons to Palestinian terror networks, so that they might injure Israeli and American targets. That's what the Times of London reported last week, based on government documents passed on to Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior officials. No. 2, the elimination of Iraq would lift a great burden off of Israel. And, No. 2a, it could help Israel with the Palestinians, because of the financial aid Saddam gives to Palestinian terrorist groups and the families of suicide bombers.
Israel, of course, could benefit from the end of the Iraqi threat, but let me remind you what it was like the last time America attacked.
While the Americans were sitting on their couch watching the birth of CNN and a new war-time coverage -- Didn't it sort of feel like color war or celebrity boxing? Removed and adrenaline-inducing at the same time -- Israelis were running in and out of their cheder atum, their sealed rooms, struggling with their gas masks, quarantines and defenselessness.
They were defensively crippled, in possession of the capability to retaliate, but refraining because America wanted to handle it on its own.
Now it wouldn't be any better. In fact it could be much, much worse.
Much in the way that America distances Israel in order to gain allies in its war on terror, America probably wouldn't want Israel to defend itself again. But Israeli officials have stressed that they will indeed retaliate if targeted.
And although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that Iraq is the greatest threat facing Israel, one has to wonder if he's just hoping to take the focus off his own military operations.
That hope could backfire if the White House, seeking international support, links Iraq to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In addition to the military considerations, I'm not sure the morally depleted Israeli community could handle being attacked from Iraq as well.
Back in 1991, Israelis ran to sealed rooms and then returned to normal life after the safe siren sounded. But now, after two years of the Al-Aksa Intifada, where Israelis just barely feel safe in their own homes, having to dodge Iraqi Scud missiles may not be the best thing, to say the least.
The United States may be justified in attacking Iraq. And that attack might benefit Israel in the long-run. But in the short-term, it might not.
And that's what Jewish leaders are not willing to say. What's good for America is not always what's good for Israel.
So which do you choose?