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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card February 17, 2003

"Hate Groups for Peace" and Other Mistakes

I watched one of the anti-war demonstrations last week. I happened to be in Salt Lake City and was walking past the demonstrators on State Street as they formed up in the morning and as they dispersed in the afternoon.

You can't expect much from a demonstration, of course. It's not about reasoned discourse. Nobody there was going to explain why it was "for peace" to allow a murderous tyrant like Saddam to keep weapons that everybody knows he has already used against innocent people in his own country.

Nobody there was ready to accept responsibility, either, if we failed to go to war and Saddam's weapons killed a lot of innocent people somewhere in the world.

But at the same time, the demonstrators can be expected not to engage in truly hateful and false statements like the oft-heard claims that Bush is the real evil-doer or that America poses a greater danger to world peace than Iraq.

Of course, any anti-war demonstration in Utah is pretty much a lunatic fringe operation anyway. Utah is the most Republican state in the union, and the most in favor of using force to disarm Saddam.

Indeed, having seen Utah Republicans at close range for many years, I can understand if the seventeen liberals in Utah occasionally froth at the mouth.

Nevertheless, I do have a hard time understanding the virulent hatred for George W. Bush that I see among Democrats and liberals everywhere I go.

After all, these are the people who asked America to be forgiving and tolerant of Bill Clinton's lies, broken promises, and "human foibles."

Yet they show not even the slightest disposition to give George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt -- they are eager to condemn him in advance for sins they think he might commit "if he isn't stopped."

For instance, GWB has the most pro-alternative fuel policy ever seen from a Republican President, and is successfully rallying big oil to support him on it -- but from the reaction of the Left, you'd think he had asked for the killing of baby seals and the cutting down of every tree in America.

GWB is, on point after point, clearly a moderate -- even on the war in Iraq. Far from rushing headlong into war, far from being a war-loving baby-killer, he retains in his administration top advisers and administrators who give him anti-war advice -- and listens to them.

After all, he didn't have to go to the U.N. to ask for any kind of resolution. Iraq was firing on our airplanes; Iraq was clearly not complying with the terms of the ceasefire in 1991. Just as Bill Clinton had done, GWB had the authority to step up hostilities with Iraq at any point.

But he listened to Colin Powell and went to the U.N. to try to build support. That's not the action of a man hellbent on war. It's the action of a truly moderate man who looks upon war as a last resort -- but will not shrink from his duty when the consequences of not going to war are more dreadful than its costs.

That's not what "cowboys" do.

Those who oppose this war -- and some of them are, I believe, sincerely against war and not merely anti-Bush -- ought to take note of the fact that it is their side that is engaging in hate rhetoric and frothing-at-the-mouth extremism.

Meanwhile, the pro-war side answers with reasoned arguments. Nobody is screaming "Kill the towel-heads!" or even "remember nine-one-one!"

It is the Left that is pumping up hysterical hatred the way Joseph McCarthy did in the 1950s, and it is George W. Bush's administration that sounds rational and calm.

It's a strange world when the people who "love peace" spew hatred and slander, while those who "want war" keep trying to build consensus and offer chance after chance for a vile tyrant to disarm and avoid invasion.


"Containment is working," say some. "We don't have to go to war now."

And even though there is an element of insanity in this -- you don't wait to go to war until after there's a smoking hole where Washington DC used to be -- there is also a kind of sense to it.

After all, Saddam is not, in fact, completely mad. Evil he is, without question, and since he has taken great care to eliminate any adviser who might contradict him, he is disconnected from reality, so he can't help but do insane things.

But he still refrains from obviously self-destructive actions. He didn't use poison gas against American troops in 1991 as he might have, knowing that it would have meant the end of his rule in Iraq. And his frantic eleventh-hour offers of "compliance" with the inspectors are clearly about his desire to avert the warfare that would surely result in his ouster.

So perhaps it's possible that, without war, we could continue to keep Saddam "contained" during his lifetime.

But there's the rub. Saddam won't live forever. And since he never tolerates anyone who looks remotely like a competent successor to remain alive inside Iraq, what will happen when he dies?

A vicious power struggle, certainly, with a lot of killing. Just as certain is a revolt by each of half a dozen rival anti-Saddam forces within Iraq.

There is also a high likelihood of outside intervention, probably sponsored by Iran, Syria, and/or Saudi Arabia, probably in the form of a well-funded terrorist-linked force stepping in to try to take control.

Nobody loves Saddam. Once Saddam is dead, ain't nobody gonna fear him anymore, either.

What happens then to his stockpiles of nerve gas, biotoxins, missiles, nuclear weapons, and dirty bombs?

Where will they be aimed?

Whose finger will be on the trigger?

And oh, oh, oh, won't the world be full of people moaning and saying, "If only somebody had acted to eliminate these weapons before they got into the hands of these monsters!"

You know -- the way people moaned and wished somebody had stopped Hitler before he got powerful enough to plunge the world into World War II.

Containment cannot "work," because we can't prevent others from taking, after Saddam's death, whatever weapons Saddam happened not to give them while he was alive.


Ah, France.

Chirac claims to want to avoid unilateral war between the U.S. and Iraq. Yet his actions guarantee that the war will take place -- for he has encouraged Saddam to continue to believe that his lying game will save him.

Chirac has also made France's treaty obligations a joke, by showing that he is willing to set aside the solemn obligation to protect an ally -- Turkey -- in order to make some feeble, self-serving political point. Who can trust France now?

Chirac has exposed French hypocrisy, for France has agreements with Saddam to guarantee a share of Iraqi oil when sanctions are removed -- agreements that will be moot when Saddam falls. While the U.S. doesn't need Iraqi oil at all and would certainly not spend the life of a single American soldier to get it.

Chirac has also severely weakened the European Union, as other member nations are forced to realize what it would be like to live in a Europe dominated by strutting, self-serving France and Germany.

And the worst of it is, it won't even work. He has made war more likely, and he hasn't made France safe.

France was already the target of Islamic terrorists -- before the World Trade Center, there was a plot to fly an airplane into the Eiffel Tower -- and if Chirac thinks his games will somehow persuade terrorists to leave France alone in the future, he is even more of a fool than he seems.

Indeed, it is hard to see what genuine French interests are well served by any of Chirac's actions. Except, of course, that constant temptation that French governments so often succumb to -- to strut around wearing a lot of medals and pretending that flinging mud at the great power that twice spent its own blood and treasure to win for them the freedom they could not win for themselves somehow makes France "great."

Unless, of course, Chirac is really motivated by the sure knowledge that if Baghdad falls, there will be plenty of documents discovered and made public that will show the double game that France has played all along, betraying its allies and the whole civilized world by cozying up with Saddam.

Maybe Chirac is attacking U.S. policy on Iraq for precisely the reason that Bill Clinton's friends so savagely attacked Kenneth Starr. When you don't want the truth to come out, then you have to destroy those who will expose it.

What no one, not even Chirac, has ever been stupid enough to say is: "If we give the inspectors more time, Iraq will disarm." Because everybody knows there is zero chance of that happening. Why, then, continue the charade?


"France still rejects any military action against France," said the newreader on Fox News on Monday night. Of course she meant "against Iraq," but when people say things incorrectly they expect the audience to be alert enough to ignore mistakes and get the main point.

I don't have a staff here to catch the mistakes I make. So I appreciate it when alert readers catch misstatements. For instance, my having spoken of the sincerely anti-war (and Germanophile) "Joseph" Chamberlain, when of course I meant Neville.

If someone had asked me to explain the difference between Joseph and Neville Chamberlain, I would have had no problem doing so. But in giving examples of sincere anti-war activists of an earlier era, I put down (accurately) the names "Chamberlain" and "Lindbergh"; then, on second glance, I decided to violate the old Jeopardy rule "last names only" and added first names.

That's when the name "Joseph" popped into mind and went into print uncorrected.

I've made other mistakes. Like conflating Clinton's meaningless (but legal) bombing of Iraq at the time of the House impeachment vote with his grossly illegal and disastrous bombing of Serbia, which began months later. And having the Chinese shoot at their own people at Tiananmen Square because they "remembered" the fall of Romania's dictator -- which didn't happen till afterward.

But it's worth pointing out that in not one of these cases did my error show anything other than the fact that I'm as susceptible as anyone to the human tendency to mix up names and dates. The errors had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make -- and correcting the error did not in any way undo my argument.

Some of those who have corrected my errors have done so as a cheerful public service, and I'm glad of it (even though of course I feel foolish).

Some, however, have corrected my errors with the glee of a high school debater who thinks that by catching an opponent in any mistake, no matter how trivial, he has somehow "refuted" the opponent's argument.

There are, of course, legitimate arguments that can be advanced in opposition to any of mine; I'm not so foolish as to think there aren't good and wise people who, using the same evidence, reach different conclusions.

But intelligent people aren't going to make up their minds on vital issues of national policy because one guy on Side A (me) made an inattentive mistake in a particular example I used.

If you want to oppose my ideas, then take on my arguments -- don't just pounce on tangential errors.

Copyright © 2003 by Orson Scott Card.

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