Well, why don't we just assassinate Saddam?

September 09, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON The supermacho right-wingers are at it again, telling us how a few drastic military actions and a murder or two would solve all our problems in Iraq and the Middle East.

Saddam Hussein's military foray into the Kurdish zone of Iraq has revived the cries that President Bush, Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were chicken-hearted in stopping the Gulf War when they did. The brave armchair and typewriter warriors are saying that U.S.-led forces should have killed all of the Iraqi dictator's Republican guards.

Yes, just mow them down like nuisance rabbits.

And again the cries go up that the U.S. "has to take Saddam out." Just assassinate the screwball Iraqi leader and everyone can live happily ever after.

Simpleminded people who merely listen to President Clinton justify recent U.S. missile attacks on Iraq on grounds that Saddam Hussein "abuses his own people" will be quick to say, "Yeah, kill him!"

Thoughtful people will know that the United States would have killed a lot of leaders in the Soviet Union, China, Nigeria, Cambodia, Burma, South Africa, Nicaragua and a lot of other places if God had given the U.S. the right to assassinate all abusive political leaders.

And wise people would conclude just what former Sen. Frank Church and other congressional leaders did a generation ago when they reined in our Central Intelligence Agency and other foreign operatives: This country must never engage in the murders of foreign leaders, however repulsive the world may deem them to be.

The moral reason is obvious: No society is so infallible that it can decree who in some other society must be killed. No nation ought be allowed to say that we kill an Arab because we can, but we won't kill a Russian because we are afraid to.

The practical reason is that political killing is a two-way street. If our agents murdered Saddam Hussein, a veritable army of Muslims would be on "holy" missions of retribution, willing to give their lives to take those of our American leaders. No president or other American target can be fully protected in the face of that kind of fanatical search for revenge.

So this talk of "taking Saddam out" must stop. It undermines the moral basis for all United States actions in the Middle East, and it sets the U.S. up for blame if a mere political or personal enemy should kill Hussein.

Still no quarantee

If the Iraqi dictator were slain, or if he died of a heart attack tomorrow, we could hail that as only a victory in a small battle. But it would not guarantee us triumph in the larger, infinitely more complicated struggle for influence and oil in the most explosive part of this planet.

Mr. Clinton's political enemies are, on one hand, accusing him of taking military action against Iraq for political purposes; on the other hand, they seek to goad him into further military assaults by accusing him of a "pinprick" or "wrist-slapping" response to Saddam's effrontery. The president has taken a measured response to a situation where U.S. intervention may not even have the blessing of long-standing international law.

The superpatriots who attack Bush, Powell, Clinton and other U.S. "weaklings" are of a mentality that says, "Invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq and take the damned oil fields that are crucial to our survival." The leaders of these Arab countries know what U.S. nouveau colonialists are thinking, which is why none of them is on TV praising the cruise missile attacks on Iraq.

We could murder Saddam and at the same time kill U.S. hopes for longtime influence and friendships in the Middle East.

That kind of blunder would surely leave our access to petroleum diminished. President Clinton must not let election year political pressures or the cries of the make-believe macho men push him anywhere near such a self-defeating posture.

Pub Date: 9/09/96

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