War and peace

President Bush could learn a thing or two from Jimmy Carter.

By Robert Scheer

Published October 16, 2002 1:38PM (EDT)

Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize for a career of successfully waging peace, beginning with the launching of a historic Mideast peace effort that President Bush is bent on scuttling with mindless indifference.

Oblivious to the daily slaughter of Palestinians and Israelis, whose televised mayhem fuels evil passions throughout the Islamic world, Bush focuses instead on the irrelevant sideshow of Iraq. Bush seems unaware that the Gordian knot of global terrorism pulled tightly in years past by our allies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- in ugly evidence again this weekend in peaceful Bali -- will not be cut unless the quest for peace initiated by Carter at Camp David nearly a quarter-century ago is finally completed.

Instead, in a stunning display of willful pique more akin to a child's tantrum than to a president's policy, Bush seeks to smite Iraq as a target more accessible to his sword.

In fact, in a brief period of less than two years, an accidental president untutored in the ways of the world has surrendered the presidency to a gang of bullies in his administration who seek to rearrange the world to their liking, not through diplomacy and peaceful example but rather through the ravages of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, writing in his just-released personal cheat sheet to determine when to invade other countries that have not attacked us, politely calls a "pre-crisis" use of force.

Rumsfeld and fellow prominent administration chicken hawks like Dick Cheney and Paul D. Wolfowitz are veterans not of combat but rather of wars they had foolishly suggested others fight. Over the protests of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a retired general, these men have successfully installed a blatantly imperialist foreign policy.

To be sure, there are polls that show a slim majority of Americans support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. However, setting aside the fact that 90 percent of Americans would probably support the violent overthrow of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, these numbers are extremely misleading. If other elements are factored into the polling -- should we wait for allied support, should we give the U.N. more time for diplomacy, for example -- a majority of us oppose Bush's first-strike approach.

Americans don't like to concern themselves too much with what's happening in the rest of the world, and many are even content to let the CIA and the Marines dabble in international behavior modification as long as the body bags don't pile up too high. But Americans also pride themselves on common sense, and they know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the woes of the economy or our inability to locate Osama bin Laden, the anthrax terrorist or even the Washington-area sniper. They know that oil is black gold and Iraq has a whole heck of a lot of it, but they also know that nation-building is a dangerous, costly and ultimately thankless task better left to the United Nations.

Of course, Americans are concerned about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, especially now that our national sense of invulnerability has been so painfully damaged. Many, however, are starting to realize that the Bush administration's claims on that front need to be treated with a grain of salt the size of the hats in Texas.

The CIA has concluded that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons and is militarily far weaker than it was 10 years ago, but the response of the administration has been to squeeze the intelligence agency to come up with reports that support its unsupportable case for invasion. And how insulting to our collective intelligence is it to have the president hold up photos of dangerous weapons sites that are found to be piles of junk by American journalists who visit the location days later? Clearly the president is eager to derail the return of U.N. weapons inspectors for fear they won't find much.

Meanwhile, Pakistan dictator Pervez Musharraf, who has a tested, deliverable nuclear arsenal, has just managed to lose an election that he unsuccessfully rigged, leaving Islamic fanatics in control of the country's most sensitive region, that which borders Afghanistan.

The religious fundamentalists exploited a slogan stating that Bush's plan to attack Iraq transforms the war on terrorism into a war on Islam. That is exactly the problem with Bush's obsession with Iraq. Whether to avenge his father or to "wag the dog" ahead of elections, Bush has undermined the lofty goal of eliminating terrorism.

While Carter has exhibited the patience of the peacemaker, a sweet Jesus for our time, willing to rebuke contemptible leaders while offering them a path for redemption, Bush has become a self-fulfilling prophet of war, delighting in the discovery of what he defines as immutable evil, thereby justifying an endless crusade against the infidels.

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq Jimmy Carter Middle East Nobel Peace Prize