Monday, January 30, 2006

History Warns Us: Beware of Nut Cases

Jonathan Gurwitz, San Antonio Express-News:
Occasionally, madmen make good on their threats. Every now and again, the world's lunatics deliver a violent reminder that ignoring a seemingly insane peril is more perilous than confronting it. READ MORE

Adolf Hitler said he would build a Reich based on racial purity and enslave or destroy inferior nations. By the time isolationists and idealists caught on to Hitler's earnestness, it was very nearly too late. And never mind the pact he made with fellow maniacal mass murderer Josef Stalin, an alliance between fascists and communists — sworn enemies — that experts said could never be forged and gave Hitler two years to bring the power of the Wehrmacht to bear on the Western front.

Saddam Hussein, whose psychopathic Baathist regime borrowed more than just ideology from Nazism, said Kuwait was an inalienable part of Iraq. Most people regarded that claim, like his threat to "burn half of Israel," as some inconsequential mumbling. Until Iraqi troops rolled into Kuwait and declared it Iraq's 19th province.

"The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilians and military," Osama bin Laden said, "is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."

Just the musings of a wealthy Saudi screwball. And a Sunni religious extremist like bin Laden would never find common cause with a secular extremist like Saddam or Shiite extremists in Iran. They are — as the experts say — sworn enemies.

Now it is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's turn to be dismissed as a nuclear nut case.

The American experience in Iraq has understandably engendered a great deal of skepticism. It was, after all, the alleged nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad that served as the primary rationale for the U.S.-led invasion.

There's little reason for skepticism with regard to Iran. Iranian dissidents disclosed their nation's formerly secret nuclear research program three years ago. Having fallen under intense international scrutiny, its existence is not in doubt. The Iranian government, in fact, boasts of its nuclear expertise as a source of national pride.

Nor is there any question about Iran's ties to international terror and its elemental support of Hezbollah, the pioneers of anti-U.S. Islamic terrorism.

Assume, for a moment, the U.S. policy of pre-emption is nonexistent. Assume that three years ago, President Bush ignored the claims of the intelligence services of the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Israel and elsewhere that Iraq's WMD program was a slam-dunk

Assume he brushed off the findings of the Clinton administration State Department that "this is a dangerous regime that threatens its neighbors, has a long history of aggression, has ambitions to dominate the Gulf by force, and retains the capability to do so."

Assume he rejected the bipartisan policy of regime change established by Congress and the calls of Democrats and Republicans alike not to, as Sen. John Kerry said on the Senate floor in 1997, allow Saddam "to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction."

Assume he scorned the alarm sounded by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council about Iraq's intransigence. Assume, most important, he discounted Saddam's threats.

All this has a familiar ring, so let the public record reflect who is saying what today with regard to Iran. But having engaged in this historical flight of fancy, now assume that Saddam — still ensconced in his palaces, enriched and empowered by three additional years of oil-for-food corruption — were witnessing the perfection of nuclear technology in Tehran.

How might a demented Saddam deal with a nuclear Iran, and would the world be a safer place for it? "The history of things that don't happen is often the most difficult history to write," observed terrorism expert Neil Livingstone on the threat posed by Iraq in 1991.

Who, we may reasonably ask, is crazier: the alleged crackpots who have a habit of delivering on their threats, or those who serially ignore history and assail policies that actually deal with those threats?