The Truth, Mainly - 03/03/2003

On Iraq: What would Brando do?
by Leon Satterfield

I have a confession: I agree with something Saddam Hussein said last week. My guilt is killing me. I haven't slept well. I pick at my food. I put on socks that don't match my shirt.

It's a terrible thing to agree with Saddam. I'm convinced that he is indeed, as the unsinkable Molly Ivins so delicately puts it, "a miserable SOB."

When somebody's as nasty as Saddam is, I always ask myself this question: "What would Marlon Brando do?"

Not the Brando of "A Streetcar Named Desire" or "On the Waterfront." Certainly not the Brando of "Guys and Dolls."

I mean the Marlon Brando of "The Godfather." Don Vito Corleone. The Mafia guy.

Here's what I'm pretty sure Brando-Corleone would not do: He would not send several hundred thousand soldiers,equipped with all kinds of non-discriminating weapons, to take care of one guy, even a guy as nasty as Saddam.

He'd send maybe as many as four or five hit men (including at least one of his sons) to do the job. I don't even want to think of what they'd do to Saddam or how they'd do it, but it would be neat and surgical with no collateral damage, no unintentional deaths. And at least one of them would come back to Brando and tell him—while he was tending to his tomato plants—that that little matter was taken care of and The Family could get on with the wedding plans.

Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.

But that's all a digression. I was talking about having agreed with Saddam on something. Here's what it was:

When Saddam was talking to Ramsey Clark last week, he said, according to the A.P., that he can do nothing to keep the U.S. and Britain from attacking "because President Bush has already made up his mind."

Saddam may be wrong about everything else, but I'm convinced he's right about this. No matter what he does or doesn't do, President Bush is going to war against him.

I was convinced of that by what I saw on the Feb. 20 PBS "Frontline" show—the one sub-titled "The War Behind Closed Doors."

It's about the origin of the Bush policy of pre-emptive strikes—you know, the sort of thing the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. The policy was first proposed in 1991 after the first Gulf War ended before we could take out Saddam.

That was a big disappointment to the hawkiest members of the Bush I staff—especially Paul Wolfowitz.

So Wolfowitz came up with a secret policy guideline endorsing pre-emptive strikes against Saddam and others who might get in our way.

To their credit, Bush I and Colin Powell rejected the policy in 1992, and the Clinton Administration had no use for it, so it went into the bottom drawer.

But it came back out when Bush II was elected and hawks like Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Rumsfeld came back to Washington. After 9/11, they saw the chance to link Iraq to al-Qaeda, to plug into the national outrage over the terrorist attacks in order to finish the job on Saddam. Even though none of the terrorists were Iraqis, even though Saddam, the secularist, and Osama bin Laden, the Islamic fundamentalist, couldn't stand each other.

And so President Bush in his first State of the Union address called our attention to "the axis of evil" which, somehow, in some vague way which only the initiated could understand, was related to the 9/11 attacks.

That was 13 months ago, and that, "Frontline" leads me to believe, is when the president decided we were going to war with Iraq. That's why I agree with Saddam that nothing he can do will prevent a war because Bush II has already made up his mind.

It probably also explains why the president gets so cranky when anyone disagrees with what he's already made up his mind about.

And one more digression:

In last Tuesday's Journal-Star, there's a four-column photo of the interior of a Baghdad pastry shop. In the background are yellow flowers and wonderful looking pastries. In the foreground are two pretty Iraqi women, about the age of my daughter and my daughters-in-law. With them are a little boy, about the age of my grandson, and two girls, about the age of my granddaughters.

The story under the photo says that the children are told at school to "follow teachers' instruction in case of bombing, and practice ducking under their desks."

You know—as a defensive measure against the near certainty that a few of our bombs and missiles will go astray to do hellacious collateral damage to whatever happens to be in their way, even pastry shops and schools.

Anybody have Brando's phone number?


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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