Listen to them all: "Foolish Saddam Hussein _ just when France and Russia and China show signs of splitting from the United States on the sanctions against Iraq, the Iraqi unites them with his demand that the U.N. inspection team not include Americans."
And they all say: "That crazy Saddam, to threaten to shoot down the American spy plane _ didn't he learn his lesson in the gulf war that the United States was invincible?"
Not so foolish. I have forced the U.N. into negotiating with me despite the American objections. Oh, they say the U.N. diplomats I have summoned are here merely to repeat the Security Council's message, but they will listen; they will report my conditions; and I will send Tariq Aziz to New York to further the discussions. That's a negotiation, and it slaps the Americans in the face.
The benefit to me is immediate. My people need a lift to their pride, and to see me on the world stage denouncing the Americans is the necessary tonic.
But a greater benefit is this: Even if I appear to become reasonable and let the inspectors include Americans, my "concession" would end all possibility of increased sanctions against me, as we continue to keep inspectors away from our most secret sites.
What could be more important to me than protecting the places where I am preparing weapons of mass destruction? Do those Western idiots think I am giving up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues year after year for no reason?
The inspectors think they are closing in on the sites where we have buried the nerve gas VX. So they were, and this delay is useful to redeploy, but that is not why I moved this week. Poison gas is good for use against Iran, but no gas will terrorize the world.
Nuclear bombs would. And so would a weapon that Rihab Rashid Taha is perfecting: my growing stockpile of anthrax and botulinum germs, spray-dried and stored as spores. One hundred kilograms in a missile would empty Tel Aviv, and if pulverized and released when the wind is right from Bethesda, Md., would pay back Washington or New York for Bush's bombing of Baghdad. No wonder the Americans are so eager to continue their "surprise inspections."
And now _ am I "crazy" to challenge the Americans militarily?
Take the most extreme case _ that I shoot down their spy plane or take some of their people hostage. How does Clinton respond? His congressional leaders have already given him a blank check because I am such a villain. But what can he do?
He could give me another pinprick, Tomahawk missile strikes where he risks no casualties, same as he did last year when I moved my troops into Erbil and killed the Kurds the United States was supposed to be protecting. That showed me his weakness.
Or Clinton could light up the night sky in Baghdad for CNN. What does his killing a few thousand Iraqis mean to me? Fewer mouths to feed. He could bomb "purely military targets"; there are none. We cover them all with hospitals and orphans' homes.
Do you suppose he could reassemble the coalition to threaten me with invasion? The French, who would sell their souls for my oil, will surely refuse. And this time, Yevgeny Primakov, my best foreign friend for 20 years _ whose Communist spy network I supported _ is now Russia's foreign minister and would veto any U.N. invasion.
And would Clinton then go it alone? Unthinkable. And even if he dares call up the reserves and expose half a million Americans to my germ weapon _ where would he base his troops? The Arab League is solidly against even continuing sanctions against me. Saudi Arabia, which I do not yet threaten, will be afraid to permit the United States to use the kingdom as a base.
Not so crazy. My revenge, when its time comes, will be the mother of all vengeance.
New York Times News Service