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saddam's going into exile?

  1. FallGuy

    2,070 Posts.

    What to make of Washington's sudden interest in seeing Saddam Hussein leave Iraq for exile and immunity from war-crimes prosecution? Certainly that would be a good idea if, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, it meant avoiding war. But those who know Saddam well say he will never agree to step down. So just what is Washington's game? Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell quite deliberately sent the same message on the Sunday talk shows. But for what purpose?

    Two possibilities present themselves. One has substance; one's for show. For the possibility of substance, pay attention to William Burns' quick, low-key trip to Damascus, Syria, on Monday. Burns is assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and a seasoned diplomat. His visit to Damascus follows closely on the heels of a visit by a close confidant of Saddam. Moreover, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are to meet at an Arab summit later this week with the aim of finding a way to avoid a war. In the runup to that meeting, teams of Arab diplomats are crisscrossing the region in consultations.

    So perhaps something actually is taking shape that would bring about Saddam's departure from Iraq. That would be a tremendous victory for the Bush administration and for the world. The U.S. troops already in Kuwait and those headed there could come home, their job happily shrunk from fighting a war to applying successful pressure on Saddam. U.N. officials would, presumably, work with new Iraqi authorities to actually destroy all weapons of mass destruction and set that nation on the course toward democracy. The sickly world economy would avoid a hard jolt. The Middle East would be spared the possibility of widespread unrest and instability. The United States would avoid the possibility of creating even deeper rifts between itself and the world by taking unilateral action. Most important, many lives -- both military and civilian -- would be spared.

    Those are powerful positives, and reason to hope something actually is going on that will cause Saddam to leave power. But a more cynical possibility intrudes as well: that the Bush administration, confronting a world hostile to its design for Iraq, is simply trying to demonstrate that it has gone the last mile for peace, while knowing full well that Saddam will never step down.

    Consider that the weekend brought large demonstrations against war with Iraq in Washington and other American cities. Polls consistently show that Americans generally are squeamish about this war, especially if U.S. forces fight it without the blessings of the U.N. Security Council. And attitudes abroad are hardening against giving the council's blessings. Most American allies want extended time for weapons inspectors to do their work, and most also insist that the United States return to the Security Council for a resolution specifically endorsing military action.

    In the face of this hostility toward an invasion of Iraq, could the Bush administration simply be engaged in a public-relations offensive by promoting Saddam's exile? The world will have to wait a few days to discover which perspective is more accurate. Everyone should hope that Saddam opts for a nice villa somewhere outside Iraq's borders.

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