Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Iraq? It seems to me it's basically a hostage situation. Spare me the Hitler analogies -- Saddam doesn't even control half his own country, for chrissakes. A better comparison for Saddam is David Koresh, or Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.

Saddam is surrounded, but he can kill a lot of innocent people if we go in with guns blazing; he really might want to die gloriously and take a lot of people with him. How different is he from an armed bank robber holding a few dozen people at gunpoint, or a self-styled messiah in a compound with a group of followers, a small arsenal of weapons, and a messiah complex?

In such a situation, nobody criticizes a police hostage team for failing to launch a huge frontal attack; if a hostage team continues to talk and negotiate with a bank robber, nobody says the team is willfully blind to the fact of the bank robber's guilt. And nobody expects negotiations to stop because a holder of hostages is playing cat-and-mouse games with the negotiators -- in such a situation, cat-and-mouse games are recognized as a given.

Maybe what U.S. war planners have in mind really will minimize civilian casualties, both the ones caused by our weapons and the ones caused by Saddam’s. Maybe the planners really do have reason to believe that innocent civilians will suffer less as the result of a war than they would if we were to continue a containment/sanctions policy. But it’s immoral to support war right now and ignore the risk that Iraq might be on the verge of a Dresden from our weapons and a chem/bio Waco from Saddam’s.

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