Somewhere on A1A...

Thursday, October 10, 2002

The debate on attacking Iraq has been unremarkable because of the simplicity of the arguments being presented. The traditional media treats us as if we are incapable of understanding any complex issue. Has our collective attention span been reduced to 10 second intervals?

One of the issues involved in any action in Iraq is addressed by Senator Bob Graham in today's Miami Herald. Graham, rightly wants more attention focused on groups like Hezbollah, and less tunnel vision on Saddam Hussein. Graham warns us that action in Iraq will inflame the region and make attacks on Americans at home more likely. His warning should be heeded.

But Graham said that many members of Congress and the administration are fixated on Hussein as ''the one evil'' while overlooking threats from ''the sleepers among us, waiting for an assault.'' And he predicted that threat will increase if the United States does go ahead and invade Iraq.

''If you reject that, [and say] that the American people are not going to be at an additional threat, then basically, to use a term, the blood is going to be on your hands,'' Graham told the Senate.

He said he favored more actions by the FBI ''to rout out terrorists among us'' and would support military actions against terrorist training camps in Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

The five groups he named -- Hezbollah, Hamas, the Abu Nidal group, the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Front -- have not launched attacks in the United States.

But Graham said that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has killed Americans in the Middle East for 20 years and has cells in the United States ready to strike.

''I will defy anybody to say that Iraq meets those standards. We're not talking about a threat 90 days from now,'' Graham said.

``We're not talking about a threat that may come a year from now if nuclear material is made available. I'm talking about a threat that could happen this afternoon.''

I'm thankful I was wrong about a September invasion of Iraq, but I still think the action will be necessary. The President, so far has been taking the right steps, but too many seek a quick solution that will never come about.

Critics argue that America has a bad record in helping foreign governments with insurrections or revolutions. Where they are wrong is in making the comparisons to situations in South America, where America chose expedient methods to oppose our rival in a bi-polar world. The true correlation ought to be with our efforts in changing regimes in Japan and Germany and helping democracy get started. The right solution will be a long-term, expensive endeavor more like the latter. If the 'expedient' route is chosen, I'm afraid we are doomed for failure.

The issue on attacking Iraq is extremely complex, and deserves a complete open and honest debate. At least we have a leader in the White House who is trying to frame the debate instead of a follower of opinion polls who had no courage to take an unpopular stand. Still , the debate must go on. We should embrace it and contribute the best way we can. But let's hear the entire debate... It cannot be reduced to sound bites.


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