By June 2003 it is likely, we are told, that Saddam will be dead, Iraq
a conquered nation and a junta of compliant Kurds and Arabs and their
Texan mentors dispensing with wisdom the region's oil. Tariq Aziz will
be dead too or in a filthy cage in Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial for war
crimes and George Bush praised in the West for his courage, and Tony Blair
for his Churchillian foresight and John Howard for his loyalty under considerable
pressure. The stock markets will be rallying, tourism booming, Osama in
hiding, terrorism abating and Islam pondering the wisdom of liberal capitalism.
It will be safe to get on planes again, to go to the cricket and drink
Or so the sages of Fox News and Fairfax daily imply.
I'm not sure I agree. Chancing my arm, and testing my considerable reputation
as a political prophet (twenty-three elections dead right within three
seats, eight dead wrong) I'd say Saddam will be alive in June and still
in his job, Tony Blair in the House of Lords looking silly, defensive
and cross-eyed, Gordon Brown looking good and moderate in Downing Street,
Dick Cheney under investigation for past accounting practices, and George,
a lameduck President, drinking heavily in Crawford, Texas; a world wide
depression meanwhile, fuelled by sporadic terrorism in Africa, Europe,
Australia and the US, incrementally panicking the western world; and,
yes, Osama in hiding and occasionally whispering to an audiocassette his
unique, unsettling spin.
Mostly because, I think, the war on Iraq will not take place. Of this
I'm fairly certain now (I could be wrong), since Saddam provided twelve
thousand pages implicating the West in his weaponry and Bush, crying wolf!
and wolf! and wolf! did not provide the proof he said he had that Saddam
is lying -- and threatened, moreover, to hydrogen bomb Iraq if 'our troops
are endangered'. No UN committee will support for long a man behaving
as loopily and lethally as this and neither thenceforth will the UK, nor
Colin Powell, nor, in the end, I believe, though this is less certain,
the American people.
John Howard will of course but he always does. His reasons, like most
of his life (does he pray? read novels? watch movies?), remain a mystery.
Consider what we have thus far been asked to believe.
That Saddam, though sixty-five and possessed of many luxurious palaces,
wants much, much more and will A-bomb Israel to get it though Israel will
A-bomb him back.
That he, a secular Muslim, would give Osama, a fanatical Muslim, an A-bomb
despite Osama volunteering to fight against him in 1991, on the side of
another President Bush.
That Israel, which has A-bombs and strafes and bulldozes the innocent
and breaks UN rules most months of most years, is no threat to world peace
while Saddam is.
That North Korea, which has A-bombs too and sells in secret Scuds to US-unfriendly
Arab states, is no threat to world peace while Saddam is.
That the US, which 'routinely' bombs Iraq every week and sometimes (presumably)
kills Iraqis, wants peace and Saddam, who has done for months all the
UN asked of him and also apologised to Kuwait, wants war, a war he must
That those dam-bombings and trade embargos that have killed by drought
and malnutrition sixty thousand Iraqi children are all Saddam's fault.
And Saddam's Iraq, which has liberated women from the veil, is a worse
place than Saudi-Arabia which decapitates adulteresses.
That Saudi-Arabia, where Idi Amin lives in luxury as a royal guest, is
a friend of democracy, not tyranny.
That Saudi-Arabia, whose millionaires fund al-Qaeda, is on our side on
the whole but Saddam, whose deputy is a Christian, is not worth dealing
That George Bush, who before his Presidency travelled once out of the
US (as a teenage Christian pilgrim, to Israel) is adept at international
That George Bush, who in his lifetime has read no books on the Middle
East beyond some chapters of the Bible, knows what he's doing in that
That George Bush is trusted by anyone, including his father; including
his mother; including his wife.
That George Bush, a reformed alcoholic, is not now back on the sauce despite
his long pauses, wild rhetoric and livid, flaring nose.
That George Bush should not be breathalysed, on working days, at 8 a.m.
That George Bush, born and raised in the oil business, has no interest
in Saddam's oil, the second biggest deposit in the world, and cares only
about his cruelty, his arms and his warlike intentions.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, his predecessor Lincoln
said, but this lethal dill has tested the limits of even that.
Most of the world is more than worried, and he will not (I here assert
with less than total confidence) prevail.
And Saddam will be alive not dead in June, and in his present job.
And George Bush drinking heavily, and not well-liked any more, by anyone.
And Osama, of course, in hiding.