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How Dan Rather Could Have Saved The Day

by Franz Schurmann

When journalist plays diplomat
(PNS) -- Dan Rather of CBS goes to Baghdad to interview Saddam Hussein, who says he will die in the country he was born in. At the same time, George W. Bush says it would help Middle Eastern peace if Saddam were toppled. To some of us of a certain age, it feels like a replay of the dramatic way the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 was resolved.

Neither President Kennedy nor Chairman Khrushchev would budge even as the world felt nuclear Armageddon was imminent. Yet all of a sudden someone in the White House suggested using John Scali of ABC as a conduit who could bypass the quarreling national security factions of both governments. The end run worked, and the world sighed with relief. It also set off America's biggest economic boom to date.

In the Cuban crisis, the Soviet Union positioned nuclear weapons 90 miles from Miami as deterrence against an American attack on Communist Cuba. What Kennedy warned Khrushchev via John Scali was that both powers could, easily and unknowingly, slide into all-out nuclear war. The only way to avoid war was leader-to-leader direct talks. As a result, the first "hot line" was set up, and has since become a key part of global diplomacy.

Even though Bush publicly scorns Saddam as an untouchable, Dan Rather could still have played the conduit role that Scali did in 1962. In his Feb. 26 American Enterprise Institute (AEI) speech, Bush seemed to be giving Hussein friendly advice that he and his family should promptly leave Iraq for good.

In the resolution of the Cuban crisis, Khrushchev withdrew his nuclear missiles. That seemed like a defeat, yet Kennedy too made a big concession. He agreed not to make another attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, an agreement that every American president since has honored.

In the present crisis, a similar concession by Bush might be that even if Saddam Hussein goes into exile, his ruling Ba'ath Party would still retain some power. A Washington Post article about "Free Kurdistan," translated and carried by the authoritative Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat, signaled this scenario could be possible. The reporter wrote with astonishment that due to the turbulent politics of Kurdistan, Ba'ath officials were still managing the big Kirkuk oil wells close to the Turkish border.

As in the Cuban missile crisis, the current Iraq crisis also involves much bigger issues. The latter involves a shift in global power that has been developing for several decades. Ever since the October 1973 "Yom Kippur War," America has held to the axiom that America alone must control global oil, else chaos will result. When 9/11 occurred, Bush saw in the tragedy an opportunity to bring this vision into fruition.

Days after 9/11, Bush ordered a massive shift of armed forces into the territory and waters covered by the Central Command, which is the bridge between America's Pacific and Atlantic commands.

American forces are now all over the Gulf. Saudi Arabia hosts several American air bases. U.S. ground troops are now stationed in Turkey, Israel, Jordan and northern Iraqi Kurdistan.

As to the rest of Asia, American forces are located in Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan), Afghanistan, Pakistan, several islands in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, South Korea, Japan and now the Philippines. In Africa the list gets longer every year: Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, the Seychelles, the Comoros, Madagascar and Djibouti (Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, 2003).

In the Americas, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly called the School of the Americas, still trains officers from virtually every Latin American country.

American military power is now truly global. But this doesn't mean the Pentagon doesn't need or want more land bases. If America occupies all or part of Iraq, American troops will likely be stationed in that region indefinitely.

Djibouti's president Isma'il Omar Guelleh is a favorite in Washington. A month ago he talked with President Bush. In an interview in the Asharq al-Awsat (Feb. 19), Guelleh was asked if Bush had set a date for attacking Iraq. Guelleh answered, "I didn't hear any such date." The reporter, referring to the war as "inevitable," then asked whether, after he returned to Djibouti, he had heard a date. Guelleh answered, "The war can be halted through diplomacy on condition that Saddam cooperates with the UN inspectors."

If the preceding quote is altered to read "that Saddam cooperates with the White House," then that will be a great step in achieving American control over global oil. And, judging from Bush's remarks in the AEI speech, it will also be a big step forward toward Middle Eastern peace.

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Albion Monitor March 7, 2003 (

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