February 2, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Suicidal Bravado

"Martyrs, perpetrators of suicide attacks, are our new weapons."

No, this is not another message from a hidden Osama bin Laden. It's not a threat from Hamas or Hezbollah. The warning doesn't come from a terrorist organization at all, in fact. The person who recently uttered it is Taha Yassin Ramadan, vice president of Iraq.

"They will not only take action in Iraq," Ramadan continued. "The whole region will be set ablaze. This part of the world will become a sea of resistance and danger for Americans."

It's easy to dismiss this threat as just more saber-rattling from a regime known for its defiant bravado. But from a public relations perspective, it seems like an extremely poor choice of words for a country trying to refute accusations that it has ties with al-Qaeda.

It wouldn't be the first time a sovereign nation used suicide attackers as military weapons (Japan's kamikaze pilots come to mind). In recent memory, however, the suicide bomber has become such a powerful symbol of terrorism that one can't seriously consider Ramadan's warnings as acceptable military options. In the ears of most people, the man's words will sound as odious as any other terrorist threat.

Fox News reported on Friday that two-thirds of Americans support military action against Iraq. I suspect their poll was carefully worded to achieve the desired result, because the majority of people I talk to are against such military action—at least until the Bush administration provides more facts and fewer claims. But talk of suicidal martyrs will only serve to unite American opinion against Iraq.

If Saddam Hussein has any desire to avert the war which seems almost inevitable, he should consider muzzling his vice president. This week, Colin Powell will make the case against Iraq before the U.N. Security Council. Weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei will make what could be their final report to the U.N. on February 14. Today may be Groundhog Day, but if Hussein were to stick his head out of his hole and see his shadow, he'd probably have a lot less than six weeks left.


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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