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THE CHEAPER OPTION
- Murdering Saddam would cost the US less than a war against Iraq

The name is Arie Fleischer. This most candid of gentlemen is no ordinary person: he is White House press secretary, the official spokesman of President George W. Bush. Nothing can be more authoritative than his pronouncements.

In one of his latest confabulations with press people accredited to the White House, Arie Fleischer has offered a discourse on the economics of cost-effectiveness. It is simply not true that President Bush has already made up his mind to inflict a war on Iraq; he was still exploring a cheaper means of getting rid of the pest, Saddam Hussein. Fleischer explained the president’s point of view thus: “I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that.” “That” is a synoptic way of referring to the contemplated all-out aggression against the Iraqi people. According to preliminary assessments made by the White House experts, the war could cost the United States of America, whoa, as much as 200 billion dollars; a single bullet would cost considerably less.

No other nation could be as cost-conscious as the Americans. Therefore, please do not believe all the canards that are being spread, President Bush would rather have Saddam Hussein assassinated than thrust a war on Iraq; that would be cheaper. There is however a technical difficulty. The US happens to be a member of the United Nations. It would be odd if the most important member-country of the international body were to order the killing of the head of state of another member-country. It would certainly not look aesthetically good. A further encumbrance too would have to be negotiated: US law specifically prohibits the assassination of a head of state or a head of government by American operatives.

When there is a will, there is a way though. The American law-makers very wisely have provided an escape clause. If a murder of a foreign head of state takes place in the course of an internal coup, backed by the US government, such a killing is to be condoned. Taking the opportunity provided by this legal loophole, Salvador Allende was eliminated in Chile in 1973. In contrast to that very successful murder, there has, however, been a series of disappointments. For instance, ever since the Bay of Pigs, the Central Intelligence Agency has been in search of trustworthy Cuban collaborators who could be given the contract to kill Fidel Castro in cold blood.

The CIA must have tried at least on fifty different occasions to accomplish the job: they have failed each time. Again, take the recent case of Hugo Chavez, the wildly nationalistic president of Venezuela, whom the US administration tried to get rid of some six months ago. That attempt also got aborted because of the vigilance exercised by the people of Venezuela. Even a second feebler attempt by the CIA to organize a coup against Chavez has failed. The oil-rich south American country is, as a result, in danger of slipping away from American grip.

Threatening clouds are gathering in hitherto-safe west Asia as well. The fidelity of the Sheikh oligarchy not- withstanding, one never knows in which direction Osama bin Laden’s fatherland, Saudi Arabia, might turn in the not-too-distant future. It would hence be good insurance policy to at least grab the equally oil-rich Iraq. In order to achieve that objective, Saddam has to be made to disappear. An outlay of $ 200 billion for the purpose would perhaps be regarded as excessive by American citizens; played into a corner, President Bush has been forced to put insertions in newspapers for an Iraqi assassin who would agree to fire a single bullet at the direction of Saddam’s head; the Americans will cover the expenses of the bullet plus other incidental expenses.

Be reasonable, to describe such acts of assassination as terrorism will be a grave error of judgment. Defining terrorism is the prerogative of the US alone. Indulging in open conspiracy to kill the head of a foreign power which is also a member of the UN, is not terrorism; it is actually a significant blow for world peace.

Evidently, it is a sellers’ market for successful assassins. The US state department and the CIA have been persevering for 43 long years. They have failed to locate a reliable assassin to finish off Fidel. All the agents picked have made a hash of it. The Iraqi experience has been no better till now. The endeavour commenced during the tenure of Bush père. It is now the tenure of the son. What has the world come to' Over this entire period, not one Iraqi military officer could be picked who could guarantee the successful elimination of Saddam Hussein. Frustration is understandably spreading its tentacles. Without question, this is crisis time for the US administration.

It never rains but pours. Worse prospects await President Bush. The first round of presidential elections is now over in Brazil and it is now almost certain that come October 27, the date of the final round of polling, Luiz Inasio Lula da Silva, the leader of the Workers Party, who has secured as much as 47 per cent of the vote in the first round, would be elected the new president of the republic of Brazil by an overwhelming majority.

The Workers Party is a cover name for wretched subversives; it is to all intents and purposes, the Communist Party of Brazil. This development is a major calamity for the US. Brazil is the richest hinterland in Latin America, and the Brazilian market a most coveted one for American investors and businessmen. Consider the overall situation in Latin America: Cuba remains unconquered, Venezuela has been grabbed by rabid nationalists, the Argentine republic is seething with anti-American sentiments in the wake of the International Monetary Fund loan fiasco. If, on top of all this, Brazil too is captured by crypto-communists, doomsday would no longer be a prospective happening, it would happen to be the immediate present.

It will perhaps be safe enough to make the following predictions. On the morning of October 28, that gentlest of gentlemen, Arie Fleischer, is bound to do a press briefing at the White House. The victory of the Workers Party in the Brazil presidential elections, he will state, is another manifestation of the mischief set afoot by international terrorism. The US will not take this verdict lying down. Either the election commission in Brazil should countermand Lula’s election, or a group of compliant Brazilian generals must organize a coup even before Lula takes his oath of office. The US, the steadfast standard-bearer of infinite global justice, will be otherwise compelled to launch another anti-terrorist war, this time against the usurpers in Brazil.

Führers nonetheless are great ones for self-destruction. Maybe this cliché reflects more a wish than anything else. Meanwhile, nearer home, there is an aching in the heart, but for an altogether different reason. If it were three, four or five decades ago, the government of India spokesmen would have been in the forefront of the conscientious many who would condemn, in most unambiguous terms, the hysteric outburst of the US administration.

But it is a different era and India is now a different country. Indian spokesmen, beginning with the prime minister and down to the most nondescript section officer in the ministry of external affairs, would break out into that other cliché: There Is No Alternative.

It is a cliché for all seasons.

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