Impeach Saddam!

Among Chatterbox’s many constitutional duties is to give voice to widely-held sentiments that are too tasteless to be published in the nation’s leading newspapers. In that spirit, let Chatterbox be the first to predict that Bill Clinton will dodge the impeachment bullet if and only if the current bombardment of Iraq leads to the death of Saddam Hussein.

It’s a rather shocking idea–even more shocking, Chatterbox thinks, than the widespread Wag the Dog notion that Clinton launched the air strikes to delay the impeachment vote. Chatterbox does not think this is why Clinton launched the air strikes. But he is not blind, either: Regardless of how the current predicament was created, realpolitik now seems to dictate that the Iraqi dictator must perish if Clinton is to be saved on the House floor. Chatterbox does not endorse this logic–indeed, Chatterbox is among the very last people on planet earth who maintains that the planned assassination of foreign leaders (and, for that matter, imprisonment of foreign leaders like Manuel Noriega and Augusto Pinochet) is, making the necessary exception for Adolf Hitler, bad foreign policy, and also immoral. But Chatterbox also recognizes that if Clinton were to bump off Saddam Hussein, the world would not weep–even if he didn’t manage to get it done till after the start of Ramadan on Saturday. He also believes that Clinton’s countrymen would spare him impeachment.

Let’s turn to the evidence.

Trent Lott’s belligerence. In a deeply unwise move, the Senate majority leader has issued a statement saying “I cannot support this military action” because of the questionable timing and because the action “will not effect real change in that nation.” Lott said “I could support a future military operation with clearly defined objectives, among them the removal of Saddam Hussein from power….”

Translation: Bring me the head of Saddam Hussein.

Political reality: If Clinton brings Lott the head of Saddam Hussein, Lott will be compelled to praise Clinton.

Shoot the moon. Much of the coverage is already pointing out that the air raids now give Saddam a pretext to kick out U.N. inspectors forever. Daniel Pearl in today’s Wall Street Journal: “While a sustained bombing could weaken the Iraqi military–and bring substantial Iraqi casualties–many experts were saying they doubt that a massive attack would displace Saddam Hussein. ‘It will leave his military structures intact,’ said Philip Robins, a Middle East expert at Britain’s Oxford University. ‘It will be very difficult to take out core support for Saddam Hussein like the Republican Guards and tanks.’”

Translation: In for a penny, in for a pound.

Political reality: If Saddam Hussein is terminated with extreme prejudice, our ordinarily scrupulous allies will praise Clinton. It’s hard to impeach a president who’s being heralded by foreign leaders. It’s easy to impeach a president who’s being criticized by foreign leaders.

This operation’s unfortunate name. Has anyone besides William Safire noticed that Operation Desert Fox, incredibly, has been named after a Nazi general? Chatterbox thinks this reveals the mindset behind its execution, which is not overly concerned with the niceties of international relations, even when you factor out impeachment pressures.

–Timothy Noah