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A Dialogue Not Worth Having
[February 26, 2003]

By Nicholas Provenzo

President George Bush has been thrown the gambit by Saddam Hussein. In his interview with CBS News anchorman Dan Rather, Saddam proposed that Bush debate him before the world on live television. Establishing a dialogue in the midst of a crisis sounds on its face like the right thing to do, but President Bush is correct to refuse Saddam’s offer.

The key argument of the Bush administration against Iraq has been that Saddam is a dictator who lies. Saddam promised to disarm his weapons of mass destruction over ten years ago, and yet he has failed to live up to his promise. These are not facts open to debate or discussion. These are facts deserving to be acted upon with deadly force.

Yet Saddam still thinks he can talk his way out of US action. No doubt emboldened by the spat of anti-war protests, Saddam thinks that calling for a debate will give him the moral high ground.

Yet debating a liar gains the honest party nothing—it only gains the liar. Debating Saddam would create the charade that Iraq is a morally acceptable nation with a leader President Bush could debate in good faith. Saddam systematically violates the rights of his own people. He has ruthlessly invaded his neighbors without cause or provocation. Debating Saddam would imply that these are just trivial differences that can be resolved by a nice TV shot between leaders. They are not.

On their own level, several students at George Mason University sensed as much when they refused to participate as panelists in last weekend’s televised debate with students of the University of Baghdad. This event, broadcast live by Al-Jazeera and sponsored by George Mason’s Center for Global Education, would have placed students in the position of sanctioning Iraq’s evils, not debating them. 

Ben Rathbone, chairman of the George Mason Objectivist Club and one of several student leaders to refuse the university’s invitation to participate said, “I believe there is fundamental difference between a university that exists within a society dedicated to freedom of speech, inquiry and expression, and a university within a totalitarian dictatorship. I wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.” 

Rathbone and his fellow students are right. There is fundamental distinction between Iraq and America. If some people fail to grasp that distinction, odds are they are beyond convincing. One doesn’t discuss justice with someone who thinks an at-large murderer should never receive justice for his crimes.

President Bush and his deputies have made a clear and compelling case justifying the use of force against Iraq. Debate, consultation, or other delay only weakens the US’s hand. It was US indecision that led to Saddam’s ability to challenge America in the first place. It is precisely the US genuflecting before world opinion via the UN that has given strength to its opponents. The US should not allow anyone to hamstring its foreign policy. Iraq has refused to disarm. Its actions threaten American security. It’s past time to move from debate into action.


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