It's time to stop talking and start taking names.
Two lists: for and against military action to end the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Condemnation goes only to world leaders whose names appear on neither list.
Any leader unprepared to make a choice on this issue by now is either too indecisive or too opportunistic to be useful.
Leaders from countries within missile range of Iraq are excused.
They understand the peril. As long as Hussein is in Baghdad, it's impossible to know what they think.
When asked whether they support military action against the Iraqi tyrant, what can they safely say except no?
Everyone else should have to sign up for or against a preemptive strike. And this is no show of hands. This is taking a position for the record, name and all.
There's no way to be right.
Nobody sane ever wants to commit soldiers to battle. Nobody sane wants to kill other human beings—including, inevitably, civilians.
Nobody sane wants to affix his or her name to a policy promising these horrors and worse.
But nobody sane would want to look back at a proliferation of dirty bombs traceable to Baghdad, or a nuclear strike by Iraq against Israel, or chemical warfare against Kuwait or Iran and be on record as having resisted action that would have prevented the devastation.
There's no proof Hussein plans any of that. There won't be. But he has demonstrated his capacity for evil. And history is clear that, as a defense against evil, appeasement doesn't count for much.
Touch choice. Nasty consequences, either way. Leadership hurts.
But the talking has turned silly. Some analysts now suggest that what US President George W. Bush really wants is access to Iraqi oil fields for American companies. They contributed heavily to his election campaign, after all.
Hyperanalysis like that shows it's time for action to replace words.
And, yes, the longer the status quo lasts, the longer Iraqis fester under Hussein's oppression and the more time he has to prepare for whatever he intends to do. It can't be good.
(Online Sept. 27, 2002; author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)