Imagine. A debate between Saddam Hussein and George Bush? That would be something, although it certainly won't happen.
Saddam Hussein made his challenge during an exclusive interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather in Baghdad, and Bush quickly responded "No" through his spokesman, Ari Fleischer.
"I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue - a debate - with your president,'' CBS quoted Saddam as saying. "I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.''
In the CBS interview Saddam challenged Bush to a televised debate via satellite linkup, along the lines of those in a U.S. presidential campaign, the network said.
"This is not about public relations. This is about protecting the lives of the American people,'' Fleischer said. "If Saddam Hussein destroys the missiles that he said he never had ... you've got to wonder what other weapons does he have?''
Talk about two sides that lie. The idea of a debate is a joke, alright.
Both George Bush and Saddam Hussein have something to gain from this little charade. Iraq's tyrant is appealing to anti-war sentiment in the rest of the world. Everyone knows that this war isn't so much about weapons of mass destruction as it is about control of oil, and Bush avenging his father who lives in humiliation everyday that Saddam Hussein remains in power.
In the past several months, the Bush friendly oil companies have pushed the price of gasoline so high that we are soon to break new records. People are under the misconception that higher oil prices means profits and new jobs, but they don't.
The oil companies are salivating knowing that war with Iraq will give them the cover they need to push prices even higher to increase their own profits. They can't wait to get their hands on Iraq's oil fields.
We can't have that come out in a debate.
Secondly, Bush keeps saying he has evidence Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but it is clear to everyone that claim is just not true. Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations failed to move anyone, except those rightwing fanatics in the United States who are driving talk radio histrionics. Radio demagogues like Sean Hannity continue to rally the war cries of hatred, managing to mix in his usual race-based views and stereotyping to skip over discussion about "facts" and "proof."
And there are other embarrassing questions Bush does not want to answer, especially from a tyrant like Saddam Hussein who wears the stamp "Made in the U.S." on his bloodied history.
What would Bush say if Saddam Hussein asked him to tell people what evidence he has that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction?
What would Bush say if Saddam Hussein asked him to explain how the United States supplied him with much of the poison gas and chemical technology that we now claim exists?
What would Bush say if Saddam Hussein accuses Bush of allowing him to launch a war against Iran, where most of the civilian atrocities were committed?
Bush doesn't need to debate because a debate does him no good. In fact, a public debate is exactly what you don't want when your entire case is based on emotion, demagoguery and fanning the flames of public fear, as the Director of Homeland Security is helping to do these days.
This country is facing a threat from terrorists and we are in a war we haven't and can't even seem to win in Afghanistan. Everyday, we are reminded the terrorists are out there and if it weren't for Saddam Hussein, Bush would have nothing to distract us from that fact that we have failed to finish that war on terrorism and might never finish it.
And, there's nothing better to distract Americans from the other big failure, our down-spiraling economy and the president's inability to make it right.
The issue of a debate is a joke, alright. But the joke is not simply about Saddam Hussein.
Ray Hanania' writes a twice weekly column on Middle East affairs that is distributed by Creators Syndicate. Hanania can be reached on the internet at www.hanania.com.
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