The ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles wrote the play Oedipus Rex, a tragedy which many consider to be his masterpiece. The story is about Oedipus, King of Thebes. There was pestilence befalling Thebes, and an oracle said that if the murderer of King Laius, the former King of Thebes, was found and cast out of the city, Thebes will be rid of the pestilence. After much inquiry, it was determined that Oedipus himself was the murderer of King Laius, who turned out to be Oedipus' father.
This came about because of a prophecy about Oedipus in which he would kill his father and have children by his mother. In order to avoid this, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, Oedipus' current wife (and his mother), left Oedipus to die in the wilderness. This action, seeking to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecy, set in motion the events that directly led to the fulfillment of the prophecy. Oedipus became King of Thebes by ridding Thebes of the menacing Sphinx. On his way to Thebes, however, he killed a man. That man turned out to be King Laius himself. When the truth about Oedipus' identity was revealed, Joacasta hung herself, and Oedipus gouged out his eyes and lived the rest of his days in exile.
This tragic story reminds me of the current mess we have in Iraq. President Bush repeatedly told the country that, among other evils, Saddam Hussein had links to terrorists who yearned to kill Americans, and this left America vulnerable to another September 11. Therefore, seeking to prevent the fulfillment of this evil prophecy, America must attack Iraq preemptively. Now, more than 100 days after the war was declared "over," terrorism has now become "the No. 1 security threat" to the U.S. in Iraq.
In fact, President Bush has said publicly that he believes "foreign elements" are in Iraq and are committing acts of terror against Western targets. Case in point: the horrific attacks against the Jordanian embassy the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad, and most recently, the mosque bombing in Najaf. This war, trying to prevent terrorism against America, has actually led to an increased American vulnerability to terrorist attack. Can anyone say Oedipus Rex?
Unfortunately, however, that is the price of hubris. King Laius was arrogant enough to think he could thwart Fate, and it led to his own destruction. Now, the Bush Administration's arrogance has come back to hurt it as well. Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a new effort at the United Nations to secure more international military support in Iraq. Specifically, he wants other countries to send troops and materiel to Iraq, to help in the occupation and rebuilding of the country. But, he does not want to cede any authority or control to the United Nations. So far, every country has balked at the request. Michel Duclos, France's charge d'affaires at the U.N., said, "Sharing the burden and the responsibilities in a world of equal and sovereign nations means also sharing information and authority." Even countries such as India, Pakistan, and Turkey are reluctant to send troops. Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador, Munir Akram, said, "We need to see whether we would be welcomed in Iraq."
This really should come as no surprise to the United States. Just before the bombs began to fall on Baghdad, you could almost taste the disdain of the Bush Administration for the U.N. and the weapons inspections process (read: multilateralist cooperation). The U.S. then decided to "go it alone" and attack Iraq to "disarm" Saddam Hussein and destroy his "abundant" weapons of mass destruction. More than 100 days after the war was declared "over" by President Bush, U.S. soldiers are being killed by the day, no weapons of mass destruction has yet been found, and it seems every unemployed terrorist has flocked to Iraq to take pot-shots at Western targets.
Now the U.S. wants other countries to "share in the glory" of rebuilding Iraq? Who are you kidding? You can't snub the International Community and attack Iraq unilaterally, and then expect the same International Community to come running to help when the going gets tough. Such is the price of hubris. If only the Bush Administration had read Oedipus Rex, perhaps it would have realized that the price of hubris is much too high a price to pay. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is coming to learn that lesson the hard way, and it is spelling disaster for the country.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the Book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale).
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