War, if and when…

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Consider this an all-Iraq day of emails: There’s been endless speculation about when, or even if, a war in Iraq will happen. Here’s a typical beginning from a British paper today, under the headline, “Xmas Blitz, Allies have six-week window to bomb Iraq, Pentagon chiefs have pinpointed a six-week ‘window of opportunity’ in which to launch a war against Iraq.”

“Officials are now openly briefing diplomats that they ‘want to light the blue touchpaper.’ If a blitz is authorised, all the signs point to a December 16 start — with the “window” stretching beyond Christmas until the end of January. Cool clear weather and long winter nights would be ideally suited for a hi-tech bombing campaign…”

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My own recent favorite comes from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Sunday Insight section, a piece headlined, “Two Cents on the War: When will the war with Iraq start?” Among many opinions from citizens, Richard Knapp, of Orinda, suggests this:

“Saturday, Jan. 11, at 5 p.m. our time. Bush can’t interfere with the Christmas economy. Next consideration is that American troops won’t be back from holiday leave until Jan. 6. It has to be before Congress returns, Superbowl Sunday and the Martin Luther King holiday. Other factors: The stock market must be closed; it mustn’t be on a Jewish or Muslim holy day, and finally, the United States always invades around 4 a.m. local time.”

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He could be right. The fact is no one knows, not even, undoubtedly, this administration. That they want to blast Saddam off the map can’t be doubted, but to some extent, given divisions within the administration, this continues to be — as it has been since September 11th — a seat-of-the-pants imperium-in-the-making. It turns war into a very Democratic affair. Everyone can have an opinion, none of which matter, until it begins and then someone will turn out to have been “prophetic.” In that vein, and so as to ensure that no matter what happens I can be as prophetic as the next prophet, I include the following piece, from today’s Guardian, on war opinions in Cairo, where, claims Brian Whitaker, normal Egyptians take war for granted, but not the elite. Tom

Fighting talk
As weapons inspectors finally return to Iraq, Brian Whitaker finds Egypt veering between optimism and fatalism

By Brian Whitaker, November 25, 2002, The Guardian

How likely is a war in Iraq? Going about my daily work in Cairo over the last week or so, I have put this question to a variety of people and have received almost every possible answer. The replies ranged from a 90% probability of war (from a man in a cafe) down to a mere 5% probability (from a rather senior figure in the Egyptian government).

These wide differences of opinion became more revealing when I moved on to the follow-up question, which was to ask people how they arrived at their figure. All those who thought war extremely likely – that is, more than a 75% probability – gave remarkably similar reasons for their belief. The US, they said, seems determined to have a war. Therefore, barring some unforeseen event, a war will happen.

To read more of this Guardian piece click here