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The view from Paris. (last word).

Yes, I'm still proud to be an American, but in Paris I'm often proudest to reassure my French friends that I loathe my president as much as they do. It's not my favorite posture. But through the narrow telescope of Le Monde, the International Herald Tribune, The Economist, and ABC's World News Tonight (watchable on the Web), America has rarely looked more out of control. I see "orange level" warnings of apocalyptic events, which we now know were largely based on testimony from a single informant since deemed unreliable; runs on plastic sheets and duct tape, since ended after some bureaucrat realized that the resulting oxygen deprivation would probably cause more deaths than any chemical attack--and I see a president who walks and talks like a parody of a cowboy in Gunfight at the O.K Corral.

If these images aren't sufficiently reassuring, I can always go to the swell new Homeland Security Web site, which contains dozens of helpful hints, such as these if there is a nuclear blast:

* Take cover immediately, below ground if possible.

* Quickly assess the situation.

* Consider if you can get out of the area or if it would be better to go inside a building and follow your plan to "shelter in place." (Jump in that SUV. Now!)

And so on.

Some people think that the war against Iraq isn't an appropriate subject for a gay magazine. But being gay doesn't absolve any of us from the normal duties of citizenship. And this is clearly the most important question of our time. If you insist on being gaycentric, consider the fact that if we do go to war (or if we already have by the time this column reaches you), the lives of thousands of lesbian and gay American soldiers will be at risk, despite the best efforts of the military to eject some of its most talented members just because they aren't closeted enough.

There isn't anything simple about this question of war. But when George W. Bush says, "The game is over," and the French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, responds, "It's not a game, and it's not over," I have to agree with the Frenchman.

A French friend who is a history professor at the Sorbonne remarked to me, "Perhaps Bush is Churchill." But then we both agreed that he isn't. I don't believe Saddam Hussein is Hitler either, and neither was Ho Chi Minh.

Munich, where British prime minister Neville Chamberlain collapsed in front of Hitler in 1938, is the most overused historical precedent of our time. It was used by everyone from Lyndon Johnson to The Economist to justify more than 58,000 unnecessary American combat deaths in Vietnam. Nevertheless, those men and women did not die in vain: During the next quarter of a century, their sacrifice saved the lives of hundreds of thousands who came after them and were spared the folly of similar adventures.

That's why I disagree with everyone in the Bush administration who is so eager to celebrate the demise of this "Vietnam syndrome." Like me, almost every one of them (Colin Powell being a notable exception) managed to avoid military service abroad during Vietnam. But unlike me, they seem to have forgotten that war almost always equals failure. They also have forgotten that the "Vietnam syndrome" did more to restrain unnecessary American adventuring than anything else since the end of World War II. And that was a good thing.

Of course Saddam Hussein is a loathsome tyrant, and I am as eager as anyone else to see him gone. But the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans at the hands of Osama bin Laden remains the main justification for this new war on Iraq. And so far no credible connection has been made between those deaths and Iraq.

Worldwide chaos was the goal of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and chaos is what this war likely will bring us.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has predicted that a war against Iraq would produce "a gigantic fire" of attacks by terrorists seeking vengeance.

Somewhere, Osama bin Laden is smiling.
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Title Annotation:author comments on U.S. military policy and impending war against Iraq
Author:Kaiser, Charles
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Previous Article:Confessions of a modernist mind: the letters of artist Marsden Hartley reveal how sexual liberty and creative freedom go hand in hand.
Next Article:War bonds. (reader forum).

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