The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 27.0°F | Fair

Peace and The Big Gun

There is so much potential for shockingly controversial columns on the Middle East this week that I am having trouble deciding what to write about. Really, the Associated Press Newswire in the Tech office has been spewing for days: The Saudis want the United States to build them an army, the Kuwaiti government doesn't really care about democracy after all, the Jordanians have teamed up with the Palestinians, their mortal enemies, to push Israel into the sea at the peace conference in Switzerland, the UN and the Israelis have been flying into Iraq on reconnaissance missions and Saddam has a really big gun sitting on top of a hill somewhere in Iraq that can take care of everyone.

Maybe I should just flip a coin or something. Oh, OK -- the big gun. This is one of my favorite stories. Remember last year, before the gulf war, when some international-types discovered that Iraq was trying to import a few enormous metal pipes? Well, surprise, surprise, the pipes weren't for an Iraqi baby milk factory after all. Throughout the gulf war, the Iraqis managed to finish assembly of the world's largest cannon -- a "bl"o"oter" gun capable of hurling a nuclear bomb 500 miles.

Ready for another surprise? The gun is still sitting on a hill in Iraq, probably pointed at Israel. With the peace conference coming up, Bush is afraid to do anything about it lest he annoy the Palestinians and Jordanians. The Israelis are about to get bombed again for no real reason, and nobody gives a damn. When Israel does get attacked and overrun, though, the world (except David Duke) will be sympathetic.

When the Israeli government announced that warplanes entered Iraqi airspace on a reconnaissance mission, nobody was pleased with them. The United States was unsettled, probably because it hadn't detected the aircraft entering Iraqi airspace and couldn't quite figure out how the Israelis managed to do it. The Iraqi armed forces, however, known for their advanced early warning radar technology, announced that they had miraculously detected the Israeli aircraft but neglected to shoot them out of the sky because UN helicopters were in the area at the time investigating nuke research centers. An Iraqi government spokesman added that UN choppers would now be subject to attack if the Iraqis suspected another Israeli operation.

I love that.

Saddam hopes that if he can't keep the Israeli jets out of Iraq, maybe the UN and George Bush can.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Israeli planes were looking for both the big gun and the plants that will build the nuclear shells for it. I also wouldn't be surprised if the reconnaissance mission is a precursor to an air assault that eliminates both the gun and the weapons plants. I think that such a strike would be a good idea, but one that probably no nation in the UN will support, especially near the time of a peace conference.

But Saddam can fire that gun anytime he wants. He's already seen that he can control Bush as long as prospects for a Mideast peace conference exist, and he's not looking for peace anyway, so wouldn't mind if the Israelis disrupted it with an attack on Iraq. Saddam's ideal plan is to fire his gun off a few times during the conference, and encourage the United States to pressure Israel not to retaliate. This time, though, the Israelis won't be so inclined to agree.


Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore in the Department of Physics, is an opinion editor of The Tech.