As a child, I can remember going to the fair and being warned by my grandfather not to play the shell game. It looked so easy. I was sure I could win. I paid my dollar, and I lost, quickly. Sometimes the shyster even let me really guess where the yellow ball was going to be. I thought to myself, “the ball is bright yellow, and the shells are so small, I’ll surely be able to find it…” It was never the case. Slick hands moved the little yellow ball quicker than I could ever watch it. The ruse was not to be won. I only played the game a few times before I realized that my money, hard-earned carrying newspapers before school, was better spent on the thrills of the ferris wheel.
Late wire reports indicate that the Iraqis have invited a team of American investigators, with the press in tow, to look for Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, who was listed as the first causality of the Gulf War. A team searched the area where his US Navy F/A-18 Hornet crashed, but his remains were never found. Iraq has said that Lt Cmdr. Speicher crashed without ejecting. Intelligence reports abound about an American pilot held in Iraq, mainly fostered by reports from a defected Iraqi agent. The team, to be escorted by the Red Cross, may look into the reports that Lt. Cmdr. Speicher is still alive and has been captivity for over ten years. While the navy pilot may well be alive, the possibility that the United States will get pulled into another shell game with the Iraqi dictator is concerning.
If you have any doubts as to the specious intentions in helping the United States look for the missing pilot, let’s look back a few years to American Scott Ritter, second in command on the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, which received the charge after the end of the Gulf War of ridding the dictatorship of its ability to produce and deploy weapons of mass destruction. In a highly publicized resignation, Mr. Ritter threw in the towel after years of stifling by Saddam Hussein in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. He resigned because Iraq was providing false information about its weapons programs. Long Range Missiles. VX nerve gas. Biological weapons. Empirical evidence was there, but Saddam was adept in playing the shell game. It was a very difficult and frustrating time for those seeking peace in the region.
When I was a child, the con man stood behind a fruit crate covered by a piece of black velvet. The velvet was so clean that it seemed to highlight his every move, it screamed for close scrutiny. Today we are drawn to the shell game at a table covered in light blue cloth with a United Nations crest on it. Over weapons inspections, the despotic state, notorious for killing tens of thousands of its own people, had the civilized world in a shell game, and this time it was not a few dollars from the paperboy on the table- the stakes were much higher. For years, the Western world has thought that it is easier not to enter the game and think that you’re in control, but those days are long over.
Something needs to be said for the civil intelligence of Saddam’s Baghdad stronghold. Although he seems notoriously difficult to topple, resisting numerous overt and countless covert attempts, he shrewdness still eludes us. If the Untied States should enter the charade and look for Lt Cmdr. Speicher, it needs to be on our terms, not on those of Saddam Hussein. Saddam has already proven that he can manipulate an already shallow western media as the weapons inspections turned into a circus for the Iraqi propaganda machine. Allowing the American media to enter into the search would only raise the soapbox to new levels as they get escorted to places of “suffering” caused no doubt, by the evil United States and their sanctions against “the peace loving people of Iraq”.
I have no doubt that there may be a pilot alive in a secret cell in Baghdad. An unnamed Iraqi spokesman said that the preferred method to solve the matter would be through legal negotiations. Would he be referring to the same negotiations that helped facilitate farcical weapons inspections in the years since the Gulf War? Probably.
The United States needs to treat this matter seriously. Admittedly, it will be difficult to pin Saddam to the wall of the life of a single US pilot lost ten years ago. If there is a pilot held in captivity by the Iraqi government, it is my hope that the Unites States deals with the issue forcefully. It is more likely that Iraq wishes to draw the United States into another shell game where we try to figure out who’s the cat and who’s the mouse.
Stephen A. McDonald Bigtreenews.com