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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Sniper and Saddam

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WASHINGTON — There's a person with a high-powered rifle killing people in the Washington area, seemingly at random. He's shot 10 people in two weeks, eight of them fatally.

And so we are letting him bully us.

A 10-kilometer run this weekend in Maryland has been canceled; so have high school football games and homecoming dances in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. College-board tests (SATs) and kids' soccer games have been postponed throughout the region.

The news media are filled with ordinary people recounting how they're afraid to stop their cars for gas (several of the victims were shot while pumping gas, which if you think about it is one of the only times all day an American will be outdoors and standing still). Those who do get gas stoop over behind their cars, taking cover and eyeing the hedges.

The week began with the sniper shooting a 13-year-old boy outside his school; he was one of the survivors.

That day, authorities begged parents not to rush to the schools and start withdrawing their children.

They also put the schools into "lock down," meaning that all outdoor activities were moved inside, and if you wanted to collect your child early, you had to bring identification and make it past a gauntlet of law officers.

The schools were surrounded that day and the next not just by local police, but also by Secret Service agents, FBI agents, agents of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. Police helicopters flew low, loud circles around the school buildings.

(I asked my 2nd grade daughter if she knew what was going on all day. "Sure," she says, "Code Blue." This from someone who still asks if low-flying planes are terrorists.)

All of this has been unfolding side-by-side with the non-debate over war with Iraq.

Rarely have I found life in America more surreal.

People talk and talk, and fret and worry about the sniper. Who is he? How to avoid him? Is it safe to get groceries if you keep moving in the parking lot?

By comparison, no one talks about Iraq. Or if they do, it's distracted, abstract. Yes, we're going to war with Iraq — but do you think I'm safe at red lights from the sniper, or should I duck behind the dashboard?

The CIA reported to Congress last week it's best guess that Saddam Hussein may or may not have weapons of mass destruction — but he probably won't use them, or give them to terrorists to use, unless he's cornered!

So our plan is to corner him? To talk shrilly for months about how Saddam's a dead man walking — and then dare him to do his worst against our troops massed in the Gulf, or against Jerusalem?

If he's a dead man walking, why wouldn't Saddam choose to go down in historical infamy — as the Arab hero who erased Israel? In Israel, they get this — and have already announced they will nuke Baghdad in response to any such attack.

These are the most deeply serious of matters. Yet they are receiving the most deeply unserious consideration.

The president tells us we have to refuse to live in "fear." So "fear" is our motivation for a U.S. land war in the Middle East? The whimpering Democrats give the president a green light — and talk of relief at having "this question of Iraq behind us." What?

Matt Bivens, a former editor of The Moscow Times, is a Washington-based fellow of The Nation Institute [].