The Catastrophe Rule

Bush didn't wait for Saddam Hussein to realize his plans; he took a preventive step. Now he is unable to convince a significant percentage of Americans that his action prevented a worldwide catastrophe, and is liable to pay the price at the polls. The same is true for Sharon in Gaza.

On August 6, 2001, a month and a week before the terror attacks on the Twin Towers, President George W. Bush received a special intelligence briefing, which included a report on the threats of terror by Al-Qaida inside the United States. Bush listened to the report - and didn't do a thing. Maybe he recalled the "catastrophe rule."

Imagine that he had decided to take preventive measures and had immediately embarked on a series of actions designed to prevent a possible disaster. He would have instructed that suspects be interrogated, allowed the security services to listen in on conversations between prisoners and their attorneys - in violation of the U.S. Constitution - banned Islamic aid and welfare organizations, instructed that every passenger be checked thoroughly before boarding a plane, thus causing delays and undermining the sacred freedom of movement and even gone to war suddenly against Afghanistan.

What would the American public have said about him? That Bush had gone crazy, that this extreme right-winger, the trigger-happy guy from Texas, was undermining civil rights, destroying American democracy, groundlessly harming loyal residents whose only sin was being Muslim. From here the road to impeachment is short.

Bush couldn't have proved to the world that his quick actions had prevented the attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon, thus saving the lives of 3,000 Americans. Because this traumatic event would not have taken place. The Twin Towers would have remained in place and nobody would have believed that a plane could bring them down.

Bush was observing the "catastrophe rule," which states: "A politician will never prevent a future catastrophe by creating a small crisis in the present." After the catastrophe occurred, Bush employed all the extreme measures mentioned above - and even received international support in his war against Al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

Immediately afterwards, he decided to continue the momentum of his war against international terror and regimes that endanger the welfare of the world, and went to war against Saddam Hussein. Hussein's regime was one of the darkest of the 20th century, and caused suffering and death to his people and to the entire Middle East. In the Iran-Iraq war that Saddam Hussein initiated in 1980, approximately 1 million people died on each side.

When he invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and ignited the Gulf War, he caused the death of 300,000 Iraqis. In March 1988 he launched an aerial attack with chemical weapons against Iraqis of Kurdish origin in the town of Halabja, murdering 5,000 of them, who died in terrible agony.

His barbarous regime caused Iraq to regress. He and his sons lived a life of ostentation and corruption, and were concerned only with huge military expenditures, while most of the nation rotted in poverty and want. Thousands of Iraqis disappeared without trace, and many thousands more were tortured in his dungeons, murdered and buried in common graves that are scattered all over Iraq, for daring to breathe a word against the regime.

Saddam planned to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Already in 1981 Israel bombed the nuclear reactor that he built, and the Americans found plans for manufacturing centrifuges for enriching uranium at three sites in Iraq, but by the time they arrived at a site, it had already been burglarized.

All this makes no difference, because in this case Bush violated the catastrophe rule. He didn't wait for a disaster. He didn't wait for Saddam Hussein to realize his plans for producing chemical or atomic weapons and using them, but took a preventive step and went to war against the despot. Now he is unable to convince a significant percentage of Americans that his action against Saddam prevented a worldwide catastrophe, and therefore he is liable to pay the price at the polls on November 2.

The catastrophe rule is also at work in Sharon's case. He changed his policy and decided to leave Gaza unilaterally. It's true that this plan was presented very late: Already in mid-2003 he could have withdrawn from Gaza with an orderly agreement with Abu Mazen, the Palestinian prime minister at the time. But nevertheless, Sharon is implementing the move before the catastrophe occurs.

Day after day, we and the Palestinians endure casualties, people who are killed and injured, but that is still not the "catastrophe," it's not the major "strategic attack," and as long as that doesn't take place, a large percentage of the public is unwilling to give up a single dunam in order to prevent a future catastrophe. Because the expected catastrophe is not concrete, it is hard to understand. It still hasn't taken place.

On November 14, 2003, after a long diplomatic freeze, four former heads of the Shin Bet security services said that Sharon was leading the country into an abyss. Sharon is now acting to keep us away from that same abyss. He wants to do so by evacuating 7,000 settlers from Gaza. But at the same time, he has violated the catastrophe rule and like Bush, he is paying a heavy political price for that.