Alexander's Column

Diplomacy on the Warfront

Mark Alexander · Dec. 6, 2002

President George W. Bush’s prosecution of our nation’s war with Jihadistan continued on the diplomacy and debate fronts this week. In Iraq, United Nations weapons inspectors kept up a steady pace of investigations at suspected sites, uncovering some questionable discrepancies and much Iraqi government protest. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan charged, as in the 1998 removal of UN weapons seekers, “Their work is to spy to serve the CIA and Mossad.” Ramadan further alleged that the UN plan is a U.S. plot littered with “several land mines and the aim is that one of them will go off.” But Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein followed that inflammatory accusation with admonitions to the Iraqi populace to comply with UN inspection requests.

As the Sunday deadline for Iraq to come clean on weapons of mass destruction draws close, President Bush made it clear that he is not pleased with the progress of the UN inspections. “The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek,” Mr. Bush said. “On or before the eighth of December, Iraq must provide a full and accurate declaration of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic-missile programs.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld added: “The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The U.K. knows that they have weapons of mass destruction. Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. It is not for some country to go in and give them a clean bill of health, it is for Iraq to give itself a clean bill of health by saying: ‘Here’s honestly what we currently have. Here’s where it is. Here’s what we’ve done. Please destroy it for us’.”

The Bush administration is turning up the heat on chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to encourage the defection of Iraqis with knowledge of Baghdad’s WMD programs. The U.S. wants Blix to maximize his powers under the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, which demands “unimpeded” and “unrestricted” access “to all officials and other persons” that the inspectors wish to interview, “inside or outside Iraq.” As any Iraqi suspected of cooperating with a foreign entity is routinely killed, the U.S. has offered to oversee a witness protection program for Iraqi scientists, military and civilian officials, and other dissidents wishing to defect, along with their families.

If Baghdad continues to deny its possession of WMDs, administration officials indicate that the denial itself could constitute a “material breach” of the UN Security Council resolution, which could lead directly to war. More likely, however, is that the declaration of a material breach will be used to pressure UN weapons inspectors. Iraq has said it will deliver the 13,000 page UN-mandated disclosure document tomorrow, one day ahead of the Sunday deadline. Administration officials anticipate Baghdad to acknowledge civilian projects that could be used to develop biological or chemical weapons, but not to disclose covert nuclear, chemical or biological programs.

Perhaps the underreported aspect of the present UN weapons inspections, as well as the fundamental misconception of Iraq’s December 8 deadline for disclosing information on WMDs, is the fact that Iraq must not only disclose it current WMD assets, research and development, but it must also – and just as importantly – disclose all information about weapons of mass destruction it claims to have destroyed. The real job of the UN inspection team will be to follow the paper trail of these weapons as provided by the Iraqi government, and to confirm the actual status of WMDs that Iraq has previously admitted to possessing.

The significance of this portion of the inspectors’ task will not be lost on regular readers of The Federalist. As contended previously, the real WMD threat from Iraq is decidedly asymmetric: the arming of a surrogate terrorist organization to attack the U.S. and its allies with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons is the primary – though veiled – threat the world faces from Saddam and Iraq. In keeping with this thesis, President Bush reiterated the connection between Iraqi WMDs and Iraqi support of terrorism, saying, “Saddam’s regime has a long history of aggression against his neighbors and hostility towards America. It has a long history of ties to terrorists. The dictator has a long history of seeking biological and chemical and nuclear weapons – even while UN inspectors were present in his country.”

(By the way, you note how Mr. Bush pronounces Saddam “SADdam” rather than “SadDAM”? The latter Arabic translation is roughly “engage bravely” while the former translates “shoeless beggar.”)