Iraq violated 12-year-old deal

by William Robert Johnston
in The Brownsville Herald, April 7, 2003, p. A8.
(unedited version)

Twelve years ago Iraq agreed to completely give up its weapons of mass destruction as a condition of ending a U.S.-led military action. Four months ago the United Nations found Iraq in material breach of requirements to disarm. Four months later, the UN can’t say Iraq is in the clear. If for twelve years the UN has said the burden of proof is on Iraq, why is the United States criticized for answering Iraq’s violations?

We have UN bureaucrats and American pundits acting as apologists for Iraq, contradicting even their own prior statements about Iraqi violations. Consider the example of Iraqi’s nuclear program, where these critics have done considerable work at obfuscating the issues.

In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, some were surprised when it turned out Iraq was within as little as a few months of completing its first nuclear weapon. Iraq had enough highly enriched uranium for one or two warheads and was finalizing designs for a weapon.

This had escaped detection by UN weapons inspectors--for four years. The UN would downplay Iraqi efforts until Iraq admitted the above accomplishments in 1995. Iraq then increased its interference with UN inspectors until kicking them out altogether in 1998.

Today, the IAEA insists that Iraq has no nuclear program. But in 1998 the IAEA stated that they could never be sure of stopping a nuclear program "no matter how comprehensive the inspection."

Iraq has complete nuclear weapon designs and has components. Probably they are only one critical mass of uranium or plutonium short of a working weapon. Have they gotten such material from the former Soviet Union? The best anyone can say is we hope not.

Consider the case of the Al Samoud missiles, the ones Iraq is bragging about destroying. In 1991 Iraq was banned from building missiles more than 24 inches in diameter. This was because the nuclear warheads designed by Iraq were thought to require a missile 31 inches in diameter.

Then in the inspections of the last few months, the UN finds Iraq building the Al Samoud, 30 inches in diameter. Why build such a missile? The retooling involved is a waste, unless Iraq has a specific warhead in mind--one that makes a large number of missiles irrelevant.

Other banned weapons are of even greater concern. The UN admits that some long-range modified Scuds are unaccounted for in Iraq. Western pacifists can say what they want in comfort, but Israeli civilians are within range, and they are donning gas masks.

Neither the UN nor Iraq can or will account for large quantities of Iraqi anthrax and chemical weapons. These include weapons such as the nerve gas Iraqi used on its own Kurdish population in 1988. Thousands were killed in this attack crafted to allow the effects on human guinea pigs to be observed.

Iraq is developing fuel-air explosives and unmanned aerial drones. The UN couldn’t decide if the latter was a violation of its restrictions on Iraq. Meanwhile Iraq continues work on both--and both are quite suitable to conversion for delivery of chemical and biological weapons.

It may not be clear how much Iraq supports which terrorist groups, but that they do support terrorism is not in question. No one denies that Iraq has financed and supported the current campaign of Palestinian terrorism that has killed 758 in Israel so far.

All of these ongoing activities are under the same Saddam Hussein that invaded Kuwait, waged environmental warfare, and launched chemical attacks on enemy soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike. Several nations--including some of Iraq’s neighbors--are very eager for someone to forcibly separate Hussein from his weapons of mass destruction.

Why then would allies like France and Germany make a point of dividing the NATO alliance by opposing action? It may only be terminal passivity, or it may reflect their continued trade with Iraq, trade that permits Iraq’s continued military buildup. Hussein may be a war criminal, but he’s a good customer.

As for the UN, its total inability to protect human rights and international security is demonstrated once again. The UN has never had a strong urge to do more than talk in support of such issues. In this case, anti-American bigotry has blinded many to the continuing crimes and WMD efforts of Saddam Hussein.

The debate over action against Iraq has been characterized by an unfortunate shortage of facts. The Bush administration has failed to put its best evidence forward, even when strong evidence is already in the public domain.

However, the rhetoric of the critics of action has been intellectually abysmal. The IAEA has been flatly contradicting its own reports from a few years ago. The American left has embraced the defense of Saddam Hussein. Columnists like Molly Ivins and Sheldon Richman have resorted to rewriting the history of Hussein’s crimes in their zeal to attack Bush.

The administration’s critics insist that there is "no smoking gun" in Iraq. The choice of analogy is more appropriate than they realize. A gun doesn’t smoke until it has been fired. Short of uncovering them by force, there is not likely to be ironclad proof of Iraq’s WMD activities until Hussein uses them.

That would be too late for a President charged with defending the U.S., and too late for the millions around the world that want protection. Bush’s opponents can continue their pretense of moral superiority, but they will still benefit from the elimination of Hussein as a threat--and they know it.

Talk is cheap, but to our leaders and troops will come the pride of granting the Iraqi people the same freedom they did to Afghanistan: freedom in part to say, "Thank you, America."

© 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 9 April 2003.
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