The endless debate over Iraq has afforded citizens and statesmen boundless opportunities for soft-headedness. British peace protesters on February 15, for instance, waved signs that read, “Make Tea, Not War.” New York’s march boasted the Bread and Puppets Theater and chants of “War is whack. Get out of Iraq.”
French president Jacques Chirac stayed indoors, meanwhile, stirring naïveté and arrogance into a noxious soufflé. After unsuccessfully conspiring with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to welsh on NATO’s obligation to defend Turkey, Chirac treated Bulgaria, Romania, and other Eastern European nations to a nearly Napoleonic display of insensitivity. “These countries have not been very well-behaved,” he scolded them for siding with America against Saddam Hussein. Chirac then huffed that these states “missed a great opportunity to shut up.”
“Let me show you an inventory of what we are talking about,” McInnis said on the House floor, citing CIA-generated data on Iraqi chemical weapons.
Iraq possesses 2,850 tons of mustard gas. It blisters the skin, eyes, and lungs. Bronchopneumonia, permanent pulmonary damage, and death can follow. Hussein unleashed mustard gas in Panjwin in October-November 1983, leaving 3,000 Iranian and Kurdish casualties. He likewise killed or injured another 2,500 Iranians on Majnoon Island in February-March 1984. An April 1987 mustard-gas attack left 5,000 Iranians dead or wounded in al-Basrah.
Originally developed as an insecticide in Nazi Germany in 1938, sarin gas is a highly lethal nerve agent, of which Iraq controls 795 tons. It produces headaches, anxiety, vomiting, convulsions, involuntary excretion and fatal respiratory arrest. Hussein reportedly used sarin and mustard gas against 3,000 Iranians in October 1987 at Sumar/Mehran. Several hundred Iranians and Kurds similarly were exterminated in Halabjah in March 1988.
Hussein also owns six grams of plutonium and 400 tons of uranium — perfect for radiological “dirty” bombs or thermonuclear weapons.
Can Earth trust Hussein with these materials? His rocket-long rap sheet stirs doubts. He has violated 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions since 1990, including those designated 678, 686, 687, 688, 707, 715, 949, 1051, 1060, 1115, 1134, 1137, 1154, 1194, 1205, 1284, and the latest, 1441. Those who have cowed America and England into yet another resolution have offered Hussein an 18-strikes-you’re-in policy.
Saddam Hussein, of course, may tire of playing peek-a-boo with Hans Blix’s inspectors and revert nostalgically to his mad-bomber days. The shopworn phrase, “weapons of mass destruction,” shrouds this danger. The civilized world should worry about more than just empty landmarks ablaze in the dead of night. Iraq’s weapons of mass murder could be subcontracted to al Qaeda or Hamas (whose “martyrs”’ families already get $25,000 Iraqi bonuses when they self-detonate in anti-Israeli bombings). Such terrorists instantly could convert Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, Paris’s Gare d’ Austerlitz and Berlin’s Ostbahnhof from busy train stations to bloody triage units.
“We are emerging stronger, and we will hit America,” al Qaeda threatened in a communique last fall. “We will hit America’s shopping malls, their stadiums and kindergartens. This is our promise.” Jews, Christians, and other “infidels” among America’s friends will not be far behind.
On this score, British Prime Minister Tony Blair wielded his remarkable gift for clarity before the House of Commons on January 15.
“Supposing I came along in August 2001 and said…that there was an al Qaeda terrorist network; no one would have heard of it,” Blair explained. “Suppose I said that we would have to invade Afghanistan in order to deal with it; no one would have believed that that was necessary. Yet, my goodness, a few weeks later, thousands of people were killed on the streets of New York.”
America’s stalwart ally added, “The threat is real, and if we do not deal with it the consequences of our weakness will haunt future generations.”
President Bush is equally hard-headed about what America faces. “War is my last choice,” he told reporters last week. “But the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option, as far as I am concerned.”
The alternatives are clear: ceaseless diplomatic thumb twiddling and the hope that crossed fingers dispel nerve gas and gamma rays — or a concerted effort by brave nations to neutralize this toxic regime.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.