A few days ago, I said this thing was getting like Monica: by the time you’re in Year Two, no smoking gun is ever quite smoking enough. It’s perfectly obvious from Colin Powell’s presentation what’s going on. Ten minutes before the flatfoots show up, the bootleg liquor is whisked away, replaced by teacups and the gaming table gets dropped through the trapdoor and replaced by an ornamental fountain. If you think Saddam Hussein is a lovable rogue — as Mr. Chirac does — this is all part of a grand ongoing comedy, to which the French and Russians made their own exquisite contribution by proposing to strengthen the monitoring regime by doubling the number of inspectors, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. If the Powell evidence made anything plain, it’s this: The idea of “monitoring” a dictator is ludicrous. Saddam is quite happy to participate for another decade or two in an eternal ongoing U.N. field study of dictatorship.
Resolution 1441, painstakingly negotiated by General Powell and French Foreign Minister de Villepin, was never a test of Saddam. It was a test of the U.N. The faxed-in boilerplate responses to the Powell presentation couldn’t have been clearer.
France: “They raise questions which deserve further investigation….”
China: “We support the continuation of inspections….”
“Russia welcomes the continuation of dialogue…. We hope that this dialogue will be extremely concrete…. The Security Council may need to adopt a new resolution, and perhaps more than one….”
Four, five, nine, there’s always room for one more. You got the feeling that if they could have dragged out their expressions of condolences regarding the space shuttle for the full seven minutes, they’d have been happy to do so.
This is serious business. The U.S. and British remarks were sober and credible. The French, Russian, and Chinese were frivolous. The most relevant observation was Powell’s assertion of al Qaeda’s presence in Iraq for the last eight months. If that’s accurate, it’s not a U.N. matter, it’s a threat to America’s national security. Which shouldn’t be dependent on the whims of the French veto.
— Mark Steyn is a columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph and Canada’s National Post. His website is www.marksteyn.com. A collection of some of his post-9/11 columns, The Face of the Tiger has just been released and can be ordered here.