Politics & Policy

Saddam Isn’t Disarming

“Many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”

There it is. That’s it. You had to listen carefully but Hans Blix Friday morning said as clearly as a U.N. bureaucrat knows how that Saddam Hussein has not given up his weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has not availed himself of the “final opportunity” to disarm provided to him by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. That means he continues to be in “material breach” and that means that “serious consequences” must follow — if the Security Council’s resolutions are to have any meaning.

With all due respect to the distinguished diplomats of the great nations of France, Germany, Belgium, and Hollywood, adding more inspectors, giving Saddam a few more “final opportunities,” ceasing further shipments of Perrier — these are not serious consequences.

“Many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”

That’s the story. But this simple statement was not the lead of many of the early dispatches from the U.N. Emphasized instead was Blix’s acknowledgment that the inspectors haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction. Coupled with what we learned from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent U.N. testimony, however, the fact that the inspectors have not found WMD merely demonstrates the obvious: that Saddam is better at hiding than the inspectors are at seeking.

Besides, as Saddam’s apologists and defenders must be reminded over and over, it was never the task of the U.N. inspectors to ferret out Saddam’s bombs, bugs, and poisons. They were never intended to be Sherlock Holmes running around Iraq with magnifying glasses, wondering why the Dobermans guarding Saddam’s palaces weren’t barking.

Rather, they were to be auditors with green eyeshades. Their job was to look at Saddam’s WMD books, see what weapons were on the ledger in 1998 when the previous inspection team got the boot, and then verify whether Saddam was surrendering those weapons as he agreed to do back in 1991, in exchange for a ceasefire, in exchange for leaving him to oppress his people in peace. The answer is clear: Saddam is not surrendering anything.

“Many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”

Blix quickly added that, “One must not jump to the conclusion that they [the WMD) exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded.”

In fact, it was the unanimous decision of the Security Council that the burden is on Saddam to settle this question. Resolution 1441 clearly “decides that false statements or omissions” by Saddam about his WMD “will constitute a further material breach.” Saddam makes false statements and omissions at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime. No one seriously disputes that.

“Many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”

There’s more — there’s Saddam’s failure to allow his weapons-makers to be taken out of Iraq along with their families for confidential interviews (specifically required by 1441) and there’s the fact that Saddam is still building long-range missiles and other prohibited weapons.

And even International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei conceded that the documents on Iraq’s post-1998 nuclear program which Iraqi officials handed over last week contained no new information that would help clarify inspectors’ questions related to Iraqi nuclear-weapons design. That, too, is an “omission.”

For all that, the crux of the matter remains what it has been all along: In the world remade by the 9/11 atrocities, rogue dictators, terrorists, and WMD are too volatile a mix to tolerate. They need to be separated, by force if necessary. In the case of Iraq, after 12 years of diplomacy, sanctions, and useless palaver, force has become necessary.

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign and Washington correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank on terrorism created just after Sept. 11, 2001.

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...


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