Snow Job in the Desert
That's it. The dog ate Saddam Hussein's homework.
Just as no self-respecting teacher would accept this lamest of
excuses, so the U.N. Security Council surely will not accept the
pathetic explanations that are being served up by Iraq's
representatives to the United Nations. So, why exactly is it that
the Iraqi government cannot prove what happened to those tons and
tons of bacteriological and nerve-gas agents that it produced in
the 1980s and had promised to destroy a decade ago after the Gulf
A most interesting line of argument was offered by Gen. Amir Saadi,
allegedly a top adviser to Saddam, though it's hard to imagine the
Iraqi dictator taking advice from anybody. Iraq was so eager to
destroy not just the forbidden compounds, so Gen. Saadi stated on
Sunday as he delivered the much-anticipated weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) report mandated by U.N. Security Council
resolution, that it also got rid of all the documentation that this
had been done.
Iraq's biological weapons program "was totally and completely
removed before the inspectors arrived in Iraq," he said with a
straight face. "When you remove something completely, it no longer
exists, and if you want to do it properly, you also remove all the
evidence that it ever existed. That's what we did." Now, of course,
the Iraqis realize "retrospectively, it was a mistake." Oops.
Even Hans Blix, the ever-so-polite Swedish head of the U.N. arms
inspections team in Iraq, has expressed some skepticism about Iraqi
assertions that no trace of evidence has been left behind. "The
production of mustard gas is not like marmalade," he stated
reasonably enough last month. "You have to keep some
As though these assertions were not absurd enough in themselves, it
took the Iraqi government 12,000 pages to say what could be stated
in one sentence, that it claims to have no weapons of mass
destruction. It has to take weeks, at least, for Arabic experts to
translate all this stuff.
It will be up to U.N. inspectors led by Mr. Blix to match the
content of those 12,000 pages with evidence on the ground. Judging
by past performance on the part of Iraqis and U.N. inspectors
alike, prospects for uncovering truth are not good.
From 1991 to 1998, Saddam thwarted one arms inspection team after
another, dispatched by the U.N. Special Commission, UNSCOM. (In
1998, he threw them out for good, and had blocked their return
until a few weeks ago.) Though obligated by U.N. Security Council
Resolution 687 to declare its stockpiles of WMD and ballistic
missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers, Iraq initially
denied the existence of most just about everything.
It took until 1995 for inspectors to locate the evidence that
forced Iraq to admit the existence of its biological weapons
program. Likewise, Iraq denied for years that it had been working
on nuclear weapons, despite the fact that U.N. inspectors had
uncovered the payroll ledger of 20,000 Iraqis working on that very
program. At least half-a-dozen Iraqi security agencies are devoted
to the task of hiding incriminating evidence and leading inspectors
After what will no doubt be another round of deceit and
obstructionism toward the new inspections regime, the five
veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council must decide what
to do. It is overwhelmingly likely that they will not agree.
Russia, for one, has pre-emptively declared itself pleased with
Iraq's production of this veritable snowstorm of documents.
At the end of the day, the Bush administration still may have to
decide on its own whether to initiate military action, which it
seems clear now that the administration is preparing to do. But
time is on Saddam's side, and he is gambling on it.
The ideal time for an attack is January or February, as will be
recalled from the first Gulf War, when Operation Desert Storm
commenced in February. By March or April, the weather in the desert
becomes insufferably hot, with temperatures up to 130 degrees
Farenheit. So, the window of opportunity for an attack is
All of which leaves the Bush administration in a bit of a bind.
What if the other members of the Security Council declare
themselves satisfied with the Iraqi report and do not approve
military action? Now would be a good time for Secretary of State
Colin Powell to pick up the phone again to lobby world leaders to
support the hard-line U.S. position. In this gamble, it is possible
that his elegant triumph in getting the United Nations involved
could turn into a diplomatic flop in the face of Saddam's primitive
Daleis deputy director of the Davis Institute for
International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a
Washington-based public policy research institute.
Originally appeared in The Washington Times and distributed nationally on the Scripps-Howard Wire