Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has concluded that Iraq has failed to live up to numerous resolutions calling for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's regime. No matter how much spin or false hope is derived from his report, that is the bottom line.
Opponents of any war with Iraq for any reason (such as France and Germany) plead for "more time " so that the inspectors might locate a weapons-of-mass-destruction needle in a disinformation haystack.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that the job of the inspectors is not to prove a negative - that Saddam doesn't have banned weapons. Their job is to see whether the weapons the world knows he possesses have been dismantled and destroyed. After years of hide and seek, it is abundantly clear to anyone for whom facts are important that he has not destroyed them because he intends to use them.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice wrote an op-ed for the New York Times last week arguing that not only has Iraq failed to live up to its pledge to disarm following the Gulf War, it has also "filed a false declaration to the United Nations that amounts to a 12,200-page lie . (that) constitutes a material breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, which set up the current inspections program. "
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, in a speech to the Council for Foreign Relations in New York, said that terrorism and the threat Iraq poses because of its "weapons of mass terror " are the same thing. He asserted, "We are dealing with a threat to the security of our nation and the world. " In former times, that would have been sufficient reason for waging war. But in this age of timidity, the tendency is to ignore the example of Winston Churchill and embrace Neville Chamberlain and his company of the weak.
Wolfowitz rightly noted: "It is not the job of (U.N.) inspectors to disarm Iraq; it is Iraq's job to disarm itself. " He said inspectors "cannot be charged with a'search and destroy' mission to uncover so-called smoking guns, especially not if the host government is intent on hiding them and impeding the inspectors' every move. "
To critics who say there is insufficient evidence for attacking Iraq, Wolfowitz said "defectors and other sources " had provided the evidence. A questioner wondered, with historical hindsight into the lies told during the Vietnam War, how could the government be trusted this time. Wolfowitz said, "I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the U.S. government. The real issue is can you trust Saddam Hussein? And it seems to me the record is absolutely clear that you can't.
"Iraq has a high-level commitment to concealing its weapons of mass destruction, " said Wolfowitz. "Instead of charging national institutions with the responsibility to dismantle programs, key Iraqi organizations operate a concealment effort that targets inspectors and thwarts their efforts. "
He charged that the ranks of inspectors had been infiltrated by Iraqi agents and that Iraqi scientists and their families had been threatened with death if they even spoke to weapons inspectors. Other "Iraqi scientists, " he said, are, in fact, intelligence officers posing as scientists to be interviewed by inspectors.
Wolfowitz declared that Saddam continues to get away with his game because he's counting on negligible consequences for his behavior. "A process that begins with a massive lie, " said Wolfowitz, "and proceeds with concealment, penetration, intimidation and obstruction cannot be a process of cooperative disarmament. The purpose of Resolution 1441 . was not to play a deadly game of hide-and-seek or cheat-and-retreat for another 12 years. The purpose was to achieve a clear resolution of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass terror. "
As Johns Hopkins Prof. of Middle Eastern Studies Fouad Ajami writes in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs ( "Iraq and the Arabs' Future "): "Any fallout of war is certain to be dwarfed by the terrible consequences of America's walking right up to the edge of war and then stepping back, letting the Iraqi dictator work out the terms of another reprieve. "
The Bush administration says "time is running out " for Saddam. Let's run him out and do it quickly. The timid nations may not thank us openly, but they and we will benefit from removing this malignant tumor.