seemingly mixed messages, but the operative word is "seemingly."
In the beginning, the president was pretty clear that Iraq was part of the axis of evil and that Saddam must go. Granted, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other dovish voices in the administration were urging the inspections approach, but Bush himself remained steadfast in his resolve to remove Hussein. And you'll recall that even when Bush finally agreed to inspections he warned the United Nations in no uncertain terms that unless it enforced Saddam's post-Gulf War commitment to disarm, the United States would do so unilaterally.
But as the inspections have begun, new concerns have arisen among those troubled by the president's ostensible waffling on the question of regime change. Is our goal the disarmament of Iraq or the expulsion of Saddam Hussein? This is not simply a trumped-up question by the media to make Bush look bad. The president has genuinely seemed to retreat slightly from his demand for Saddam's ouster.
On April 6, with Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush was as firm as he could have been: "the policy of my government is the removal of Saddam." Yet on Nov. 18, he said on Czech TV, "I hope that Saddam Hussein does what he said he would do, and that is disarm."
I see no deception here, rather an effort to resolve a delicate international situation with as little fallout as possible among the world community. That, in the estimation of the administration, requires careful, though not disingenuous, language.
Bush has not actually softened his position, nor painted himself into a corner by agreeing to pursue weapons inspections. He is determined to remove Saddam Hussein and will do so unless he resigns, which is about as likely as me becoming a liberal.
The administration has, and will soon reveal, hard proof that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and is feverishly pursuing their production and the means to deliver them. (Even Secretary Powell just said that we are "absolutely sure" that Iraq has had and continues to have and produce weapons of mass destruction.) That's why Bush is virtually running no risk in resuming inspections. In fact, if we truly have the incriminating intelligence proving Saddam is pursuing these weapons programs, the failed inspections will have strengthened our case against him, exposing him yet again as the deceiver that he is.
Bush probably doesn't expect the inspectors to find much -- though they recently discovered mustard gas. He knows how difficult it is to locate something in a vast territory when its dictator has decreed that it be hidden.
If Saddam doesn't come clean in his Dec. 8 declaration, Bush will do one of two things. He'll either play his hand at that time -- which means he'll share his damning evidence against Saddam -- or, he'll bide his time just a little longer and wait for the additional 100 inspectors to go in and give it a final try.
Either way, in relatively short order there will be a showdown. Saddam will be told to fess up, and he will not. He may throw a few bones, but he won't surrender all his weapons or his blueprints for more.
Then, Bush will pull the trigger -- pun intended. He has to, because the only way we can be sure Iraq is disarmed is for Saddam to relinquish power or be removed. You can never trust an irredeemable, megalomaniacal murderer to surrender his murder weapons voluntarily. That's why there is ultimately no inconsistency in Bush's twin goals of disarmament and regime change.
Bush is merely de-emphasizing regime change and playing up disarmament to minimize domestic and international dissent for our inevitable incursion (and buy time to get our forces and equipment in place). In the end, he probably won't placate a single appeaser; those types have a blind spot to evil in the human condition, including their own. But we'll be ready, and reasonable people here and abroad will better understand that it's the right and necessary thing to do.
I hate to disappoint those secretly rooting for President Bush to flounder into non-action toward Iraq, but the only way we're not going to attack is if Saddam resigns his murderous dictatorship. I'll concede that the White House, of late, has been issuing