Washington, D.C. -- On Jan. 28, the president will deliver the
2003 State of the Union address, the day after Hans Blix delivers the
"Interim Report" of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to the Security Council. On Wednesday, Bush
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will sit down to map out "next steps"
for dealing with Iraq. By Friday, every pundit with an inkwell and pollster
with a telephone will be taking pot shots at the president.
Last year, the snipers in the "punditocracy" decided that the
president's description of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the "axis of evil"
during his State of the Union remarks gave them enough ammunition for a
turkey shoot. In retrospect, "axis of evil" seems to be an understatement.
Since then, North Korea has admitted to an illegal nuclear
weapons program, withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and
demonstrated the efficacy of totalitarian rule by ordering a million
starving people to march around in the cold waving signs vowing to "smash
U.S. nuclear maniacs." Iran has stepped up its support for the Islamic Jihad
and Hezbollah terrorist organizations, promised more rockets for them to
fire at Israel from Syrian-occupied Lebanon and announced plans to test
long-range missiles. And Iraq's Saddam Hussein has delivered a false
declaration about his weapons of mass destruction to the UN, openly defied
and deceived UNMOVIC inspectors, hidden chemical warheads and refused access
to Iraqi scientists working on these weapons.
So what's President Bush to do for an encore when he addresses
Congress and the nation this year? How about a new axis -- the Axis of
Irrelevance? And the nominees are:
France. During the last century, hundreds of thousands of
American boys died in two World Wars freeing FRENCHMEN from invaders. The
French repaid us in 1986 by refusing over-flight rights for attacking
Libya's terrorist bases. And last week this pathetic, third-rate power, with
a government that has allegedly taken cash from Saddam Hussein, repaid us
again. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin proclaimed in New York that
France would not allow a UN vote for war against Iraq "while we can still
improve the path of cooperation." In words reminiscent of Marshal Petain,
Villepin added that France would oppose "victory for the law of the
strongest." Bush wants a line in the sand. France wants sand in our eyes and
a Maginot Line.
Germany. "Iraq has complied fully with all relevant
resolutions," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer declared last week.
Now, the nation whose companies have done the most to help Iraq restart
their biological and chemical weapons programs wants to delay even the
"interim" UNMOVIC report, and has invited "all interested parties" to Berlin
on Feb. 5 for talks. The Schroeder government, which once likened President
Bush to Adolf Hitler, would also like to have a second inspection
"assessment" on Feb. 14 -- Valentine's Day -- after which we can expect a
Rodney King-like press conference urging all involved parties to hold hands
and ask, "Can't we all just get along?"
The European Union. The EU, which desperately wants the world to
take it seriously, announced last week that member states categorically
reject war on Iraq without the backing of the UN and insisted that weapons
inspectors needed "more time" to do their job. EU President Costas Simitis
of Greece said that a war in Iraq would "harm peace and stability in the
Middle East." As if there was either.
The United Nations. In his Sept. 12 address to the United
Nations last year, Bush challenged the UN to "serve the purpose of its
founding," or face the prospect of irrelevance. Too late.
Last week, Libya, a state-sponsor of terror, whose civil
liberties abuses are described by Human Rights Watch as "appalling," was
elected to chair the UN Human Rights Commission -- a 53-member body that
also includes Sudan and Algeria. Only the United States, Canada and
Guatemala opposed Libya's election. The seven European members of the
commission abstained from casting ballots. After the vote, Libyan Ambassador
Najat Al-Hajjaji chortled, "I don't think any country is free of human
rights violations." That should soothe the grieving survivors of the 270
civilians who died in the Libyan-sponsored 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
over Lockerbie, Scotland.
And, as if to validate the UN place of honor in the Axis of
Irrelevancy, Hans Blix described last week's discovery of a dozen undeclared
and illicit 122-millimeter chemical warheads hidden outside Baghdad as "not
something that's so important." After four more warheads were "found," Blix
(the word means "Blind" in Urdu) confidently reassured the world, "The
Iraqis claimed it was an oversight, and they are looking for more of them."
Odds makers should take bets that O.J. Simpson will find the "real" killer
before Saddam unearths the hidden components of his nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons programs.
Judgment day for Iraq, and the United Nations, is fast
approaching. Winston Churchill famously observed that British and French
appeasers, on the eve of World War II, were presented with a choice between
"war and dishonor." They opted for dishonor, Churchill explained, not
realizing that the price for their cowardice would be war. Today we find
ourselves at a similar historical precipice. To invoke the words of Ronald
Reagan, albeit spoken in a different context, it is "a time for choosing."