Iraqi roulette

Posted: Sep 11, 2002 12:00 AM
As we reflect and remember today, the most important lesson we can draw for the future is that we must never get caught flat-footed again—which gives us no choice but to act against Saddam Hussein. Until the World Trade Center towers fell victim to al Qaeda terrorists, many Americans had at best a vague sense of who Osama bin Laden was, but no one could have predicted what actually happened. Now, modern-day peaceniks are assuring us that Saddam poses no immediate threat to us. These “experts” issue dire warnings that attacking Iraq is merely akin to poking the bear. Peaceniks posing as pop psychologists maintain that Saddam is only a threat if provoked, and that a continued policy of containment will suffice. Maybe they’re right—but maybe they’re not. That’s the real danger. Betting that Saddam can be kept successfully in his box is a high-stakes game of Iraqi Roulette. Iraq doves could prove correct, but a mountain of evidence suggests otherwise. Saddam has: violated 16 UN resolutions, launched offensives against two neighbors, fired SCUD missiles into Saudi Arabia and Israel, stockpiled biological and chemical warfare agents, used those chemical weapons against Iranians, gassed his own people, attempted to construct dirty bombs for over 15 years, attempted to assassinate a former President of the United States, funded Middle East terrorism, harbored known international terrorists, and he feverishly continues to develop nuclear capabilities to this very day. A peaceful man he is not. Since Saddam has been perfectly willing to launch unprovoked attacks before, why are the self-appointed dime store shrinks so sure now that the tyrannical despot has mended his ways? The argument boils down to “Don’t move, and the bee won’t sting you.” But Saddam has stung unsuspecting victims before—both Iran and Kuwait—and he is mobilizing to do so again. Over the last 14 months, Saddam has been scrambling to acquire thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which are used in centrifuges to enrich uranium. Saddam has been meeting with his top scientists in recent months, and Iraqi defectors have told us for years of his insatiable hunger for nuclear weapons. As an administration official explained, there are only three reasons to develop nuclear weapons: 1) as a response to a neighbor with superior conventional forces, like what Pakistan faces with India, 2) to counter an enemy’s nuclear program, and 3) to terrorize your neighbors thru some combination of blackmail or actual attacks. Iraq does not fall into the first two categories, and Saddam’s past actions alone make clear his designs. Attainment of nukes would immediately catapult Iraq into the top tier of world players, incalculably altering the balance of power in the Middle East. More importantly, it would lower the threshold for Saddam’s use of the chemical and biological weapons we already know he possesses. Chemical and biological warfare would shift to the tactic of first resort, with nuclear weapons becoming the new trump card. With the torrent of terror he has produced over the years, what is on the table is really a “post-emptive” move—one designed to rid the world of the threat his tyranny poses. Saddam’s continued flouting on UN resolutions raises a much more important precedent than a “pre-emptive” strike—violating terms of surrender must be dealt with promptly and harshly. Anything short of that will be interpreted as a green light for terror by evil-doers the world over. Even top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle believes that the “use of force” is most likely “inevitable”—or at least he used to. Four years ago, when then-President Bill Clinton was threatening action as a response to Iraq’s ejection of UN weapons inspectors, Daschle took to the floor of the Senate to rally public opinion in favor of swift retaliation. If the danger was real and pernicious four years ago, how could it be less so after Saddam has been left to his own devices, unobstructed by weapons inspectors? The International Institute of Strategic Studies this week released a study, which found that Saddam could be merely months away from functional nukes under the right circumstances. Iraq’s eventual acquisition of nuclear capabilities is not even disputed by critics of an Iraq attack, such as former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. Every day we wait is another day we grant Saddam to build his arsenal of terror. Saddam may or may not have played a role in 9/11, but that is irrelevant—he could very well mastermind the next 9/11.