Who are these people & what are they doing?

Posted: Dec 06, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a month of playing cat-and-mouse with Baghdad's Mad Dog, the weapons inspectors of the United Nations Monitoring Inspection and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) are basking in the glow of global acclaim for their sterling work. According to the UN, the inspectors have "earned the cooperation" of the Iraqi regime and even gone "unannounced and unopposed" into one of Saddam's palaces. Kofi Anon thinks they're doing a great job. So far they haven't found a thing. It's unlikely that they ever will. As with most UN undertakings, the UNMOVIC mission began with a naive hope -- that Saddam Hussein would voluntarily fess up to possessing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Security Council Resolution 1441, passed unanimously with great fanfare last month, requires that Iraq provide weapons inspectors with "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to suspected weapons sites. The much-hyped Iraqi "cooperation" has thus far postponed a reckoning with reality and deterred joint U.S.-British action to remove the threat of Saddam accumulating more weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them. Meanwhile, Saddam's UN ambassador defiantly insists that his country has "nothing hidden." Everyone knows that's a lie. But you won't hear that from any of the inspectors or their intrepid leader in absentia, Hans Blix. The ever-so-courteous, always smiling Blix is intent on inspecting Iraq from his luxurious UN offices in New York City. It is, after-all, holiday season in the Big Apple. And in Iraq, it's Ramadan -- when it's tough to get a glass of wine and good cheese -- even at the Al Rashid Hotel, the best in Baghdad. But it's not just his penchant for the good life that has raised concerns about Blix. It's his competence. He is after, all the, same Swedish diplomat who served as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency during the very years that Iraq's blooming nuclear weapons program went undetected. But just to show that he doesn't play favorites and prove that he's an "equal opportunity arms inspector," Blix also ignored the North Korean atomic-bomb-building program, as well. Some have compared him to Inspector Cleusou in the old Pink Panther movies. But that's unfair -- to French cops. In his zeal to avoid offending the brutal regime in Baghdad -- Blix refers to them as his "hosts" -- he has minimized the involvement of experienced American and British inspectors with UNMOVIC because the Iraqis complained that they are "too aggressive in their disarmament searches." To replace the U.S. and U.K. scientists who were experts on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, Blix launched an international affirmative action hiring program that has recruited Chinese, Russian and Chilean inspectors -- but few with specialized expertise in the arcane sciences of "bugs, gas and nukes." Apparently, Blix is looking for inspectors with know-how in other disciplines. One of the few Americans he did find attractive enough to put on his team has a two-year, community college degree in "Security Management" and a resume that includes sadomasochistic sex groups, teaching courses on "sex slaves" and proficiency in "bondage" techniques. Given what we now know of Saddam's torture chambers, one wonders at the reaction of the Iraqi despot when he learned of this particular inspector's extracurricular activities. While the so-called inspectors and S&M aficionados wearing UNMOVIC ID badges bumble about the Iraqi countryside like the Keystone Kops, President Bush is talking tough. "The inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek with Saddam Hussein," he declared last week. But that's not the point. There is considerable question as to whether this gang that couldn't shoot straight would even know what they were seeing if Saddam left it all on display. Dr. Raymond Zilinskas, who directs the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told my nationwide radio audience last week that, "If UNMOVIC lacks specialized scientific expertise in biochemistry, nuclear physics, microbiology and 'weaponization' of biological and chemical agents, they might never know what the Iraqis have or don't have." When I asked if his advice had been sought for UNMOVIC, he replied, "No." Perhaps it's understandable why Hans Blix doesn't want to hear from "Dr. Z." He's not only an expert on bio-weapons. He also knows his way around Iraq. In 1994, as part of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), he inspected 61 Iraqi biological research and production facilities and built a database on Iraq's "dual use" biological equipment. In short, he knows what he's talking about. No wonder Dr. Zilinskas is in Monterey, Calif., instead of Baghdad. Thankfully, Hans Blix and Kofi Annan aren't the only ones with a say over what's to happen in Iraq. On Dec. 2, the British government released a chilling, well-sourced report on crimes and human rights abuses in Iraq. Its conclusions are horrific: "Torture is systematic. ... Executions are carried out without due process of law. ... Relatives are often prevented from burying the victims and have even been charged for the bullets used." An appendix chronicles some of the methods of torture, including rape, eye-gouging, piercing hands with an electric drill, acid baths and electric shock. Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, is using this report to stimulate unity among other opposition leaders in the region. Scores of defectors from Saddam's military arrive daily in camps along Iraq's borders, professing a willingness to fight for liberty in their homeland. Contractors have been seen at the abandoned Iraqi embassy in Washington, preparing it for "new management." And the American and British military build-up in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean grows by the day. When the Iraqi opposition takes up arms against Saddam Hussein and calls for our help -- as surely they will -- are we going to sit idly by and wait for a pronouncement from Hans Blix? Let us hope not.