The axis of irrelevance

Posted: Jan 24, 2003 12:00 AM
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 Since then, North Korea has admitted to an illegal nuclear weapons program, withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and demonstrated the efficacy of totalitarian rule by ordering a million starving people to march around in the cold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."