Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Diplomatic window: Closes

Disarm Iraq

President Bush's ultimatum Monday to Iraq's Saddam Hussein ended four months of futile diplomacy and 12 years of defiance by the Invader of Kuwait. Only an overthrow of Saddam or an act of God seems able to avert war now. If war comes, as seems inevitable, U.S. and British forces should make it swift, overwhelming and complete.

Let the record show that Saddam Hussein never fulfilled his obligations to the United Nations following the first Gulf war in 1991, and that permanent Security Council members such as France betrayed the cause of peace by excusing his secret weapons programs and even supplying him with prohibited materials.

U.S. and British air forces all along have enforced the no-fly zones protecting the northern Kurds and southern Shiites from Saddam's lethal attacks, and now it is left to those same two allies to enforce U.N. resolution 1441, which all 15 Security Council members signed only four months ago. 1441 warned of "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to hand over its weapons of mass destruction. 1441 was never about inspections; it was all about disclosure, with the burden clearly on Iraq to declare and disarm. Instead Iraq stalled, counting on the U.N.'s "perpetual negotiations" to keep him in power.

This is no pre-emptive strike. At least three U.N. resolutions, 1441, 678 and 687 authorized the use of force if Saddam failed to comply. It was not until the U.S. military buildup that he took any notable disarmament action, such as destroying some Al-Samoud 2 missiles. He has never bowed to diplomatic demands that did not have a direct, credible threat of force behind them. Yet even Monday, Security Council members and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan were still trying to buy him time. They failed for 12 years to assemble a credible threat of force, and chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix's reports further diluted the threat.

President Bush, at a joint news conference in the Azores Sunday, cited just a couple of the U.N.'s many past shameful failures to authorize military force when needed. "Remember Rwanda or Kosovo - the U.N. didn't do its job," Bush said, then added, "all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the U.N. work better as we head into the 21st century."

Secretary of State Colin Powell was suckered last fall into believing the French would agree to a second U.N. resolution delivering a final compliance deadline to Iraq. Instead, they have threatened to veto such a resolution. But this is no time to "punish" France, Turkey or other nations that are not supporting us. We should reward those who stood with us and not lose sight of the need for allies in the broader long-term war against terrorism.

Bush on Sunday called this the "moment of truth." It is also a moment of heightened risk of pre-emptive strikes against 250,000 U.S. ground troops in Kuwait, environmental assaults such as sabotaging Iraq's oil fields or terrorist attacks here at home.

Saddam has already assigned his southern command to "chemical Ali," Ali Hassan al-Majid who oversaw chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds.

The Iraqi tyrant already proved he will stop at nothing to slaughter his enemies or cling to power. Now is the time for all Americans to support the president and U.S. troops.

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