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Sabotaging inspections—the end-game is still war on Iraq
By Karamatullah K. Ghori
|Toronto: George W. Bush and Saddam Hussain are both playing hard-ball politics. But they are doing it for entirely different reasons. The end-game for a trigger-happy Bush is to impose war on Iraq, come hell or high water. For Saddam, the end-game is survival at the head of Iraq, and how to frustrate Bush’s war paranoia. They are like two actors performing on the same stage but following different scripts and gravitating in opposite directions.
Bush, given the war mandate with obscene alacrity by an obliging Congress after a cosmetic and inconsequential debate, feels emboldened that he has already won a major battle essential to his war strategy. A supine Congress like the present one is rapidly eroding the American founding fathers’ vision of a legislature keeping the executive branch on a tight leash. It is now a war-monger president who is also ruling the roost in Congress.
Bush’s gaze has now shifted to the UN Security Council in New York where his antics, to his annoyance, are not having the result he so desperately wants. The Council is not at his beck and call and , therefore, not ready to sign on the dotted lines. The prevalent mood there is best defined by Russia, which sees no immediate need for another resolution on Iraq ( to add to about two dozens already there ) or France, which has been assiduously rallying, and gaining, support for a two-tier mechanism to deal with the task of resumed UN inspections of Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destructions ( WMDs). The Council, sans U.S. and its faithful proxy Britain, is not inclined to hold a gun to Iraq’s head with a resolution which would read more like a death warrant. The French view is to try out the Iraqis, first, with a renewed inspection regime and return to the Council only if Iraq fails to comply or co-operate. It is not in favour to give Bush the automatic right to unleash war against Iraq on his whim.
The UNMOVIC Chairman, Hans Blix, whose mettle in the inspection field still remains to be tested, is under relentless pressure from Washington but seems to be holding his ground. He has deflected some of the pressure from himself by not rushing in with the resumption of inspections under the old mandate of UNSCOM. He is biding his time to let the Council clean up its own act and sort out all the kinks plaguing the resumption of inspection regime at the point where UNSCOM left it , in December 1998, because of the raw arrogance of Richard Butler.
But rather than appreciating the circumspection of Blix, the Washington war-mongers, ably served by a media which has given up all erstwhile pretensions of being non-partisan, are ganging up to sow seeds of suspicion and doubt about UNMOVIC inspectors’ ability and competence to do the job.
On cue, undoubtedly, from the Bush hawks—smarting and squirming because their incontinent urge to rain down bombs and missiles on Iraq is being frustrated by the UN—the American media have started a full blown campaign of vilification aimed at undermining the credibility of UNMOVIC. They are caviling that inspectors are being recruited from too many countries ( 44, in all ) including Asians and Africans. This is likely to upset their plans to inject spies and sleuths in the guise of inspectors to snoop on Iraqi targets, as was the case with UNSCOM. Inspectors for UNSCOM were drawn largely from Western Europe and North America. In many cases they were serving defence officials and bureaucrats. Many of them confessed, once UNSCOM had been disbanded, that they worked for the intelligence services of Israel, Britain and U.S.
The disproportionate, mainly ‘white’, presence of only a few western countries in UNSCOM ranks was justified by the flimsy excuse that ‘competence and expertise’ was available only in those countries. UNMOVIC is determined to prove that notion wrong by casting its net wide around. This is not going down well, at all, with those who hoped to resume their nefarious game of postponing a clean bill of health for Iraq on one or the other excuse. Therefore, the old worms are crawling out of the woodwork to heap scorn on the plans to bring in expertise from across the globe and give the task to real experts and not the sham ones. 220 scientists and experts from around the world are standing by to move into Iraq as soon as the wrangling diplomats at the Security Council are done with their haggling. Blix looks determined to make UNMOVIC a strictly professional body of people dedicated to their work ethics unlike its notorious precursor, UNSCOM.
Col. Terence Taylor of Britain was one of UNSCOM ‘experts’ who served as chief bioweapons inspector in Iraq between 1993 and 1997. He acquired great notoriety as a tormentor of the Iraqis and was a sure bet to throw spanners in the works at the drop of a hat. He has been handsomely rewarded for his ‘services’ and now heads the U.S. branch of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. Talking to an American feature writer recently, Taylor ridiculed the notion of a broadly-based international contingent of experts to be deployed in Iraq under UNMOVIC. He was specially disparaging that even a Sri Lankan naval officer would be in the group of experts. What is so outrageous about a Sri Lankan expert? Some of the whites still seem saddled with Kipling’s outrage of the ‘white man’s burden’ to rid the ‘uncivilised world’ of its ‘rogues’.
Professional hacks and ‘area experts’ with jaded knowledge of Arabs and the Middle East are hogging newspaper columns with predictions that Iraq will quickly resume its ‘old game’ of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with UN inspectors. They are warning that Iraq has had 4 years to devise and perfect elaborate new charades to deceive and hoodwink fresh groups of inspectors. All their logic is singularly focused on the ‘need’ to bring in ‘veteran’ experts of UNSCOM- vintage who are conversant with the Iraqi tactics and know the terrain.
Curiously, however, little attention, or credence, is being given to the likes of Scott Ritter who have been trying to register their assessment that Iraq has been overwhelmingly rid of most of its WMDs in more than 300, microscopic, scourings of its suspected sites by UNSCOM inspectors over a period of more than 7 years.
Another such eye-witness testifying to the cleansing of Iraq is Ronald Cleminson of Canada who was a pilot in the Canadian Airforce and is considered an expert in overhead imagery. Cleminson was one of 150 Canadians who served with UNSCOM in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. Talking to a Canadian paper recently, Cleminson testified that when he left Baghdad with the last of UNSCOM contingents in December 1998, Iraq had been purged of 817 of its 819 long range missiles, and 90 per cent of prohibited chemicals—mustard gas, nerve agents and their precursor compounds—had been nullified. The only compound left unaccounted for ( 3.9 tons ) was the highly lethal VX.
Cleminson is fairly sure that given a free chance, Blix and his inspectors can unearth whatever still remains in Iraq of WMDs in about 10 months.
But Bush and his war-mongers aching to have a go at Iraq are not interested in what is there being uncovered. Their take is that Iraq should also uncover what is not there.
How can Iraq comply with that demand? The Bush hawks are keeping their gun-powder dry to pounce on Iraq on that very ground: its failure to divulge what is not there. Cleminson put his finger on that sensitive nerve when he rhetorically posed the question: "How do you verify the absence of something? How do you prove a negative?"
America’s colossal war machine is being calibrated to deal with that very kind of situation with the help of its awesome fire-power.
Diplomatic pundits and tea-leaves readers are predicting that Washington will get its chance to translate the Bush dream of finally settling his score with Saddam—and thereby paying off the debt of his "dad"—as a result of one of the two likely scenarios.
One, that Saddam will reject any new UN Security Council resolution dictating fresh terms for inspection. This theory relies on repeated Iraqi assertions that they will only honour agreements already reached with the UN.
Two, that at some stage during resumed inspections, a crisis of confidence will develop between Iraq and UN because of varying interpretations of ‘most sensitive sites’, such as the presidential sites or palaces. The Iraqis would draw a line in sand, and Bush will unleash his cruise and other missiles on Iraq for its ‘ breach of faith.’
Even at this stage when chances of a resumed inspection regime in Iraq getting under way look fairly good, war drummers of Washington, including Bush himself, are crying themselves hoarse that U.S. has all the legal ‘right’ under the old Security Council resolutions to impose military terror on Iraq for any breach of trust, or failure to comply.
This is vintage Bush unilateralism and gungho Cowboy reflex. He and his zionist and neo-conservative right-wing Christian ‘visionaries’ have nothing but contempt for UN and all the multilateralism personified under its emblem. Their instinct is to go it alone since America is now the only ‘super power’ and, thus, has a natural mandate to impose its edict on the rest of the world. They covet nothing less than Pax Americana being the new charter of the 21st century.
Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal wrote a detailed report, on September 29 this year, on the Bush regime’s febrile attempt to take war to Iraq on spurious grounds. Bookman said: " The official story on Iraq has never made sense. The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and Al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial…" He then ploughed into a secret treatise called, "Rebuilding America’s Defenses," written by a select team of 24 hawks, including Paul Wolfowitz ( Under-Secretary of Defence at the Pentagon ) John Bolton and I. Lewis Libby—all kingpins of Bush’s war machine.
The report was written five months before September 11 and chalks up a blueprint of world military domination by America, single-handedly. According to Bookman, " In essence, it lays out a plan for a permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region of the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. And to make the plan a reality, it envisions a stark expansion of our global military presence."
As Bookman looks at it, the blueprint " puts the entire world on notice. America will get what it wants , from any country on earth, by any means necessary." The plan arrogates to America "the right to strike preemptively with or without the support of another country" if " we perceive resistance ( a threat to national security)."
Bookman calls it the manifesto authors’" amazing dream of an American Empire with George W. Bush as its first emperor." So this emperor will have the power and prerogative of a prosecutor, judge, jury and hangman over all of mankind.
Saddam Hussain’s answer to this declaration of brute militarism is to remind his nemesis and enemy, and the entire world, that plans for a ‘regime change’ in Iraq are no more than a personal fixation of Bush. The Iraqi people are solidly behind him, as borne out by his recent re-election for another 7-year term, by a 100 per cent ‘yes’ vote. To the outside world this may look like a joke, but to Saddam it is a prop to his own psycho war of nerves with Bush, as is his general amnesty for all prisoners at home and deserters abroad. He seems to be telling Bush that he is equally entitled to draw up his own rules of the deadly game of war.