As the charade of U.N. weapons inspections continues slowly in an almost surreal circus atmosphere, many Americans are debating the wisdom and necessity of targeting and ending Saddam Hussein's reign of terror in Iraq.
Some, led by Hollywood actors such as Martin Sheen and Sean Penn, say that Saddam Hussein's Iraq does not pose a threat sufficient to justify war. Make no mistake, they are wrong.
Others, notably former Vice President Al Gore and Senator Bob Graham of Florida, say that a war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq will take away from and hurt the war on terrorism. Make no mistake, they are wrong as well.
There are many potential benefits to be gained from the demise of Saddam Hussein, but America should never go to war for "benefits." Taking out Saddam is simply essential to U.S. national security. That is the bottom line and time is not on our side.
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION: SADDAM'S DEVIL'S BREWS
As part of the cease-fire agreement that stopped the Gulf War in 1991, as contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991), Iraq agreed to unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless under international supervision of all chemical and biological weapons, as well as all stocks of agents and research, development and manufacturing facilities. Iraq also agreed that it must not use, develop, construct or acquire any weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has violated both conditions.
The main threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq stems from its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and Saddam's unique, demonstrated willingness to use them in war and against civilian populations. Saddam has unleashed his devil's brews in the past and he will do so again. Waiting to dispose of him will not change that one way or another.
But the critics point out that the Iraqis claim that they no longer have any weapons of mass destruction. Hogwash. But don't hold your breath waiting for U.N. inspectors to find them. Throughout the 1990s, Saddam lied to the U.N. and concealed his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs from inspectors, even while Iraq continued work in these areas. On at least one occasion, Iraqi troops actually fired upon U.N. inspectors to prevent them from performing their duties. The U.N. admitted on more than a few occasions that its inspectors had been confounded, but no more notable example can be found than one involving the defection of one of Saddam's son in laws, a general in the Iraqi army, in 1995. This man informed the U.N. that its inspectors had completely overlooked a large biowarfare facility at a poultry farm. Armed with this intelligence, inspectors found a huge operation that the Iraqis had concealed from them in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Certainly, this was not the only such incident as evidenced by what the U.N. inspectors admitted they could not account for when inspections were halted in 1998: 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agent, including 1.5 tons of VX nerve agent; 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals used to manufacture chemical weapons, including 300 tons used solely for the production of VX; enough growth media for biological agent production to produce 25,500 liters of anthrax spores; and more than 30,000 artillery shells for the delivery of chemical and biological agents.
Now, four years later, we are expected to believe either that these tons of chemical and biological weapons either never existed or were destroyed by a miraculously reformed Saddam Hussein regime.
TERRORISM: SADDAM HUSSEIN'S WEAPON OF CHOICE
As part of the cease-fire agreement that stopped the Gulf War in 1991, as contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991), Iraq agreed that it must not commit or support terrorism or allow terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Along with virtually every other condition in that resolution, Iraq has violated this one early and often.
Despite what you may read in your newspaper or see on television news, Iraq has a long history as a state sponsor of terrorism. In fact, Iraq has been included on our State Department's list of terrorist sponsoring nations for two decades—long before the Gulf War. Now, suddenly, critics of U.S. policy are all but claiming that Saddam Hussein has no ties to terrorism.
In fact, Iraq shelters known, wanted terrorists, allows terrorist groups to maintain offices within its borders and operates a terrorist training camp at Salman Pak, complete with the fuselage of an airliner for practicing hijacking.
According to the State Department, among the terrorist groups that continue to maintain offices in Baghdad are the Arab Liberation Front, Abu Abbas' Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and, until the recent suicide (?) of its leader, the Abu Nidal Organization.
One indisputable terror crime that Iraq was involved in was the attempted assassination in 1993 of former President George H. W. Bush during his visit to Kuwait. In fact, President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike in retaliation for that failed plot, which was put together by Iraqi intelligence.
In the past few years, two independent investigators have uncovered evidence that would seem to indicate Iraqi involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Dr. Laurie Mylroie published a book in 2001 entitled Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America. That book details evidence of Iraqi involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Investigative reporter Jayna Davis uncovered evidence of Iraqi complicity in the Oklahoma City bombing. While the evidence these two investigators uncovered could not stand up to the standard of a court of law, it is convincing enough to prompt former CIA Director James Woolsey to call for a reopening of the official investigations into both incidents and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has asked the FBI to reopen the Oklahoma City case based on the evidence Davis provided. Moreover, one of the suspects still wanted in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Abdul Yasin, is known to have fled the country and is now in Baghdad.
Not only does Saddam Hussein have active and long-standing ties to international terrorist organizations, he has ties to Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida network.
There have been various reports of contact and meetings between Al Qaida members and Iraqi officers, including a 1998 meeting in Afghanistan between Osama Bin Laden himself and the deputy chief of Iraqi intelligence.
Even though CIA director George Tenet has downplayed the Iraq-Al Qaida link, investigative reporters provided detailed accounts from different eyewitnesses of close cooperation between Al Qaida and Iraq. In March 2002, the New Yorker published a 16,000 word article by Jeffrey Goldberg which cited Iraqi-Al Qaida joint operations in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. On September 5th, 2002, Micah Morrison provided another, shorter account in The Wall Street Journal. Eight days later, on September 13, 2002, Stephen F. Hayes provided more evidence in The Weekly Standard. Writing in The Wall Street Journal on October 7, 2002, Senator Joseph Lieberman informed us that "we have evidence of meetings between Iraqi officials and leaders of Al Qaida, and testimony that Iraqi agents helped train Al Qaida operatives to use chemical and biological weapons. We also know that Al Qaida leaders have been, and are now, harbored in Iraq. In dual articles in the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine and the December 9, 2002 edition of the London Evening Standard, investigative journalist David Rose discloses that CIA files actually contain information on 100 separate meetings between Iraqi officials and Al Qaida operatives dating all the way back to 1992, before anyone in the West even heard of Al Qaida. This includes two meetings between three of the 9-11 hijackers and officers of Iraqi intelligence in the United Arab Emirates and Prague, Czechoslavakia. Finally, the U.S. Congress' top terrorism adviser, Yossef Bodansky, recently published a book, The High Cost of Peace, in which he reports that Iraq has provided training in the use of weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaida terrorists.
On December 12, 2002, the Washington Post reported credible intelligence indicated that Iraq had delivered the highly lethal chemical nerve agent VX to an Al Qaida cell in Lebanon, presenting the U.S. and our allies with an unprecedented, ominous threat.
So much for the argument that Saddam Hussein is not a terrorist.
BENEFITS OF A SADDAMLESS WORLD
The threats from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorists are the only justification needed to end his regime now. But, as was alluded to earlier in this column, additional benefits will come from Saddam's demise.
The end of Saddam Hussein's Iraq will position the United States to far more effectively fight the war on terrorism. International terrorist groups require the cooperation and support of nations for their very existence. They are dependent on governments for facilities, weaponry, supplies and training. Saddam Hussein is not the world's foremost sponsor of terrorism. He's probably third. Ahead of him are Iran and Saudi Arabia. Not insignificantly, Syria probably ranks fourth just behind him.
With U.S. forces in position in a new Iraq, the queen bee of Jihadism, Iran, will suddenly be bracketed by U.S. military might. In the continuing war on terrorism, the ability to attack Iran from the east, west and south simultaneously should not go underappreciated. The already unstable Jihadist theocracy in Tehran will suddenly start to feel pressure of an entirely new sort. Imagine the satisfaction of being able to tell the ayatollahs, "Cut off Hizbollah and shut down your training camps, or we'll be over in two—count 'em--two minutes!" The same goes for Syria.
Saudi Arabia is a cat of different spots. With a base in Iraq, the U.S. will no longer have to act obsequiously toward a regime and society that has cultivated and nurtured the Wahabbi sect of Sunni Islam, a wildly radical and militant strain of Jihadism grounded in hatred of the West. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was the product of the Wahabbi movement. At the same time, a U.S. withdrawal from Saudi Arabia will strengthen the hand of the more pro-Western moderates who still have a voice there. And, of course, the fact that Iraq sits upon 10% of the world's oil reserves—reserves that have gone largely untapped since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait—means that Saudi Arabia's political clout and economic leverage will immediately decline. With that decline will come a reduction in U.S. dependence on Saudi oil and a virtual end to Saudi Arabia's control of the oil market.
A U.S. led overthrow of Saddam Hussein will send important signals to the rest of the world, and the Middle East in particular. It will show friends, such as Kuwait and Afghanistan, that we are a reliable ally who will stand by their side over the long term. It will show adversaries, such as Iran, that we will not tolerate threats to our national security, including weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles and state sponsorship of terrorism. To the fence sitters in Saudi Arabia the message will be loud and clear: you need us a hell of a lot more than we need you, so do the right thing and get with the program. These signals will also be seen and heard around the globe in places like Pyonyang, Seoul, Taipei and Pe King.
WHY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER?
Many critics argue that there is no urgency to take Saddam Hussein down and that the U.S. is forcing a conflict that Saddam does not want. Some believe that UN inspectors should be allowed to disarm Iraq. Still others believe that a continued policy of deterrence and containment will be sufficient to deal with the Iraqi threat. Finally, others say that it should be left to the U.N. as to what to do about Iraq. They are all wrong.
Time is not on our side. Those who say targeting Saddam will only force him to use his weapons of mass destruction are misguided. Saddam has already shown a willingness to use chemical weapons and many believe he supplied the anthrax used in the 2001 anthrax mail attacks in the U.S. Waiting will only give him more time to produce and weaponize more VX, more sarin, more mustard gas, more anthrax and perhaps even more smallpox. Right now we know Saddam has chemical and biological weapons. He almost certainly has the capability to produce a radioactive "dirty" bomb. But he does not yet have an atom bomb. At the end of the Gulf War in 1991, Western military and intelligence agencies were shocked to learn that Saddam had his own homegrown uranium enrichment capability and was just months from having a bomb. Earlier this year, the British government estimated that Iraq is now two to three years away from producing a bomb. Would it be better to have to confront a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein? What might Saddam be emboldened to do if he did have a bomb?
U.N. inspectors will never succeed in disarming Iraq. Weapons inspectors are ultimately dependent on the cooperation of the host country. That certainly isn't going to happen in Iraq. The Iraqis repeatedly lied to, mislead and obstructed U.N. inspectors from 1991-1999. The League of Nations had thousands of inspectors in Germany in the 1930s and Germany went right ahead and rebuilt its military in violation of international treaties. Hans Blix went into Iraq with seventeen inspectors. That number is growing, but it will never be big enough to find all of Saddam's weaponry and destroy it. (Unless of course the U.N. decides to designate the entire U.S. First Marine Expeditionary Force as weapon inspectors!) Iraq is twice the size of Texas and Saddam has had four years unobserved to conceal his weapons of mass destruction. Speaking of Hans Blix, he has worked in Iraq before and his track record is poor. Not long before the invasion of Kuwait, Blix, working for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), declared that Iraq's nuclear program was entirely peaceful. He was dead wrong. Today, the IAEA is as dysfunctional as ever. Shortly before the re-entry into Iraq, a debate raged about the diversity of the inspection teams. It seems there weren't enough Arabs. (You may be surprised to learn that the current head of the IAEA is an Arab named Mohammed.) Adding insult to injury, it was revealed that no background checks were done on prospective inspectors and one man selected hosted a sexually oriented web site as his hobby.
Deterrence worked well in the Cold War, but it cannot be depended on in the age of rogue regimes and international terrorism. First of all, as a brutal dictator who has killed tens of thousands of his own people (as detailed in a recently released British government report), it is doubtful that Saddam is terribly concerned about the fate of his countrymen. I have no doubt that he would gladly sacrifice any number of his subjects to score a great victory or deal a great blow against America. Moreover, Saddam is not a young man. Would a dying Saddam feel like he has anything left to lose? But the main flaw in deterrence is the international terrorism connection. Using international terrorists as surrogates to cover his tracks, Saddam could very well sidestep retaliation by using terrorists to carry out WMD attacks in the U.S. Smallpox could be spread by an infected human carrier who just walked across the Rio Grande. Our porous borders and seaports could also be conceivably penetrated by terrorists smuggling in VX gas or a dirty bomb. A WMD attack could take tens of thousands of American lives and we might never be able to come up with definitive proof that Saddam was behind it. Deterrence won't work.
The U.N. surely has some useful purposes, but safeguarding U.S. lives is not one of them. Just ask anyone who served in Somalia. We alone are responsible for our own national security. The U.N. can be a forum for discussion, negotiation and debate, but it cannot and should not be depended on to solve the problem of Saddam Hussein's threat to U.S. national security. For one thing, the U.N. is filled with contradictions and pitfalls. One current member of the U.N. Security Council is none other than Syria, a country that has been on our State Department's terrorist sponsor list for twenty years and one that is known to be developing its own weapons of mass destruction as it acquires ballistic missiles. Earlier this year, Libya was selected to chair the U.N.'s human rights commission—the same Libya that is ruled by Moammar Qaddafi. No matter how well meaning the U.N. may be, at the end of the day, U.N. Secretary General Khofi Annan's native Ghana isn't going to be targeted by Saddam Hussein. We have the biggest vested interest in getting rid of Saddam. Red China, Venezuela, Cuba, South Africa and Vietnam just don't have a stake in the conflict. Should we let our national security fall to the mercy of anyone else?
It is up to America to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. We need to do it and we need to do it soon. We do NOT need any further consultations with the U.N. as the Gulf War never actually ended. In fact, it was only halted by a cease-fire (Resolution 687). Since Iraq has violated that cease-fire agreement numerous times, we need merely to act.
Christopher W. Holton is a member of WorldTribune.com's Board of Advisors. He can be reached through his non-profit web site, http://www.nationalsecurityonline.com.