Thinking aloud about Iraq

See the John Metzler archive

By John Metzler

Thursday, February 20, 2003

UNITED NATIONS — Now that the diplomatic dust has settled on the latest showdown in the UN Security Council, the political lines appear static — at least for now. The U.S. and Britain remain convinced that Iraq is continuing to play tricks with weapons inspections, while France, Germany, China, and Russia, are as adamantly convinced as ever that allowing more time for inspections should be the only prudent way to deal with the dictator in Baghdad.

Sadly we are not talking about lines in the political sand here, but what appears far more resolute rock-hard contra positions between the U.S. and much of Europe.

The political froideur between France and USA is aimed across the Atlantic and not towards the dictator in Baghdad. Washington has gone well beyond petty quarrels with France and Germany and has fallen into a dangerous blame game which is more than reciprocated by Berlin and Paris. Furthermore Trans-Atlantic ties have impacted on NATO policy planning whereby France, Germany, and Belgium had deliberately and recklessly held up contingency defense planning for the frontline country Turkey.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, again told the Security Council “The inspections are producing results. Of course each of us wants more, and we will continue together to put pressure on Baghdad to obtain more.” Moreover de Villepin’s remarks caustically cast aspersions on the American case for war, adroitly presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The tension and angst among allies in the last few sessions of the Security Council has sadly played right into Saddam’s hands.

Clearly the policies of both Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist government in France and that of Gerhard Schroeder’s smug socialists in Germany, have done more to marginalize their national interests and to seriously alienate American opinion than they can begin to imagine. Washington needs serious political damage control too, in light of diplomatic hurdles, as well as global "peace" demonstrations which infer that it’s President Bush who’s the warmonger and not Saddam Hussein!

It’s not that the Euros really like Saddam, though their business bottom line with the Iraqi dictator in the 1980 and 1990’s would clearly dispute that, it’s that they feel that doing reasonable things will somehow bring about reasonable change. Dictators love more time and truly appreciate reasonable people who are willing to let moral grey area become the locus for fuzzy policies.

UN weapons inspectors are doing a good job. Yet in a country the size of California, finding the hidden weapons is looking for the needle in the haystack. The French proposal, aptly called “Project Mirage” would widen and toughen the inspections. A most reasonable and logical assumption when dealing with, a responsible state.

But being reasonable with the regime in Baghdad has no more chance of success than having been reasonable with the regime in Belgrade.

As Colin Powell has stated, “The idea of more inspectors is a diversion, not a solution.”

When UN weapons inspectors went into Iraq in the mid-1990’s Baghdad claimed not to possess the illegal biological weapons. Later Iraq, said yes, they had them, but have since destroyed them. My question is “Why did they have such biological and chemical weapons in the first place?” The current Report by Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, still focuses on missing stocks of lethal anthrax and VX nerve agents?

And by the way when the UN inspectors were pulled out of Baghdad in December 1998, and most of the Security Council was furious with Saddam, the U.S. then hit Iraq with a short but ultimately ineffective bombing campaign. This would have been the time to have militarily finished the job, finally ousting Saddam from power. The political momentum was there but the foresight was lacking.

Despite these realities in the Middle East many observers rightly ask ,”Why Iraq and not North Korea?” Iraq does not have the nuclear weapons — yet. North Korea does, and Kim Jong-il’s neo-Stalinist regime is on the verge of producing more. That’s precisely the reason we want to take this last chance to stop the clock in Baghdad before its too late there too. Saddam wants to keep the clock running.

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for World

Thursday, February 20, 2002

See current edition of

Return toWorld's Front Cover
Your window on the world

Contact World at