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GUARDIAN: Let's take him out

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  • Dragana Mitrovic
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,767018,00.html Let s take him out The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein s rule of terror is too great to
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2002
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      Let's take him out

      The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein's rule
      of terror is too great to ignore any longer. There is
      only one solution, argues William Shawcross - military

      Thursday August 1, 2002
      The Guardian

      The new archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has
      said that it would be immoral and illegal for the
      British to support an American war against Iraq
      without UN authority. King Abdullah of Jordan has
      warned against an attack on Iraq, saying it would open
      a "Pandora's box" in the Middle East. The prospect of
      war against Iraq has provided a field day to
      anti-Americanism. I would argue that, on the contrary,
      the illegality is all on the side of Saddam Hussein.
      The real immorality and the greatest danger is to
      allow this evil man to remain indefinitely in power,
      scorning the UN and posing a growing threat to the
      world. Tony Blair is both brave and right to support
      American demands for a "regime change" in Iraq.
      Weapons of mass destruction are the greatest threat to
      life on earth. Biological weapons are often called the
      poor man's atomic bomb. Saddam Hussein is the ruler
      who has for decades been making the most determined
      and diabolical illegal effort to acquire them.

      In the 80s, during Iraq's war with Iran, Saddam used
      more than 101,000 chemical warfare munitions. In 1988
      he killed at least 5,000 Iraqi Kurds with chemical
      weapons in the town of Halabja, because he suspected
      them of collaborating with Iran.

      Before the Gulf war, Saddam was thought to be about
      three years away from acquiring nuclear weapons. He
      would have been much closer if the Israelis had not
      bombed his Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. He had
      massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

      His 1990 invasion and annexation of Kuwait was
      accompanied by murder, torture and pillage. He
      launched missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel,
      and would have invaded the former had the US not come
      to its defence. He still seeks to destroy Israel.
      There is no real doubt that his long-term aim is to
      control the Saudi and Kuwaiti oilfields, with their
      massive reserves. That would put him in a position to
      blackmail the industrialised world.

      His defeat in 1991 was supposed to end his ability to
      threaten his neighbours. UN security council
      resolution 687 decreed that Iraq must unconditionally
      accept, under international supervision, the
      destruction of all its weapons of mass destruction. It
      created an inspection regime, a UN special commission,
      known as Unscom, with freedom of access throughout
      Iraq, to see that all illegal weapons were surrendered
      and destroyed.

      Until Unscom certified that Iraq had agreed by the
      terms of 687, an oil embargo would remain in place.
      Iraq signed up to all this but has spent the past 11
      years trying to evade its obligations and defy
      international law as written in resolution 687 and
      subsequent resolutions. Saddam has shown himself to be
      far more interested in creating and keeping weapons
      than in anything else. The consequent impoverishment
      of the Iraqi people is a small price to him.

      Unscom found and destroyed masses of illegal weapons,
      including thousands of litres of concentrated anthrax
      and botulinum, the most poisonous substance in the
      world. But the inspectors knew there was a lot more
      the Iraqis managed to conceal. They could not account
      for hundreds of chemical munitions, chemical agent
      production equipment, a number of long-range missiles
      and components, including warheads. Most troubling,
      they had no confidence in the disposal of Iraq's
      extensive biological weapons programme.

      Through the 90s, Saddam became more impatient, more
      intransigent. He exploited divisions on the security
      council - where France, China and Russia were far
      keener on compromise than the US and Britain - until
      he created a series of crises for the inspectors at
      the end of 1997. The US and Britain threatened to
      attack. In February 1998, Kofi Annan put the UN's
      authority on the line and flew to Baghdad to try and
      get the inspections restored.

      After meeting privately with Saddam, he thought he had
      a deal but even before he arrived back in New York,
      the Iraqi regime secretly began to undercut it.

      At the end of 1998, Annan acknowledged that Saddam had
      torn up his deal. In December 1998, these violations
      of international law finally resulted in a short US
      and British bombing campaign known as Desert Fox. No
      inspector has been allowed back since - and there is
      every reason to suppose that Saddam has since rebuilt
      his stocks unhindered. Otherwise why deny the
      inspectors access?

      In early July, Iraq once again refused, during talks
      with Annan, to allow the inspectors back. But if and
      when an American-led attack appears to be imminent,
      Saddam will probably offer to allow them to return, in
      order to divide his enemies and diminish international
      support for the US position. Their task is likely to
      be hopeless. The creation and concealment of the
      weapons is just too important to the regime. Charles
      Duelfer, a former deputy chairman of Unscom, points
      out that 200-300 engineers, technicians and scientists
      are known to have been involved in its weapons
      programme before 1998. The UN must be able to
      interview them - without Iraqi government minders - if
      there is to be any hope of understanding just what
      Iraq has done with its nuclear, chemical and
      biological weapons since 1998.

      Given the way that Saddam has always lied before,
      there is every reason to fear that new inspections
      will fail to disarm him. How else are we then to
      enforce international law and eliminate the threat
      which Saddam represents, except by military action to
      change the regime?

      Obviously there are dangers and difficulties in
      attacking Saddam. Iraq is not a failed state like
      Afghanistan. It is a ruthless and tenacious
      dictatorship which terrifies, tortures and murders its
      opponents. It has a large army with a supposed elite,
      the Republican Guard. The determination of the regime
      to survive a reign of terror should not be

      The nervousness of most of America's European allies
      is real. So far, only Britain has offered support for
      the overthrow of Saddam. Others have been evasive or
      downright hostile. After September 11, Gerhard
      Schroder, the German chancellor, promised the American
      people unlimited solidarity. He has heavily qualified
      that since.

      The opposition of Iraq's neighbours must be
      acknowledged. King Abdullah of Jordan's concerns are
      real but don't forget that his father, King Hussein,
      supported Saddam and opposed the Gulf war in 1990-91.
      Other Arab regimes would be happy to see Saddam go but
      do not dare be associated with the military action
      necessary to achieve that - at least not until it
      succeeds. Then there is the question of how the US
      would do it. There are not the same regional bases on
      offer as in the Gulf war of 1991. There is no
      equivalent of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
      The risk of Saddam launching a pre-emptive attack
      against Kuwait or Israel during an American build up
      have to be taken into account. But that would
      represent desperation on his part, given the
      retribution which would follow. On the plus side, the
      Iraqi armed forces are much weaker than in 1991. Most
      of Iraq's tanks are obsolete. Its air force is
      virtually non-existent.

      Faced with the ruthless, terrorist nature of the
      regime, the Iraqi people alone cannot change their
      government. Only outside intervention can do that. If
      war begins, Iraqis at all levels will understand that
      the cost of keeping Saddam is too high. The question
      then is: who will succeed him? Any immediate successor
      will probably come from the military. That need not be
      bad. The first and most important thing is to get rid
      of Saddam's regime. When he falls there will be
      dancing in the streets of Baghdad, as there was in
      Kabul when the US drove out the Taliban. The Iraqis
      will be rid of a monstrous incubus.

      There is also a compelling regional argument for
      removing Saddam - the Israel-Palestine impasse. Many
      believe that we cannot take on Saddam as long as the
      current state of war exists. I would argue the
      opposite: So long as Saddam is in power there can be
      no realistic hope of a solution.

      In 1991 Israel endured attacks by Iraq with 39 Scud
      missiles, with exemplary restraint. Saddam still
      wishes to destroy Israel. Like other Arab regimes, the
      Iraqis preach and practise anti-semitic hatred. Tariq
      Aziz, the deputy prime minister who dealt with Unscom,
      told Richard Butler, its director, "We made bioweapons
      in order to deal with the Persians and the Jews." One
      of his senior officials said at an Arab summit in
      2000, "Jihad alone is capable of liberating Palestine
      and the rest of the Arab territories occupied by dirty
      Jews in their distorted Zionist entity." Yet we
      continue to ask Israel to take risks for peace while
      the Iraqi threat remains unchecked. The removal of
      Saddam would give Israel greater confidence in its
      prospects of peaceful co-existence with a Palestinian
      state. It should also temper the anti-semitic zeal of
      Syria and other neighbours of Israel.

      Some of the critics of war - such as the Archbishop of
      Canterbury designate - voice honest concerns. But when
      you consider the nature of the beast, it is the
      consequences of the failure to act which should
      terrify us. It will be much harder to take him on in
      10 years' time - his nuclear and other weapons will be
      far more dangerous.

      If September 11 and America's response to it had not
      happened, think of the world we would still be living
      in: the Taliban would still be in power, terrorising
      Afghans; Bin Laden and al-Qaida would still be
      planning other outrages unrestricted. The same is true
      of Saddam today. He not only oppresses his own people
      savagely but also represents untold dangers to the
      region and to the world. His defiance also makes a
      mockery of the international legal system as
      represented by the UN. The UN's basic responsibility
      for the "maintenance of international peace and
      security" is daily undermined by a dictator of whose
      malign intent there is no doubt. To appease him
      endlessly is to weaken the UN. That, too, is both
      dangerous and immoral.

      While it would be preferable to have a new UN security
      council resolution authorising military action against
      Saddam Hussein, as Rowan Williams argues, it is not
      strictly necessary. Saddam is already in defiance of
      existing resolutions and article 51 of the UN charter
      provides the right to self-defence against the threat
      he poses to all of us.

      Moreover, we all know that the security council, a
      political body, does not always provide an adequate
      defence against evil. The council refused to help
      Rwandans during the genocide of 1994. Nato's 1999
      action in defence of Muslims in Kosovo was conducted
      without a council resolution - because Russia and
      China would have vetoed it. Weighing the risks of
      action against Iraq is entirely proper. It is very
      difficult for the international community to deal with
      intransigent evil.

      Much less legitimate is the anti-American abuse from,
      for example, the infantile Daily Mirror, the singer
      George Michael and those journalists (some on the
      Guardian) who depict Blair as Bush's poodle. They
      disgrace themselves by demeaning the argument. I
      repeat: the decision of how to deal with Saddam is not
      an easy one. Much depends on how you perceive the
      threat. In my view, the threat from Saddam is
      intolerable. Washington is right - the regime must be
      changed. And Tony Blair is right to support

      © William Shawcross. The writer is the author of
      Deliver us from Evil: Warlords and Peacekeepers in a
      World of Endless Conflict. He is on the board of the
      International Crisis Group.


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