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[VIEWPOINT]How to prevent war in Iraq

Feb 26,2003
Two weekends ago, millions were demonstrating against the Iraq war and against the United States from London to New York, from Sydney to Berlin and Madrid. The funny thing about these protests was that the marchers chose to depict George W. Bush as embodiment of evil, and not Saddam Hussein. Strange, for it is not the American president who has poison-gassed his own people as well as the soldiers of Iran. Nor has the American president unleashed two wars to conquer neighboring countries in part or whole as Saddam did when he attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990.
George W. Bush certainly is not a dictator like Saddam who has established the most brutally repressive regime in the world: a “republic of fear,” to borrow from the title of a famous book by Kanan Makiya, a prominent Iraqi dissident.
The moral impulse of the millions of demonstrators round the world may be honorable, but the picture is curiously unbalanced. It becomes even more skewed when we shift attention from morality to policy. Here the paradox turns into self-contradiction.
Surely, the marchers would also like to see Saddam Hussein disarmed, if not driven from power. Yet these demonstrations have not gone unnoticed in Baghdad. Here is what the despot confided to the Egyptian weekly “Al Usbou” as early as Nov. 4. “No doubt,” he said, “time is working for us. We have to buy some more time, and the American-British coalition will disintegrate because of internal reasons and because of the pressure of public opinion.”
Surely, the dictator will feel vindidicated by the protests of two weekends ago. Surely, he will continue to buy time. Surely, he also feels vindicated by the actions of France, Germany, Russia and China in the UN Security Council. Their message to the American secretary of state, Colin Powell, has been: “ We want more time for the inspectors, perhaps even indefinitely.” Unwittingly. these nations, along with the demonstrators, are working to give the precious gift of time to Saddam Hussein.
Baghdad’s calculations are simple. We must somehow drag out the inspection process into the spring, better yet, into the summer. Then it will be too hot for those “infidels” to fight. They can’t keep their troops at the highest level of readiness in this region until next winter, and so they will go home. If this comes to pass, this will be a triumphant victory for Iraq and a historic humiliation for the United States and Britain. This will embolden international terrorism and probably lead to a whole spate of new attacks against vulnerable civilian targets in the West.
No, those who truly want to prevent war should act very differently. They should increase the pressure and not lighten it. As the U.S. national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, put it: “Continuing to talk about more time and more time and more time is simply going to relieve pressure on the Iraqis to do what they must do.”
The problem is that Iraq is not disarming. When the UN inspectors were kicked out in 1998, tons of poison gases were unaccounted for. So were massive amounts of botolinus and anthrax, plus hectoliters of nutrient solutions for the production of these bacteria and viruses. And where is all that equipment for making gas centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium?
Western intelligence services know that all this stuff existed. But the UN inspectors who returned from Iraq last week have not found anything. And we know what real disarmament looks like. We have seen it in Kazakstan and Ukraine, former Soviet republics that had nuclear weapons and missiles on their soil. We know how South Africa dismantled its nuclear program (which had produced seven bombs). The disarmament process was public and plain for all to see.
Here in Germany, poison gas from World War I is occasionally still found. The German army has built complicated facilities in which, say, mustard gas has been burned drop by drop for decades, and records have been kept. Where are these facilities in Iraq, and where is the documentation?
No, Saddam is very clever about hiding his deadly stuff, and he is not disarming. He is not telling what he has, and he is not showing what he has destroyed. More inspectors in a country the size of France? They will not find anything interesting, and so Saddam himself must come clean and cooperate to avert war.
But why should he? He is watching France and Germany, China and Russia taking the pressure off him. Or as he is watching television footage about those demonstrators who are increasing the pressure on their governments to back off. The ultimate paradox is that the drama of protest and diplomatic blockade, as directed against the United States, is making war more likely and not less because it invites more miscalculations on the part of Saddam Hussein.
It is virtually impossible that the United States will back off. Those of us who want to prevent war must pray not for peace but for renewed unity in the Security Council.
Only if Saddam sees no way out will he stop his hide-and-seek games and begin disarmament for real.

* The writer is editor of Die Zeit, the German weekly, and an associate at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.


by Josef Joffe


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