So it’s come down to this: British PM Tony Blair is meeting in London with Syrian president Bashar Assad, one of the few people anywhere who will admit to having Saddam Hussein on his speed dial. Mr. Blair will ask Assad to carry the message to Saddam that we really, really are serious this time, and that he still has a chance to avoid war by giving up his weapons of mass destruction. Good grief. The whining tone of this message will not be lost on Saddam, or on Assad who is a major league terrorist in his own right. Syria occupies Lebanon and Hezbollah operates from there with Syrian support. Mr. Blair may feel some frustration. But having to beg for seriousness at this point is a direct result of the policy he and his buddy Lil’ Billy pursued for the better part of ten years. Vacillation and empty threats are what the world came to expect from us.
The result is Saddam Hussein’s current state of mind. In the face of our military buildup, and the determination we showed in Afghanistan, you’d expect that Saddam would do a few things. First, he’d have made his WMD declaration with some small showing of compliance with the umpteenth U.N. resolution requiring him to disarm. By throwing the Blixies a bone, and maybe a couple of chemical or biological weapons, Saddam could have claimed he had complied with the will of the U.N. He would have been believed by the willing, and could have relied on them do diddle us around for months. But he didn’t. He laughed in the U.N.’s face by declaring he has absolutely no WMD. It’s such an obvious lie that only Alec Baldwin or Barbra Streisand could possibly be taken in.
You’d also expect that he would have quieted the action in the skies over the no-fly zones. But last Friday the Iraqis set up a “SAMbush” for our pilots. They baited a trap with a fighter flying into the forbidden southern zone, and tried to lure our interceptors over a cluster of surface-to-air missiles. Our guys didn’t fall for it, but had the SAMbush succeeded, and one of our fly-guys been shot down, Saddam might have had a war on his hands before Christmas. Even in failing, it was another demonstration of Saddam’s disregard for us and our intentions. He thinks that America is still the paper tiger that he punched holes in for the past ten years. But by these actions he is accelerating the time table for his own demise.
Some months ago Saddam’s former nuclear weapons program manager, Dr. Khidir Hamza, told me that Saddam would share chemical and biological weapons with terrorists in two circumstances. First, where they couldn’t be traced back to him, and second where he believed that even if he was caught, the punishment wouldn’t be severe enough to remove him from power. Since then, I have said repeatedly that this was the principal danger that Saddam poses, and that it was a casus belli: a justification for war. Now Saddam has apparently done exactly what Dr. Hamza predicted.
While the Blixies continue to scatter their magic inspector dust on abandoned factories, and refuse to inspect any of the places where the WMD might actually be, there are new and reliable reports that Saddam has given VX — one of the deadliest chemical weapons — to al-Qaeda. He still doesn’t believe that we will take him out, and that emboldens him. But this action — whether or not part of a wider scheme — must accelerate our timetable to take military action.
President Bush is not someone to act rashly. While the U.N. games go on, our special forces — probably aided by their British counterparts — are already operating in Iraq. They’re pinpointing the real WMD hiding places, Saddam’s SCUD batteries, and other military assets that need to be taken out in the first hours of any action. The precise positional data from global positioning systems (“GPS”) gathered by the spec ops guys will create one helluva database, which will be updated often. The information will be fed directly into the guidance systems of bombs like the JDAM, cruise missiles, and attack aircraft that will drop dumb bombs — to give us the ability to hit the Iraqis with exceptional speed and effectiveness. Time is not being wasted.
At least not by us. The U.N. inspection teams continue to wander over the Iraqi landscape, not even attempting to do what they should be doing. I had another conversation with Dr. Hamza last week while we were waiting to appear on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program. Dr. Hamza posed a rather simple question: Why hadn’t the U.N. inspectors asked to interview the Iraqi scientists who had been involved, for example, in the earlier nuclear programs?
His point is well taken. If you want to find out what’s going on, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by talking to the people involved. Even if they’re lying, you can get some sense of what is being hidden from you. If they tell the truth, you have enough information to make some hard and fast inspections of the places where the bad stuff really is. This makes all too much sense to everyone but Hans Blix, who hasn’t even asked the Iraqis for access to the people we believe have been and are involved.
Blix is an utter fraud, and the process he is running is an intentional delay. The president tried to draw a line in the Iraqi sand with the last U.N. resolution and failed. Saddam has defied the world yet again, and the U.N. is doing nothing about it. When U.N. Resolution 1441 was passed, President Bush announced his understanding of this “last chance” for Saddam, and it didn’t synch with anyone else’s. Dubya believes that America isn’t constrained by the decisions of the U.N. He needs to demonstrate that it’s his understanding that matters by demanding that the U.N. meet to resolve to take action against Saddam. Set a date, say 6 January, and a deadline for action maybe a week later. It is unfortunate that we cannot relax as usual and forget the rest of the world over the holiday period. Saddam and his ilk will never give us peace. We need to return the favor.