It would be wrong to call U.N. Chief Inspector Hans Blix naïve. He is so much worse than that. Blix can’t really believe that the inspection regimen his men are implementing will actually find any of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, because they’re not looking where those weapons are most likely to be. No, the whores of UNMOVIC are one embodiment of U.N. dogma. It is a dogma that holds it more important to restrain America than it is to rid the world of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.
If Blix ordered them to, the UNMOVIC team could go to Saddam’s “palaces” to inspect the underground complexes where the weapons of mass destruction are produced and hidden. Instead, the blunted Blixies are inspecting above ground, passing their time looking at mustard gas shells the earlier U.N. inspectors catalogued years ago.
Saddam chose to deliver his “disclosure report” on WMD on December 7, not wanting to miss the opportunity to add to the infamy of the date. The 12,000-page “nyet” could, of course, have been boiled down to a paragraph. He’s saying, as we all knew he would, “If you say I have ’em, prove it.” By this denial, Saddam has materially breached the U.N. resolution Colin Powell compromised so much to get. The denial also negates any claim to legitimacy for the inspections. If Saddam is already violating one major part of the resolution, there is no reason to expect him to abide by any other part of it.
Saddam is playing for time, and he appears to be succeeding. The President made a big mistake by not declaring immediately that the report is a lie. Mr. Bush said the report needed to be reviewed. For a minute, it looked like the Blixies wouldn’t share it with us, but their Euro-qualms were assuaged and a copy is now in Washington. It will take weeks or months for the U.N. team to read through it and report to the U.N. Security Council on the Iraqi disclosure. When they do, they will conclude that the report is inconclusive, and that they have no direct proof that Saddam is lying again. The Blixies will then ask for another six months or more to complete their inspections, and when that period is over it will be summer. We can conduct our military campaign to oust Saddam in the summer. But it will be so much harder, and cost more lives.
We need to short-circuit this charade. As Big Dog Rumsfeld has said — and even Colin Powell agreed — we know damned well that Iraq has WMD in a bunch of places. Ol’ Hans wants us to pony up all the secret information we have about the WMD so his inspectors can examine it and then ask the Iraqis if what we say is true. We shouldn’t do that because whatever we give UNMOVIC will be leaked quickly to Saddam. But the time has come for the President to make a choice. He can either let the Saddam Charade play along for another year, or he can give the world a glimpse of the less sensitive information and demand action. He should do the latter. Just for starters, he could tell everyone what the people at the Iraqi National Congress told me.
There are about 100 “presidential sites” in Iraq, all of which were off-limits during the 1990s inspections. They are the principal places where WMD are produced and stored. Many of these “palaces” have manmade lakes on their grounds. Beneath those lakes are tunnel complexes in which Saddam’s WMD programs have continued unabated since 1991.
Just a few minutes’ drive from UNMOVIC’s Baghdad hotel is the Baghdad Presidential Complex. It contains several palaces, including one known at “Al-Seqoor.” Under the Al-Seqoor palace is the Al-Tahaddi lab where the Iraqis are producing biological weapons. Among them, according to my sources, may be ebola, anthrax and smallpox. A couple of miles away is the Al-Radwaniyeh palace under which biological weapons are stored.
North of the city of Samarra is the Jabal Makhul “presidential site.” It’s about ten square miles in size, with about 90 buildings on it. Within Jabal Makhul is the Al-Fajir site, which houses Project 555. This is the Iraqi nuclear enrichment program, which is working around the clock to produce weapons-grade uranium. All underground, of course. Farther north is the Al-Tharthar site near Saddam’s home town of Tikrit. Its very large lake sits over a tunnel complex for WMD storage. Al-Tharthar is supposedly guarded by an Iraqi “frogman battalion.” (SEAL Teams 2 and 4 please note, and quit laughing, dammit.)
There are many others scattered across Iraq, but those are within a comfortable driving distance for the UNMOVIC un-inspectors. If they really wanted to do something and not help Saddam stall, they would already have searched those places. But that’s not their game. They bloody well know that Saddam’s WMD are underground, and under these closely-guarded “palaces.” We cannot allow them to go on with their blindfolded masquerade indefinitely. They will, if the President lets them.
The December 7 Iraqi report marks a turning point in the conflict. By making this blanket denial, Saddam is declaring that he has no intention of abiding by anything the U.N. says or does. He has called the U.N.’s bluff, and it’s up to us to take decisive action. Dubya should demand that the U.N. Security Council pass a resolution that holds Iraq in material breach and do so before Christmas. He should make it damned clear that we aren’t going to allow the Blixies to become the longest-running farce on the world stage.
In truth, it really doesn’t matter one bit what the details of Saddam’s report say. His complete denial of his WMD programs is his declaration that the 1991 war is still on. It should accelerate our war plans significantly, and regardless of U.N. action. If Dubya calls for action, and the U.N. delays, the Security Council should wake up one day to the news that we have launched the attack. To give the U.N. advance notice is to give it to Saddam, and that would cost American lives. We need not have a Christmas War, but once our pilots sober up after New Year’s Eve, the clock should run out quickly on Saddam. By mid-January, Basra should be free. By Groundhog Day, so should all of Iraq. Saddam delendus est.