I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of actress Sandra Bernhard before she characterized President Bush’s performance since 9-11 with those words. She apparently wanted to top Alec Baldwin’s statement that the 2000 election results were as damaging as 9-11. He said that after the President’s brother reminded him of his promise to leave the country if Dubya were elected. Declamations by Hollywood libs are quotable, if only to intersperse humor among serious thoughts voiced by people who actually have the ability to think. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan doesn’t have the excuse of being dumb. And his actions really are dismal and scary.
Mr. Annan seems to have a talent that I thought only the late King Hussein of Jordan had: to pick the wrong side in virtually every dispute. Earlier this week, he called Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip “illegal.” My guess is that he’d agree with the Gallup Poll taken in nine Muslim countries last month. Remember? Most of those guys believe that we Americans are “ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily-provoked and biased.” Aren’t you ashamed to be an American? Me neither.
You can blame the guy for trying. Especially when he’s trying to sell you down the river for the second time, and in the same way. Last week, Mr. Annan announced that there should be no military action against Iraq. Having delivered himself of that judgment, he then met with the new Iraqi Foreign Minister to see how to restart the inspections of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. After a day of promising cooperation with each other, Mr. Annan and one Naji Sabri — the newest smiling liar from Saddam’s clone farm — were apparently unable to agree on nothing more than meeting again soon. For this we should all be grateful. But we should put the blocks to more meetings, because things will definitely get worse. Lots worse.
At the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the cease-fire agreement was based on terms we imposed to ensure that Iraq wouldn’t threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction. There was to be unrestricted, no-notice inspections of any place in Iraq for the purpose of ensuring that Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, and his missile programs, were all rendered harmless. But for years, the Iraqis moved their people and equipment around, thwarting the inspectors and lying about pretty much everything. The last time Mr. Annan ventured into the fray was four years ago. In 1998, the Iraqis had so blatantly refused to cooperate with the inspectors — in fact had blocked them from inspecting a number of sites — that even the Clinton administration had to admit there was a real problem. To head off military action against Saddam, Annan hied himself off to Baghdad.
“The Greatest Threat,” Ambassador Richard Butler’s book about what happened in Iraq in 1998, and the events that led up to it, tells a very sad tale of Mr. Annan’s actions that helped Iraq escape and evade inspections. Ambassador Butler was the head of UNSCOM, the U.N. Special Commission charged with conducting the inspections. According to Butler’s account, Mr. Annan and Mr. Saddam had a friendly sit-down over a few Havana cigars, and came to an agreement. Their agreement was set out in a seven-point memorandum, most of which was eminently ignorable. But there was one part that gave away the entire store.
The Iraqis had been refusing to let the UNSCOM inspectors enter eight “presidential palaces” that they claimed were Saddam’s private space. The U.N. resolution on the inspections said Iraq was required — not asked, required — to consent to inspections anywhere, anytime. In the memorandum, Kofi gave away the right to inspect these places unless the Iraqis agreed. Shortly after that, Iraq threw the inspectors out.
Now, in these new meetings, Mr. Annan wants to reestablish the Iraqi shell game. It is perfectly clear that nothing short of removing Saddam will stop the Iraqis from pursuing these weapons programs. Saddam is the only leader of a nation alive today who has used chemical weapons in war. In the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Iranian troops were attacked with poison gas several times. Saddam also reportedly used them against Iraqi Kurds a few years later.
Annan’s actions could be understandable were the situation a bit different. If there were any reason — far less a good one — to believe that the inspectors would be able to go anywhere, anytime, and report the results to the world, we might just make a go of it. But there is absolutely no reason to believe this, simply because Saddam is still in control.
Time is growing short. President Bush reportedly has said that Saddam must be gone by 2006. We are now helping the Iraqi opposition and presumably pursuing a number of covert operations. But as Saddam perceives the threat to him becoming more imminent, so does the danger from him. He has all the instincts of a cornered rat, and must be expected to use whatever means at hand to save himself without waiting for us to take our time in taking him out.
In 1991, the Iraqis reacted to our attack by firing Scud missiles at Israel. It was only because we put the heaviest pressure imaginable on the Israelis, and because the Scuds were largely ineffective, that Israel didn’t counterattack. If it had, our shaky coalition of Arab allies would almost certainly have fallen apart. In this go-round, Saddam’s missiles are far better, and they will carry chemical and biological warheads. If those missiles land in Israel, there is no way we can — or should — prevent the Israelis from responding. But we may be able to prevent Israel from using nuclear weapons. If we can’t, all bets are off, everywhere.
The U.N. is supposed to be in the business of promoting peace. If Annan’s efforts could produce it, that would be one thing. But promoting anything short of Saddam’s removal dilutes support for what we need to do and will also delay it, giving Saddam more time. President Bush should send a strong message to Annan saying that we will oppose any initiative not designed to rid the world of Saddam Hussein.