No Time Like the Present To Eliminate Saddam’s Threat

The United States and Britain want tough new standards for inspection of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal, and Saddam Hussein won’t accept them. Is anyone surprised?

As for what we want: There have been no inspections in Iraq for four years. We have no way of knowing what components Saddam’s agents may have smuggled in, what weapons Saddam’s scientists may have developed, or where in a country bigger than Montana components or weapons are hidden. We cannot recall the former state of things by sending back the old team under the old rules. A new regimen would be necessary to make up for lost time.

As for what Saddam Hussein wants: He will not accept Anglo-American demands because he does not want the progress he has made to be undone. He is not a despot who can maintain himself on bread and circuses. His power and prestige, both at home and in the region, rest on his ability to menace the neighbors he has attacked over the years-Iran, Israel, Kuwait-and to deter the powers that might rein him in: the United States, Britain. For those purposes, he needs deliverable weapons of mass destruction. Rigorous inspections would blast his present strength and his future plans.

While Saddam Hussein plays for time, and the allied powers try to close in, the antiwar left has sprung up like fungus on a tree stump. I saw a crowd of them upstate, gathered at an intersection across from a Stewart’s convenience store, putting on a piece of highway theater for homebound weekenders. The women wore black and pretended to be in mourning; the men wore long gray ponytails. There were signs; someone played a lugubrious trombone. The aesthetics of old hippies are as unchanging as their ideas.

This demonstration had the dignity of obscurity; the upstate peaceniks proclaimed their opinions because they believed them, not to sustain their celebrity. Closer to home, the poet laureate of New Jersey, Amiri Baraka, lent his reputation to provide the missing note of paranoia. “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed?” he asked in a poem entitled “Somebody Blew Up America,” quoted in The New York Times . “Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away?” I didn’t know Mr. Sharon had a downtown office. One of the characteristics of genius is to inspire others. How about this?

Amiri Baraka

Whose poems are caca,

Was once LeRoi Jones,

A hip Mr. Bones.

The faded blooms of the left are not the problem; what confuses counsel are the objections of Congressional Democrats. All summer, they scolded the administration by saying that the question of the next move needed to be debated. Now that the debate has begun, what are they saying?

Representative David Bonior of Michigan says that the Anglo-American terms of inspection are too harsh on Iraq. “They don’t want” a “knock … on the door

during prayer” and someone saying, “‘Open up this building in five minutes.’” Do

Saddam’s poison-gas manufacturers pray five times a day? “They want to be treated with some dignity and respect.” What have Saddam’s minions done to deserve dignity and respect? They have played three-card monte with weapons inspectors, and then overturned the cardboard box when they weren’t winning often enough. If you do that, you should expect surprise inspections, even at prayer.

Former Vice President Al Gore thinks we’re dropping the ball on Al Qaeda. We “ought to be focusing our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on Sept. 11 and who have thus far gotten away with it,” Mr. Gore said in his now-famous speech in San Francisco. I don’t know that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, who are either shuffling from den to den in the badlands of northwest Pakistan, or dead, would say that they have exactly gotten away with their surprise attack. The struggle against their agents goes on, from the Philippines to Lackawanna. But it is strange warmaking to say that one may not fight on two fronts at once. We entered World War II because we were bombed at Pearl Harbor. Yet we agreed with our allies that the priority of the war was to defeat Nazi Germany first, as the greater power and the greater danger. Priorities shift as threats and opportunities arise. If Mr. Gore could do more than one thing at a time, he might be our commander in chief now; and if he could do so, that would not be such a scary prospect.

Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut wants us to keep our eye on the world, letting the United Nations be the “primary responder” on Iraq. But how did the United Nations suddenly come to be so concerned about Iraq’s malfeasance? Because of American resolve. Why do the other members of the Security Council, apart from the United States and Britain, hang back? France and Russia have major oil and industrial deals with Iraq; China, with its eye ever on Taiwan, wishes to give us trouble. Should the economic interests and the Machiavellian politicking of other powers exert a moral effect on our decision-making? As he so often has, Prime Minister Tony Blair put the U.N. problem in its proper perspective. The United Nations “has got to be the way of dealing” with the threat of Iraq, “not avoiding it.” Let us concentrate on winning the cooperation of those who can help us do what we must; the rest will follow-or not.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says we are too worried. “There is no evidence that I have seen that indicates there is an imminent threat,” she said. How imminent would the Senator like the threat to be? Hijacked airplanes flying down Fifth Avenue? This is the great change of 2001: The calculus of deterrence has been upset. The world is full of both rogue states and stateless rogues. If they do not already work in concert, the thought will surely occur to them. Time to strike when our iron is hot, not theirs.