Follow the Policy
Why So Long
for Iraq to Comply?
By SAM HUSSEINI
"It's been 12 years. Why hasn't
Saddam Hussein complied?" So many ask.
"Follow the money" it's been
said is the way to get at the truth. It's a good adage, but in
this case: Follow the policy.
In his report Friday, UNMOVIC head Hans
Blix claimed that "If Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation
in 1991, the phase of disarmament -- under resolution 687 --
could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been
Blix also indicated that Iraq only complies
because of the threat of use of force. British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw went to town with this particular notion to the applause
of some in the Security Council chamber.
One problem with such thinking is that
it violates the U.N. Charter, which prohibits "the
threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any state."
Another problem is that it ignores U.S.
policy over the last dozen years, which has discouraged compliance
with the arms inspectors. Ignoring the realities of U.S. policy
is something the head of UNMOVIC should not do. Consider:
The original post-Gulf War U.N. Security
Council resolution 687, passed in April of 1991, made lots of
demands on Iraq -- but, as Blix indicated, specified that once
Iraq complies with the weapons inspection regime, the economic
have no further force or effect."
The problem, and it's a big problem,
is that this declaration was rendered ineffective. President
George Bush in May of 1991 stated: "At this juncture, my
view is we don't want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam
Hussein is in power." This was no slip of the tongue. The
same day, then-Secretary of State James Baker sent the same message:
"We are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions
as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." So regardless of
what Hussein did, comply or not, the sanctions would stay in
place. He played games with the inspectors as it suited him.
[See a timeline.]
And what would Clinton's policy be? Just
before getting into office, in an interview with Thomas Friedman
of the New York Times, Clinton said: "I am a Baptist. I
believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Hussein] wants a different
relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all
he has to do is change his behavior." The following day,
faced with attacks for articulating such politically incorrect
notions, Clinton backtracked: "There is no difference between
my policy and the policy of the present administration."
This meant that the crushing economic sanctions would stay in
place on Iraq for eight more years, dooming hundreds of thousands
of Iraqi people to premature deaths.
It's notable that Friedman has falsified
this subject, writing
from Qatar in February of 2001: "Saddam totally outfoxed
Washington in the propaganda war. All you hear and read in the
media here is that the sanctions are starving the Iraqi people
-- which is true. But the U.S. counter-arguments that by complying
with U.N. resolutions Saddam could get those sanctions lifted
at any time are never heard. Preoccupied with the peace process,
no senior U.S. officials have made their case in any sustained
way here, and it shows."
So Friedman, from his media perch, actually
helped ensure that Clinton would continue the policy of keeping
the sanctions in place no matter what Hussein did; resulting,
by Friedman's own admission, in "starving the Iraqi people."
And then he pretends that the policy does not exist, mocking
Arabs for believing such a thing.
Just to be clear about it, in March of
1997 Madeleine Albright, in her first major foreign policy address
as Secretary of State, proclaimed: "We do not agree with
the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations
concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted."
I was there, at Georgetown University when she said that. This
was on par with Albright's infamous remark on CBS's "60
Minutes" the previous year that the sanctions, after already
killing half a million children, were "worth it."
Through out the late 1990s, there were
a series of standoffs between the Iraqi and the U.S. governments
around weapons inspectors. In December of 1998, UNSCOM head Richard
Butler issued a report (which the Washington Post would later
reveal was shaped by the U.S. government) claiming Iraq wasn't
cooperating with the inspectors and withdrew them just before
the U.S. launched the Desert Fox bombing campaign. Some
might remember this was on the eve of Clinton's scheduled impeachment
In January of 1999 -- after UNSCOM was
destroyed by its own hand -- the U.S. media reported that, contrary
to U.S. denials, UNSCOM
was in fact used for espionage as the Iraqis had been alleging,
part to track Hussein. (We'd do well to keep this in mind
as those U2 flights go over Iraq.)
So Iraq kept the weapons inspectors out
for four years. Why did the U.S. use the inspectors as spies?
Why did it say that the sanctions would stay put regardless of
what Iraq did? These would hardly seem to be the policies anyone
would adopt if they really wanted disarmament.
There are other recent examples of the
U.S. government adopting policies that betray an actual desire
for Iraqi non-compliance. On October 1, 2002, just as Iraq was
deciding whether or not to let inspectors have total access to
presidential palaces, Ari Fleischer talked of "the cost
of one bullet" being less than the cost of invasion. Was
that supposed to help convince Saddam to say yes to letting inspectors
into his palaces?
And now, just as Iraq begun destroying
Al-Samoud missiles, the U.S. government is escalating its bombing
of the "no-fly" zones -- an ongoing, increasing years-long
attack without legal justification.
So the U.S. policy of maintaining the
sanctions in place no matter what Hussein did gave him incentive
for non-compliance with the inspectors. Now, the U.S. policy
seems to be invasion no matter what Hussein does. It's hard to
believe that this will ensure anything other than more massive
violence from many quarters.
Or we could choose a different path.
If the Bush administration were to state that it would respect
resolution 687 and ensure the lifting of the economic sanctions
on Iraq when it is verifiably disarmed, then that ostensible
goal could well be reached without invasion, killing and slaughter.
But that would mean that the stated goals have some relation
to actual goals. The way to cut through illusions and rhetoric
is to follow the policy.
is communications director for the Institute
for Public Accuracy. He also recently launched the web page
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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