' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2003 / 2 Adar I, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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The Powell report

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell will deliver what may be the most anxiously awaited briefing to the UN Security Council since Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presented the United States' damning case against the USSR during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Bush Administration clearly hopes that Mr. Powell's brief will have a similarly bracing effect, shoring up international support for war with Iraq and clearing the decks for action.

The conventional wisdom holds that such success will depend on the degree to which the Administration parts the veil on sensitive American intelligence. Will Secretary Powell offer the equivalent of the classified satellite photos Amb. Stevenson wielded to prove the Kremlin was lying when it denied secretly putting nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba?

This is not really the right question. Rather, the question should be: Will sharing highly classified information -- perhaps gleaned by as-yet-undetected electronic methods or well- placed human sources -- make a difference to Security Council members who have long viewed Saddam Hussein more as a client than as a menace? Indeed, Saddam has gotten away with defying the United Nations for the past twelve years precisely because France, Russia and China have consistently run interference for him.

Even if these long-time friends of Saddam are genuinely open to persuasion -- to say nothing of Germany and Syria, who have recently expressed strenuous objections to any military action against Iraq -- the wisdom of trying to buy their support obviously depends on the cost of doing so.

Specifically, what are the risks of compromising not only the intelligence itself, thereby affording the Iraqi regime an opportunity to relocate prohibited weapons and/or cover its tracks, but something even harder to come by: the means that permitted such intelligence to be acquired? It is certainly possible that Saddam's skilled intelligence apparatus (or those of his friends) will be able to "reverse-engineer" the disclosed conclusions so as to ensure that the sources and methods by which they were derived are neutralized.

Obviously, the senior American officials preparing the Powell report have such considerations in mind as they weigh what he should reveal and what should be withheld. They are clearly cognizant of one unalterable fact: Every bit of information that tips off Saddam about what we know of his prohibited activities and how we know it will greatly complicate the job of any U.S.-led coalition charged with disarming Iraq the old-fashioned way -- via military means. The effect could be to allow Saddam to use weapons of mass destruction that might otherwise have been destroyed. The loss in lives, both Iraqi and American, could be unnecessarily increased, possibly greatly.

It is worrying, therefore, that the Bush team appears to be yielding to the pressure from some allies, legislators and the media to discount such concerns in the interest of providing as persuasive as possible a case concerning evidence of Iraq's unaltered bad faith, continuing deceptive activity and ongoing stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For example, Monday's Washington Times reported that Secretary Powell will disclose transcripts of conversations between Iraqi officials as they engaged in efforts to obstruct and otherwise frustrate UN weapons inspectors' searches.

Of particular concern is the statement attributed to "American officials" who are quoted as saying "the intercepts are so damning that their release outweighs any damage that would be caused to the intelligence sources." Maybe so. But the calculation would surely be different if those who must be persuaded are governed, not by the facts, but by a perceived national interest in continuing to protect Saddam. In that case, a careful cost-benefit analysis might suggest that the associated damage to intelligence sources would be unacceptably high.

As it happens, there may be an alternative that would permit the Powell report to be persuasive without irreparably damaging U.S. intelligence capabilities. The United States may have a human "smoking gun" in the person of a recent defector from the senior ranks of Saddam's praetorian guard, Abu Hamdi Mahmoud. According to the Australian paper The Herald Sun, Mahmoud was a member of the "Inner Circle" -- the small number of personal bodyguards allowed intimate proximity to the Iraqi despot -- and, perforce, knowledge of his most secret doings.

The Herald Sun reports that this security agent, known as the "Gatekeeper," is now in Israel where he has told debriefers that: Saddam has maintained an underground chemical weapons facility at the southern end of the Jadray Peninsula in Baghdad; an assembly area near Ramadi for SCUD missiles imported from North Korea; and two underground bunkers in Iraq's Western Desert that contain biological weapons; and other WMDs are concealed in a tunnel complex built by Chinese engineers beneath Baghdad's sewer system. It seems unlikely that Saddam could effectively thwart the effect of all the disclosures so well-placed an individual could provide.

This sort of information is precisely why Saddam has been so insistent that the UN inspectors not be able to hold real and productive interviews with his scientists and other personnel. And such obstructionism is why, among many other reasons, Secretary Powell on Wednesday must flatly declare Iraq to be in material breach of its obligations. And President Bush should immediately follow with a declaration of his own: Since the United Nations has proven either unwilling or incapable of correcting this situation, the United States and a "coalition of the willing" are going to begin forthwith the liberation of Iraq.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


01/28/03: Bush's finest hour
01/14/03: North Korean scorecard
01/07/03: Nuclear meltdown
12/17/02: Serious about defending America
12/03/02: Defining 'regime change'
11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.