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Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2002 / 14 Teves, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Consumer Reports

Put-up or shut-up time | Iraq's denial that it has any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) brings to mind the old adage, "Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?" The eyes of the western world are their intelligence services, and, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it, "Any country on the face of the Earth, with an active intelligence program, knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

Iraq's declaration is manifestly false and surely amounts to a "material breach" of the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a "full, final, and complete" declaration of Iraq's weapons programs. Baghdad's declaration is neither full, final, nor complete. After appropriate consultation with the U.N., it frees President Bush, as he put it, "to lead a coalition that will disarm Saddam Hussein." Or, if need be, to act alone.

The U.N. inspections that were halted in 1998 left no doubt as to Saddam's intentions. Back then, he had 360 tons of chemical warfare agents, 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals, 25,000 liters of anthrax, and over 30,000 special munitions for the delivery of chemical and biological agents. Iraq failed to account for them then. Who would now accept Iraq's assertion that, alas, it no longer has the records to prove it destroyed these weapons?

Still, Washington would do well to hammer home the point by releasing some of its more recent intelligence. The American people, who have been stalwart in support of the president, can be trusted to recognize that there will always be room for doubt because intelligence assessments are by nature judgment calls. And Saddam is an expert at sowing doubt. He will play on dissent from countries like France and Russia and from others within the Arab and Muslim world.

Hide and seek. We must be clear. It is no longer up to the U.N. inspectors. They are there not to inspect but only to verify that Iraq has made a complete disclosure and destroyed its WMD arsenal. They were not sent as detectives to ferret out the concealed weapons and production facilities. That would be a mission impossible. A group of 100 or so inspectors, traveling in high-profile U.N. caravans in a country the size of California, cannot conceivably declare Iraq clean when everything Saddam needs for his WMD programs can be hidden in trucks, closets, and bathrooms.

The British know this. In a chilling report released just recently, they described Iraq's large, effective system for concealing proscribed materials, including dual-use facilities and hiding spots that are located close to roads and telecommunications so that illicit items can be moved on short notice. Indeed, the British reported that Iraq can get WMD ready for use within 45 minutes of Saddam's orders.

President Bush has been consistent in asserting that further deceptions by Saddam will not be tolerated. If the administration failed to act now, it would not only let Saddam off the hook but allow him to accumulate funds from oil sales to buy or build a still-greater WMD arsenal. And, it would ruin American credibility in the Muslim world, among the rejectionist regimes like Iran and Syria and among other sponsors of terrorism. It would make a mockery of the U.S. national-security documents alerting the country to the dangers of what Bush called the "crossroads of radicalism and technology," in which small groups could attain catastrophic power to strike great nations. And it would confirm al Qaeda's perception of America, that when "you hit them . . . they will run." Beirut, Somalia, the attacks on our embassies in East Africa-all brought angry but empty words and, at most, a few misdirected missiles. As Prof. Bernard Lewis, the great authority on Islam, pointed out, the conclusion that the terrorists drew from this is that the United States has become frightened and incapable of responding, and the terrorist attack of 9/11 was, in part, the result of this perception.

America must be resolute. Should a member of the Security Council announce his intention to oppose action against Iraq-and France and Russia may be tempted because of their eagerness to pursue economic self-interests with Saddam-we must stand firm. This, more than anything, will show the terrorists that their earlier misjudgment of our resolve was dangerously wrong. Which is the real reason we must force the issue with Iraq. Vaclav Havel, the revered Czech playwright-president, put it clearly. "Evil," he said, "should be combated in its germinal stages, rather than in its developed form." Action, in other words. Not vacillation and dithering.

Forty years ago, President Kennedy observed that "we no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril." JFK acted. Today, the truth he enunciated is magnified a thousandfold, and it is to the great credit of President Bush that he recognizes it and is responding with the same courage and fortitude.

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
02/12/02: Speaking truth about energy
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06/24/99: The time has come to hit the brakes on affirmative action
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04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman