Small World

Jewish World Review March 2, 2001 / 7 Adar, 5761


By Richard Z. Chesnoff -- THINK we won the Gulf War 10 years ago? Tell that to Saddam Hussein. While Colin Powell, Daddy George Bush and a host of others were in Kuwait last weekend celebrating the oil-rich emirate's Liberation Day, the Iraqi dictator was back home bragging how he'd defeated the U.S. He may be more right than wrong.

A decade after his "defeat," Saddam remains harder to get rid of than sand in the desert. He also may be winning the ongoing international battle over sanctions the United Nations imposed in 1991. These days, as President Bush puts it, the sanctions seem to have more holes than Swiss cheese.

Air travel to Iraq, once a strict no-no, is now an almost daily event at Baghdad's once-abandoned airport. For a price, Syria and even Iraq-hating Iran facilitate billions of dollars in illegal Iraqi oil exports.

Much of the profits go to Syria, China, North Korea, Russia and some of Western Europe's private sector to pay for the know-how and contraband equipment Iraq needs to rebuild its poison-gas reserves, long-range missiles and nuclear weapons potential.

The latest intelligence: Iraq is on the edge of having the bomb, if it doesn't have one already.

That doesn't impress the world's political suckers, not to mention those profiteers who know that Iraq sits on what is arguably the world's largest remaining oil reserve. These people and nations have joined Saddam in demanding that sanctions be lifted. Their argument: Sanctions cause misery to the Iraqi people and kill their children.

Such claims aren't worth a mountain of camel dung. Strategic supply sanctions yes, but the UN also established clear guidelines years ago for the free import of food and medical supplies to Iraq. Any restrictions are placed by Saddam and his cronies, who manipulate distribution of food and medicine.

Back in July, I reported that officials of Saddam's Ministry of Health were withholding enormous quantities of medical and food supplies from the public, selling them at inflated prices to black marketeers and using the profits to line their own pockets and finance government purchases that bypass the sanctions.

So next time someone shows you a photo of a malnourished Iraqi child in a Baghdad hospital, remember this: None of Saddam's grandchildren are going without antibiotics or food. And judging by the photos, none of the members of his chubby cabinet has lost any weight since the end of the Gulf War. To the contrary, while he causes his people to suffer, Saddam and his clique live ludicrously luxurious lives.

More recently, Saddam announced he was forming a volunteer army "to liberate Jerusalem" — another terrific way to waste his people's money.

The Bush administration talks of a new system of "smart sanctions." The only smart ones are those that effectively keep Saddam's military ambitions at bay. That means insisting on international compliance with existing sanctions and refusal even to consider changing the system until Saddam allows UN arms inspectors back into Iraq.

Powell has pressured Syria into promising to escrow Saddam's profits from the Iraqi oil flow through Syria's pipelines. We'll see. In the meantime, let's not lift any legal stranglehold we have on Saddam Hussein, still the world's most dangerous man.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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