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Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2003 / 27 Shevat, 5763

George Will

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Enough said about inspections | Having flourished the bouquet of policy posies expected in State of the Union addresses, the president made an abrupt rhetorical turn. With words as spare and pointed as an ice pick, he told Americans that killers were being killed, one at a time. Key al Qaeda commanders have been arrested "or otherwise dealt with." And although more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries, "many others have met a different fate" and "are no longer a problem."

This necessarily oblique reference to the worldwide struggle in the shadows is pertinent to the problem the president has in presenting his case for invading Iraq. Regarding concrete evidence of Iraq's evasion of disarmament obligations, critics promptly pronounced the address less than nourishing. On Monday Tom Daschle had said, "if we have proof of nuclear and biological weapons, why don't we show that proof to the world -- as President Kennedy did 40 years ago when he sent Adlai Stevenson to the United Nations to show the world U.S. photographs of offensive missiles in Cuba?"

The president did announce that next Wednesday Colin Powell would present to the United Nations "information and intelligence" about Iraq's weapons and links to terrorists. However, determined critics probably cannot be mollified so soon, for reasons delicately alluded to last week by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense.

Following Wolfowitz's address to the Council on Foreign Relations, former FBI and CIA director William Webster asked him whether, without compromising intelligence "sources and methods," more information about Iraqi noncompliance with disarmament obligations could be provided so Americans could better understand the administration's policy.

Wolfowitz replied: "You know probably better than anyone the difficulties in revealing things we know, because inevitably you reveal things about how you found them out. At the risk of teasing the press, there are three words in my speech that I was forced to substitute for two rather stunning paragraphs, on the grounds that we would say too much about what we're observing even today."

The likely three words -- "those practices continue" -- followed Wolfowitz's mention of a 1991 instance of Iraqi concealment of proscribed material. The United States does not want to compromise capabilities that would be useful in war fighting. Also, Iraq designs defenses against weapons inspections by using what we reveal that we know.

For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors suggest that the high-strength aluminum tubes the Bush administration thinks might be intended for uranium enrichment are actually intended for permitted conventional weapons uses. But Tuesday the president reiterated that "our intelligence sources" say the tubes are "suitable" for nuclear weapons production. A senior administration official notes that Iraq has known of U.S. awareness of the tubes since the story leaked to the New York Times Sept. 8. And in October a public U.S. report provided Iraq a road map for deception by saying "most intelligence specialists" believe the tubes were intended for uranium enrichment, but "some believe" they were intended for conventional weapons programs. So Iraq had plenty of time to build a Potemkin conventional weapons facility to mislead inspectors.

The 1962 photographs to which Daschle referred were taken by a U-2 surveillance plane. U.N. Resolution 1441 entitles inspectors to "free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, including manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles." America has made one U-2 and unmanned Predators available to the inspectors, but Iraq has refused to guarantee their safety unless some provocative conditions are met.

A senior administration official says what Iraq knows: The U-2 and Predators would be a "big help" because satellite surveillance is not continuous, and concealment activities can be timed for interstices in the satellite coverage. If the inspectors were properly insistent about their rights, they would tell Iraq that the U-2 and Predators will be used and that any attack on them will constitute a casus belli.

Last Saturday an Iraqi man leapt into a U.N. vehicle. Screaming "Save me! Save me!" he was dragged from the vehicle while, The Post reported, an inspector sat "looking on impassively." U.N. security guards turned the man over to Iraqi authorities. The man may have been seeking asylum. Or he may have been an Iraqi agent demonstrating to other Iraqis the dangers of approaching the inspectors.

Either way, says an administration official, that chilling lesson was made clear to all Iraqis. And so was the futility of the inspection process.

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