Jewish World Review March 10, 2003 / 6 Adar II, 5763

David Warren

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Ready aye ready | The chief practical information that emerged from the latest surreal session of the U.N. Security Council in New York, was the date of March 17th. This is the date that, in a British amendment to their own resolution, would be stated as the final one for Saddam Hussein to show that he is unambiguously and fully complying with the 17 outstanding U.N. resolutions against him. It does not appear that the measure can possibly pass, under pre-warning from France and Russia of a double veto. It may nevertheless provide an indication of the formal start of a war, that has been in progress informally for many months now.

Hans Blix strengthened the French, German, and Russian positions at the Security Council (though not in the real world) by announcing that Iraq had taken, "a substantial measure of disarmament". The statement was, on the strength of his own information, obviously untrue. He listed 29 "open questions" about the existence and location of genocidal weapons, every single one of which dwarfed the token gestures Iraq has made, for the sake of exploiting the West's pacifists. Mr. Blix has additionally issued (according to announcement, though I have not seen it) a 167-page briefing on areas of Iraqi non-compliance that more thoroughly belies his public presentation.

He, and his colleague Mohammed El-Baradei, could, had they wished, have truthfully reported that after three-and-a-half months of U.N. inspections, neither has even a vague idea of what Iraq has or where it is kept; all they can know with certainty is that Iraq has failed to provide credible evidence of having destroyed what it claims to have destroyed. Their rebuttals of Colin Powell's documented evidence of such things as mobile chemical labs were purely tendentious; what they amounted to, is that they hadn't themselves found supporting evidence, or in the course of nature would be likely to. Since their research method has consisted almost exclusively of making repeat visits to sites where weapons were known to have been stored in the past, their failure is remarkably easy to explain.

Moreover, the little that has been accomplished -- almost all of it the direct result of some Iraqi mistake or act of incompetence, such as failing to realize the inspectors would actually test the engines of their supposedly short-range missiles -- has been accomplished exclusively because of U.S. pressure. The inspectors would not even be in Iraq, had it not been for the Bush administration's military threat, which the French, Germans, and Russians have been labouring to remove.

The main issue is cut-and-dried. The Iraqi regime was called upon to make a candid disclosure of its illegal weapons and weapons programmes, and allow them to be destroyed. This was spelled out in Resolution 1441. The resolution expressly contradicts the position now taken by France, Germany, and Russia: the onus from the beginning was not on the inspectors to find, but on the Iraqis to disclose. It was expressly presented as a last chance. By now requiring the indefinite extension of inspections, and transferring the onus of discovery to the inspectors, they have broken faith with the resolution they signed. Vetoing the confirming British-American-Spanish 18th resolution will constitute a formal and definitive breach of faith.

The rest, yesterday, was mere grandstanding around the Council table. To quote the various positions enunciated would be to morbidly exhaust a catalogue of shame.

The game is over. Only the pre-war farce continues at the U.N. In Iraq itself, U.S. and British warplanes are already selectively removing Iraqi surface-to-surface missile emplacements, in firing range of allied troops in Kuwait, or of Israel from Iraq's western deserts. They are doing this, without official publicity, for no other reason than to save lives in the firestorm to come. And the odd thing is, that Iraq isn't even in a position to protest this preparatory "shaping" of the battlefield, because the weapons being hit are flagrantly illegal.

For to be fair to their acts, if no more tolerant of their intentions, the failed U.N. weapons inspection show has provided at least a temporary "containment" or "covering" arrangement, while the U.S. and allies built up their regular forces to an insuperable scale, and inserted special forces (including, we learn, some 300 British SAS -- this group alone three times the size of the U.N. inspection force and infinitely more effective), to prowl the country.

Indeed, the secret war is a complex thing, going on almost entirely beyond the ken of the world media -- as it has been for many months -- to be glimpsed only in chance reports. For instance, the Iranian ayatollahs have already begun fishing in troubled waters, by sending the Badr Brigade -- their own pet Kurdish Jihadist psychopaths -- across the frontier into Iraqi Kurdistan to sow confusion. The organization itself claims that it only wants to be "in on the kill of Saddam". But as Western allies, they are even less reliable than the French.

Ditto several other essentially free-lance private armies, which will only take instructions from "war central" in Qatar while the bombs are still falling out of the sky. The British have the unenviable task of securing Basra, which may well consist much more of keeping local Shi'ite factions in order, than pounding Saddam's Republican Guards, who within hours will be choking the roads with their attempts to surrender.

The Americans will take Baghdad -- and here I think media speculation is largely right. Given Saddam's much-repeated threat of urban warfare, the U.S. has elaborate plans, and plans behind plans, to make it short and sweet. The Iraqi defences still depend on the ring-system, which will be of no practical use against U.S. special forces popping up in the most unexpected places, calling down precision ordnance on Saddam's remaining defenders from Apaches by laser light. The U.S. has what it never had before in urban warfare: the ability to eliminate an enemy, truck by truck and even man by man, from above, without otherwise much disturbing a neighbourhood. It will be very interesting to watch; and we can only pray it will work as well on the ground as in rehearsal.

There may be more worrying developments on the northern frontier, where the Turkish army, deprived by their own Parliament of the chance to co-ordinate properly with the U.S., are deploying what look less like defensive and more like strike forces, that might suddenly enter Iraq without warning to provide a chaotic and very questionable supplement to the U.S. northern front -- which must now almost certainly function without supply through Turkey. The Turkish generals are far better disposed to their U.S. colleagues than the present Turkish politicians; I assume they will in fact await U.S. permission before entering the fray; but there are Turkish interests to defend among the Kurds, in the oil patch around Kirkuk, and in defence of Iraq's Turkmen minority. Fingers crossed.

To understand the tactics in the war ahead, we must recall the recent war in Afghanistan -- not because the enemy is similar, but because the American weaponry will be largely the same, for all the difference in the scale of its employment. The war will be utterly unlike the 1991 Gulf War, owing to this revolution in technology. The genius of the U.S. sweep over the impossible terrain of Afghanistan was in the new combination of very lightly armed special forces on the ground, calling down very precise air strikes. For the first time in military history, a truly co-ordinated ground-air assault is now possible.

The joke of it is, the U.N.'s inspectors have found no sign of the existing presence of U.S. and British forces in Iraq, although these latter are even more numerous than the inspectors' Iraqi minders. The surprises to come in the opening hours of the impending public (as opposed to the continuing secret) war, will be the speed at which various Iraqi positions are taken.

What we cannot know until the day, is how successful Saddam may be in putting into play his nerve gas, anthrax, possibly smallpox, and other toys (the fruits mostly of German, French, and Russian materials and technology). My general impression is that the Americans are much better equipped and protected against the contingencies -- indeed much better informed about what the possibilities are -- than the media have suggested.

But war is war, and anything can happen. And a large part of the world is hoping for the worst, out of sheer anti-American "Schadenfreude" (pleasure in their pain; malice).

For in the last several weeks we have seen an extraordinary, and mindless outpouring of anti-American sentiment, in anticipation of this U.S. action to destroy a monster. It is important to emphasize the mindlessness: for no one, among those who have lashed out against the free world's captain -- no government, no party, no faction, no critic -- has proposed a plausible alternative to what the Bush administration says it must do.

This will also be a part of the war, I think the least predictable part. We will just have to see, as events unfold, how crazy the world has gone.

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JWR contributor David Warren is a Columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. Comment by clicking here.

03/06/02: Logic of war
02/10/02: Play up, play up
01/30/02: No ambiguity
12/05/02: A farce
11/13/02: A game of chess
10/30/02: Material breach
10/21/02: Armed & dangerous
09/11/02: The enemy within
08/21/02: Bush v. world
08/06/02: Has Sharon gone 'wobbly'?
07/24/02: Evil Sharon
06/19/02: The end is nigh
06/17/02: Those darn American imperialists!

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