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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2002 / 29 Kislev, 5763

Michael Kelly

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Countdown to Trigger Day | On Monday the British government released a modest report sketching out the "unique horror" of life in the national torture chamber that is Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "I think that this highly unusual, indeed unprecedented, publication is cranking up for war," sniffed a Labor member of Parliament, Tam Dalyell.

Yes it is, and soon; and the unhappy people of Iraq, who perhaps do not fully share the willingness of good progressives like Dalyell to allow them to continue to enjoy life under a regime where "violation of women's honor" is an official armed services job description, count the days.

There may not be so many more to count. As Dalyell suggested, it was no accident that the report, "Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses," was plunked down right in the middle of the same news cycle in which President Bush and Vice President Cheney delivered speeches that made clear the government's continued determination for "regime change" in Iraq, and quick about it.

Bush, at the Pentagon, set Sunday as trigger day. On this day, by the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, Iraq must produce a "currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems."

Speaking specifically of this declaration, Bush said Monday: "Any act of delay, deception or defiance will prove that Saddam Hussein has not accepted the path of compliance and has rejected the path of peace." Note the word "any." It means: any -- at all.

Bush said this too: "In the inspections process, the United States will be making one judgment: Has Saddam Hussein changed his behavior of the last 11 years?" Note the height of the threshold here: "changed his behavior of the last 11 years." Note who will decide whether Hussein has met this standard: "the United States," not the United Nations. Note that in making this decision, the United States will consider only this "one judgment," and no other factors, no arguments of process or progress. And, most critically, Bush also said this: "You see, the inspectors are not in Iraq to play hide-and-seek with Mr. Saddam Hussein. Inspectors do not have the duty or the ability to uncover terrible weapons hidden in a vast country. The responsibility of inspectors is simply to confirm the evidence of voluntary and total disarmament." Note "voluntary," note "total," note "disarmament."

For a disastrous decade, Hussein's regime was allowed to flout its absolute obligation to voluntarily rid itself of weapons of mass destruction under the 1991 cease-fire. Instead, Iraq soon settled into a routine of evading its obligation and the hopeless backward pretense was allowed to grow that it was up to the United Nations to beat Iraq at this game.

Now, in contradiction to this dynamic, the president of the United States says: No. We need not prove an impossible negative. Iraq needs to prove an achievable positive -- that it has, at last, met its promise to disarm -- absolutely, wholly, willingly. It is not enough that the inspectors simply failed to find weapons. It is not enough that Hussein "cooperates" with the inspectors in their failure. The onus has shifted. To escape this time, Saddam Hussein must -- must -- fully declare and destroy all of his weapons of mass death. This White House will regard anything short of this result as material, and immediate, cause for war.

On Sunday Saddam Hussein will produce a document, probably hundreds of pages long, that he will claim meets his obligations. It will be full of lies and obfuscations. In due -- short -- time, George Bush will say it is full of lies and obfuscations and that this is not acceptable. And so, almost certainly, to war.

Correction: In my column of Nov. 20, I wrote that Al Gore, in his drive to embrace the politics of yesterday's left, had declared himself "reluctantly" in support of nationally subsidized "single-payer" health care, such as is enjoyed by the citizens of Canada, most of whom can be found getting medical treatment in Michigan. This, I noted, represented quite a switch for Gore, who had savaged his 2000 primary opponent Bill Bradley for his support of a single-payer plan. That was not quite right. Bradley's plan was not the straight single-payer approach, rather a compromise.

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