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Jewish World Review August 13, 2002 / 5 Elul, 5762

Michael Long

Mike Long
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The Dangerous Lull on Iraq

And how today's delay proves why 9/11 had to happen | With the din of doubts over the wisdom of attacking Iraq, the evidence against Saddam Hussein's murderous bent is in fact in plain view for those who care to read. In a little-reported investigation near the end of July, the Washington Post reported that Iraq may have a biological weapons lab with 85 employees on the west bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad. The lab comes up consistently in debriefings with defectors. Doubt tends to fade further when the stories are matched with the existence of Iraq's leftover arsenal from the Gulf War, the country's acquisition of scientists and materiel to create weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and Saddam's concealment of biological weapons labs during the first four years of U.N. weapons inspections.

Saddam wants nuclear weapons, too. According to the non-partisan Center for Non-Proliferation Studies (CNS), Iraq is "[e]ngaged in clandestine procurement of special nuclear weapon-related equipment" and likely has the capability to "fabricate a nuclear weapon" once the appropriate material is in hand. In support, CNS also notes Iraq's frequent and flagrant violation of signed agreements regarding nuclear weapons. Iraq ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1969 and has repeatedly violated its obligations, and has done the same for U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, which requires the destruction of Iraq's nuclear capacity. Iraq continued working on WMD even while weapons inspectors were present after the Gulf War, so it is easy to imagine the progress Saddam has made since inspectors were kicked out in the 1990s.

Once he has WMD -- and if we don't stop him, he will certainly get them-Saddam would be thrilled to offer his weapons to America's enemies, such as Al Qaeda, and thus set himself up as a patron and provider to the forces of radical Islam. Not only would America suffer dire and immediate consequences in such an outcome, a wider war would begin almost immediately.

The threat of Iraq is a real and quantifiable, but many in power prefer debate to action. This demonstrates clearly why September 11 could not have been prevented. With so many obvious clues to Iraq's intentions, and with Saddam's motivations and intentions laid out every time he opens his mouth, a few federal officials on both the left and right are still hesitant not only about the timing of an attack on Iraq, but about the wisdom of such an attack at all. And it's not just the politicians. Liberal columnist Molly Ivins only begrudgingly grants that "[i]t's not that easy to argue against taking out Saddam" -- as if the war on terror is a matter of scholars in elbow-patch jackets talking shop instead of the serious business of preventing a terror strike on American soil.

Recall that the evidence of danger to us was not nearly so clear before September 11. Who expected airplanes to be crashed into buildings? What pundit wouldn't have waved off that idea as silly? Had President Bush or even President Clinton proposed a bombing run into Afghanistan or the periphery of Pakistan to head off this plot, charges of warmongering and even war crimes would have deafened anyone under the Capitol Dome.

Back then all we had were bits of circumstantial evidence hidden in a flood of raw data. Today we have everything but the smoking gun, and still the argument goes on.

The American people are hearing too much debate and too little common sense on the threat from Iraq. People who live far from DC and who have jobs that require a little sweat and action talk often about the lack of common sense in their leaders, and how they themselves could do a better job. Irresponsible bickering over Iraq is exactly the sort of thing they have in mind when they make those complaints, and they're right.

The solution? Our officials need to quell rumors floating through the breeze and make it clear to the public what much of official Washington already suspects: the attack on Iraq is being held up while other Arab countries are being brought into line, and while potential oil supplies in Russia are being lined up. This information, coming from an official source, is vital to the war effort. Much more time spent with our citizens floating through a void of what-if scenarios will cause wide support for preventive action to evaporate like a raindrop on asphalt.

And then we won't do anything more until September 11 is joined by some new calendar date, and tragedy grants us a few more brief months of clarity.

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JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michael Long