January 25th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Defence: Time for a reality check

EDITORIAL: The flight from fatherhood

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Iraq another divisive issue for the ALP

IRAQ: The case against Saddam Hussein

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The hard questions

COMMENT: Abortion-cancer row continues

LETTERS: Mutual concerns

LETTERS: Dealing with Asia

LETTERS: Protecting the Australian way of life

LETTERS: Free trade

LETTERS: 'Dumbing down'

COMMENT: Sean Penn, Blue Heelers: the politics of celebrity

PROFILE: Why Belloc still matters

BOOKS: The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, by Keith Windschuttle

BOOKS: Culture of Life: Culture of Death, edited by Luke Gormally

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The case against Saddam Hussein

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, January 25, 2003
While UN weapons inspectors, operating under UN Security Council mandate, are examining Iraq's extensive chemical and military facilities for evidence of the existence of illegal chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents, the case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rests more on his persistent efforts to secretly acquire these types of weapons over many years, and on the potential for such weapons to be supplied to international terrorist organisations, particularly Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The failure of US military action in Afghanistan to wipe out al Qaeda, and the continued existence of a network of terrorist organisations linked to it throughout the Middle East, in Russia, Asia and other parts of the world, is the fundamental reason why America is now targeting Iraq.

Two threats

Even before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, US officials saw two main threats to the security of the United States and to the stability of the world: "rogue" states such as Iraq and North Korea, with ballistic missiles, and capable of using chemical and biological warheads; and terrorist organisations.

Until September 11, 2001, the "rogue" states were seen to be separate from the terrorist organisations.

As long ago as December 2000, the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Tenet, said, "To individuals, groups, and countries, the vast information infrastructure of the United States itself is a rich and tempting target. Our national security and prosperity depend increasingly on the secure, unimpeded flow of data. Any foreign adversary that develops the ability to interrupt or halt that flow has the potential to weaken us dramatically with weapons of mass disruption.

"That kind of thinking is at the heart of the many asymmetric threats we face today. The kind of thinking that asks: how can I negate the overwhelming military force of the United States? The kind of thinking that leads a terrorist group to seek a chemical or biological weapon. The kind of thinking that could lead a small nuclear power to blackmail us - not with the possibility of defeat, but with the threatened destruction of one of our cities."

The September 11 attacks convinced the US Government that terrorists could only operate effectively with the support of nation states, and Saddam's refusal to join the war on terrorism convinced Washington that he was a potential, if not actual, ally of Osama bin Laden, despite important differences between Saddam and bin Laden.

Saddam is a secular ruler, while bin Laden and his operatives are Islamic fundamentalists.

Saddam Hussein has the technical knowledge to build chemical and biological weapons - if he has not already manufactured them years ago, and hidden them away within his complex array of palaces and military installations.

He has also shown a willingness to use chemical and biological weapons - as he did on both the Kurds in northern Iraq, and the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war of 1986-88.

For these reasons, President Bush has clearly decided that he cannot leave an armed Iraqi regime intact, even though it remains weakened by the Gulf War of 1991 and the international oil embargo.

Following Iraq's forced eviction from Kuwait in 1991, the UN Security Council required Saddam to declare, destroy, or render harmless its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons infrastructure under UN or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision, and required him to abandon plans for future development or acquisition of such weapons.

However, Saddam's determination to hold onto a sizable remnant of his remaining stocks of these weapons led to years of dissembling and obstruction of UN inspections, eventually leading to the expulsion of UN inspectors in 1998, readmitted only reluctantly in 2002.

Iraqi security services orchestrated an extensive concealment and deception campaign to hide incriminating documents and material that precluded resolution of key issues pertaining to its weapons programs. At the moment, neither the US, nor the UN inspectors, know where to look for concealed weapons and equipment.

The problem for the United States is that many of its traditional allies will not join in military operations against Saddam unless such action has UN backing.

UN Security Council support for military operations will depend on UN inspectors finding evidence that Iraq is currently flagrantly violating its UN obligations.

Because of the length of time which Saddam has had to hide his remaining chemical, biological and military hardware, it is improbable that any such finding will occur.

This would present a major problem for the Bush Administration, which sees the disarming of Iraq as a vital element in its war on terrorism.

  • Peter Westmore

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