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analysis: powell's speech and the iraqi end game

  1. Snooker

    5,748 posts.
    Feb. 5, 2003

    The sudden and premature end of the 1991 Gulf War marked the start of the competition between Saddam Hussein's efforts to produce and hide prohibited weapons and the American attempts to find them.

    From the detailed and highly revealing evidence presented Wednesday by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the US appears thankfully to have come out ahead.

    The tapes and transcripts of telephone intercepts from Iraqi officials ordering the hurried removal of chemical, biological, and missile components and facilities before the arrival of inspectors, as well as very detailed satellite photos, left no room for questions.

    Detailed orders from Saddam warning his scientists against any cooperation with inspectors, and instructions to stay home to avoid the UN team, were particularly damning. Instead of full and good-faith efforts to comply with the UN requirements (which was never a serious option), Iraq has been caught red-handed in an immense campaign of lies and deception designed to avoid disarming at all costs.

    Powell not only produced the long-sought smoking gun; he uncovered a huge arsenal of horrifying ammunition. The reports of massive production of anthrax and other disease-carrying agents and of chemical weapons, such as sarin and VX, are no longer vague and illusive. The pictures of Iraqi railroad car- and truck-based mobile production laboratories gave the process a visual representation, making efforts to avoid the obvious conclusions all but impossible.

    The information revealed by Powell and reinforced by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was overwhelming, not only from the technological sources, but also from human intelligence and defectors.

    While informants often pose difficulties in sorting out conjecture from hard facts and in weeding out the disinformation, the detailed corroboration of the data obtained by technical means with the "humint" (human intelligence) was also highlighted in Powell's presentation. Dozens of highly placed Iraqi defectors and some sources possibly still within Iraq show that, despite its reign of terror, Saddam's regime has been penetrated.

    The information presented by Powell included revelations and photos from the continuing missile development programs, including new engines and test stands. Other forbidden delivery systems, including converted combat jets and smaller unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to disperse deadly sprays, were also uncovered.

    Cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida was also detailed, including the protection given to Abu Musab Zarqawi's European network. One hundred and sixteen members of this group, engaged in the production of ricin and cyanide poisons and the preparation of terror attacks, have been caught, but no one in Europe can know how many more are still at large.

    Of course, for some, including emotionally committed anti-war protesters and blind anti-American ideologues, any and all evidence is irrelevant. Also, for the angry supporters of the Iraqi dictator in the Arab and Muslim worlds, the warnings about the dangers posed by Saddam's efforts to dominate and destroy, and his proven utter contempt for the value of human life, are considered to be positive attributes. But for rational people who are willing to accept this difficult reality, Powell's speech should have a strong impact.

    With its last card now played, the Bush administration is now in the end game. Given the clear dangers spelled out by Powell, the US has already waited far too long to act and cannot delay any longer. While preparing for the massive opening attack necessary to destroy all of these facilities and weapons, and to make sure that they cannot be used, the final round of the diplomatic process of persuasion will be played out. With the firm support of New Europe, the dinosaurs in the governments of France and Germany may also recognize that there is no alternative other than to join the US.

    The only hope to avoid war is to foster the fear of doom among Iraqi officials, to get them to move against Saddam in order to save their own lives and prevent the destruction of their country. It should now be apparent that the US has very complete and pinpoint information on the Iraqi WMD and missile programs, and is prepared to destroy every site and facility related to them if necessary. This is definitely a long shot, but it is not entirely impossible.

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