Smoke Screen on Weapons Inspections

It has been reported that the U.N. Secretariat has come up with a plan to inspect Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. But that proposal is a clever arrangement to slowly undermine the Bush administration's policy on Iraq while having the appearance of cooperation. The danger is that the State Department will fall for the proposal, and in the process make replacing Saddam Hussein more difficult, if not impossible.

President Bush and his administration have been abundantly clear why they believe Saddam must be replaced. They have convincingly argued that time is on the side of the Iraqi dictator, and that every day spent waiting is another day for him to expand his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction program. The British government in a report authorized by Prime Minister Tony Blair presented evidence of the danger and that threat is only increasing. The British assessment states that some lethal chemical weapons could be ready to fire within 45 minutes.

According to the New York Times, "inspections would begin within weeks, focusing initially on sites selected by the Iraqis themselves." Subsequently, within 60 days, the team would produce its own list of "key tasks."

There are three odd facts in this account. First, the Iraqis get to pick sites to be inspected for the first 60 days. This both allows them to pick the most benign sites and gives them 60 days to further hide what they are already doing. Second, surely in two years of preparation, they would have already prepared a list of key tasks. The United States and Great Britain have the best intelligence capabilities and should be the initial sources of sites to be inspected, but as yet are not. The United Nations should start with their sites.

Finally, there is apparently great resistance to American and British inspectors accompanying the teams. This should be non-negotiable. Australian ambassador and former head of the U.N. inspections team, Richard Butler, provides amble evidence in his book about how the United Nations' staff tried to protect the Iraqis and undermine the inspections. If American and British citizens cannot be part of the U.N. inspections teams, how can we trust their findings?

The United Nations seems to continue to embrace a mindset of appeasement and conflict avoidance, which has too often dominated the U.N. bureaucracy. It is Saddam's reliance on this mindset that has allowed him to violate 16 U.N. resolutions knowing the Security Council would not demand compliance. The State Department should by now recognize the clever tactics in which those who oppose U.S. policies pretend to go along while ensuring that nothing happens.

The Bush administration must insist on firm, honest inspections or walk away. Anything less will make the world more dangerous by lulling it to sleep. Because, for yet another year, the United Nations and the Iraqis will talk and talk as Saddam works and works to get weapons of mass destruction.

Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.

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