Walker's World: Weapons inspections plus

By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent  |  Oct. 6, 2002 at 6:15 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The Iraqi crisis is not just about weapons inspections, and the French and Russians and American Democrats are fooling themselves if they think it is.

To understand why means identifying the difference between "regime change," which is what the Bush administration would prefer in Iraq, however offensive other nations may think this policy to be, and 'regime transformation," which is what the White House would accept as second best.

President George W. Bush went public with this policy in his speech last month before the United Nations, in which he went through the list of all the U.N. resolutions that Iraq had flouted. Perhaps some listeners thought this was no more than a rhetorical flourish. Not so. The resolutions that Bush cited add up to a regime-transforming policy.

Bush referred to four specific resolutions. There is the most familiar one, Resolution 687, which requires Iraq to destroy all weapons of mass destruction, end all related research and development projects, and open its doors to weapons inspectors.

Then there is Resolution 688, passed in the weeks after the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein's regime turned its guns on its own people. It says the U.N. Security Council "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, the consequences of which threaten international peace and security in the region; and demands that Iraq, as a contribution to remove the threat to international peace and security in the region, immediately end this repression."

Bush referred in broader terms to other resolutions. The first was 986, on Iraq's ability to sell limited amounts of oil, the proceeds to be spent, under U.N. supervision, on the food, medical and humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Bush insisted that the strict terms of this resolution be obeyed, which means that Iraq should end its contraband traffic in oil, and submit to U.N. controls over food distribution.

The second was Resolution 686, which requires full accounting from Iraq of all prisoners of war, the Gulf War missing and the loot stolen from Kuwait. The third was section 32 of resolution 686, which demands that Iraq "will not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory."

Consider the real meaning, on the ground, of each of these resolutions. Checking the fate of the Gulf War missing means inspecting prisons and all records of the Mukhabarat secret police and military police.

Checking that Iraq is not cheating on the oil sanctions regime means installing international inspectors -- with the power to call "Halt!" -- in the oil refineries, the ports, the food distribution system and the Iraqi budget. Ending terrorism and the support of terrorists will take this process of U.N.-authorized intrusion yet further. (Bear in mind that just a month ago, the famed, if elderly, terrorist Abu Nidal died in Baghdad, allegedly a suicide, although the circumstances were mysterious).

But Resolution 688, demanding that Iraq end its repression of its own civilians, is the cruncher, the crowbar that can force the transformation if not the collapse of the Saddam Hussein's regime. Few people who know Iraq believe that Saddam could last 24 hours without the entire panoply of secret police, torture and repression. End that, as the U.N. resolution has solemnly if ineffectually required for the past 11 years, and Iraq ceases to be a constant menace to its own people and to its neighbors.

That is why Bush's lists of the various resolutions was so important. And that is why the small print of the three draft resolutions before Congress over the last week is so central to U.S. policy.

The bipartisan draft from Democrat Senator Joseph Biden and Republican Senator Richard Lugar said that its purpose was "to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, and other resolutions and other resolutions approved by the Council which govern Iraqi compliance with resolution 687, in order to secure the dismantlement or destructions of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

In short, the Biden-Lugar draft misses the point. They think this is all about weapons inspections and weapons of mass destruction and they are thumpingly wrong. No wonder Bush insisted on blocking it at all costs; he wants ALL the resolutions enforced.

The original draft from the Bush administration cited the need to enforce both Resolution 687 and 688, and stressed that its text meant that Congress "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of Resolution 688." That means force to stop Iraq's repression.

The draft from the House of Representatives, as finally agreed with the White House, was even more elegantly inclusive. It said the Congress supports efforts by the president to "strictly enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq."

That should cover it; weapons, prisoners of war, repression, Mukhabarat, oil and food supplies and return of the loot stolen from the museums of Kuwait. Enforce all those together, and there is no need to topple Saddam. His wretched regime will have been transformed already.

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