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Commentary: Saddam not ousted for weapons

By
AMIR TAHERI

LONDON, June 19 (UPI) -- The "Don't touch Saddam" lobby has transformed into a hunting party to chase British Prime Minister Tony Blair out of office. The claim is that Blair (and President Bush) "lied" about the reasons for the war against Saddam. A few months before the war, Blair published a dossier on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. At the time, some of us realized that the dossier contained many flaws. But that did mean that there was no justification for going to war against Saddam. His weapons program was only one of many issues between Saddam and the United Nations.

From August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait, to March 2003, when the U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq, the U.N. Security Council passed 18 resolutions related to the Iraqi dictator's policies and behavior. Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction was one of those issues. Others included:

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-- Saddam was asked to stop threatening Iraq's neighbors and fomenting instability in the region. He did not. Between 1990 and 2003, Iraq took threatening action against Kuwait on 61 separate occasions. Tehran, for its part, reported to the U.N. 218 instances in which Iraq violated the terms of its 1989 cease-fire with Iran. Any survey of Iraqi propaganda under Saddam would show it as a means of fomenting hatred against many Arab governments, thus acting against the region's peace and stability.

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-- The various resolutions also demanded that Iraq abandon claims against Kuwait once and for all. The National Assembly, Saddam's rubber-stamp parliament, passed a draft bill to abandon such claims – but the Revolutionary Command Council, the regime's highest organ, never gave final approval. Senior officials missed no opportunity to promise an eventual "reunification" of Kuwait with Iraq.

-- Various resolutions also demanded that Saddam stop violating the human rights of the Iraqi people and put an end to three decades of brutal repression. We now know that his henchmen were executing real or imagined opponents until April 8, just hours before the first U.S. troops entered Baghdad. By some estimates, Saddam's death machine murdered more than 100,000 Iraqis between 1991 and 2003. This includes those killed when he quelled the 1991 uprisings in southern Iraq.

The discovery of mass graves, the testimonies of thousands of former political prisoners and other evidence now available show that Saddam violated all the relevant U.N. resolutions.

-- Several resolutions demanded Saddam account for what happened to foreign nationals who vanished in Iraq in 1990-91. These included more than 600 Kuwaitis, kidnapped by the Iraqis in August 1990. For over a decade Saddam prevaricated, refusing to provide information, and dismissed the issue as irrelevant.

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-- Saddam also violated the resolutions and agreements related to the oil-for-food program. In some cases, he and his entourage embarked on criminal operations such as hoarding, smuggling food and medicine out of Iraq, and creating a black market. Many items imported by Iraq under the program were subsequently smuggled and sold in Jordan and Iran.

It is important to recall all this to show that the case of taking action against Saddam was not exclusively based on the issue of weapons. Finding and getting rid of such weapons in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and South Africa took 18 to 30 months, even though those governments all actively cooperated with the U.N. It is fanciful that similar results could be achieved in Iraq in a few weeks.

Not finding the weapons in a fixed timeframe does not mean they never existed. British and Spanish governments have been looking for weapons caches of Basque and Irish terrorist groups for 35 years and have found little. But everyone knows those groups have arms.

On the other hand, the Philippine government still finds weapons caches left by the Japanese over half a century ago.

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(Amir Taheri is a renowned Iranian journalist and the author of several books on the Middle East.)

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