2006-03-19

WP prewar editorials on Iraq

2003-01-05-Washington-Post A Confluence of Crises
2003-01-12-Washington-Post The Iraqi Charade
2003-01-16-Washington-Post Mr. Blix’s Irresolution
2003-01-22-Washington-Post The U.N. Endgame
2003-01-26-Washington-Post Follow the Resolution
2003-01-28-Washington-Post No More Last Chances
2003-01-29-Washington-Post ‘Decisive Days’ [SOTU]
2003-01-31-Washington-Post Test Mr. Sharon

2003-02-05-Washington-Post *** The Case for Action
2003-02-06-Washington-Post Irrefutable [Powell]
2003-02-09-Washington-Post More to Do
2003-02-11-Washington-Post Standing With Saddam
2003-02-13-Washington-Post The Perils of Passivity
2003-02-15-Washington-Post Sound and Fury
2003-02-16-Washington-Post Debating Points
2003-02-23-Washington-Post Democracy’s Choices
2003-02-26-Washington-Post The Second Resolution
2003-02-27-Washington-Post *** ‘Drumbeat’ on Iraq? A Response to Readers

2003-03-02-Washington-Post Words and Deeds
2003-03-09-Washington-Post Moment of Decision
2003-03-11-Washington-Post Are Inspections Working?
2003-03-12-Washington-Post Blaming the Jews [Moran]
2003-03-16-Washington-Post Damage Control
2003-03-17-Washington-Post Final Days
2003-03-18-Washington-Post ‘A Question of Will’
2003-03-20-Washington-Post First Strike




Analyses of the Editorials


2003-04-01-Gitlin
The Pro-War Post
by Todd Gitlin
The American Prospect, 2003-04-01
2005-02-08-Parry
Washington’s ‘Ricky Proehl Syndrome’
by Robert Parry
2006-04-20-Parry
Shame on the Post’s Editorial Page
by Robert Parry
2006-06-21-Parry
Wash Post Smears War Critics, Again
by Robert Parry




The Editorials


2003-01-05-Washington Post
A Confluence of Crises

President Bush approaches his third year in office facing the most daunting array of international challenges encountered by an American leader since the height of the Cold War. There is not just the continuing war with al Qaeda, but the possibility of war with Iraq; not just the threat of North Korea's revived nuclear program, but what looks like a similarly accelerated effort by Iran. The need to act on these multiple fronts simultaneously may make the coming few months the most important so far in Mr. Bush's presidency. They will demand not just wise decision-making but a broadening of what in the past two years has often been a narrow White House attention span. Much as the administration might wish to play down nation- building in Kabul so that it can be done in Baghdad, or induce a dictator like Kim Jong Il to postpone his provocations until a more convenient moment, it will need to act aggressively in all these theaters or risk fundamental and possibly irreversible damage to U.S. interests.

Some administration critics would argue that this world of trouble is, in large part, a product of U.S. policies. Given Mr. Bush's designation a year ago of an "axis of evil," and his subsequent public embrace of a policy that provides for using military force -- and even nuclear weapons -- to preempt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it perhaps shouldn't be surprising that all three members of the axis appear to be rushing to arm themselves before they can be stopped. The administration's unusually bold rhetoric, whether on preemption or the promotion of democracy, sometimes looks gratuitous or counterproductive when it is followed by considerably more cautious and pragmatic actions. The White House has, for example, ruled out military action as an option in Korea, and Mr. Bush recently said so publicly; yet many experts believe that North Korea's provocative behavior may be motivated in part by fear that, as a designated member of the "axis of evil," it would be an early target of Mr. Bush's preemption doctrine.

Still, the crises Mr. Bush now faces surely were inevitable once he made the decision, after Sept. 11, 2001, that the United States could no longer tolerate an international status quo that allowed hostile and aggressive dictatorships to pursue weapons of mass destruction largely unchecked. We believe that decision was the right one, and long overdue: By the late 1990s it had become clear that the Clinton administration's approach of trying to contain Iraq and Iran with sanctions was not working, that their programs to build weapons of mass destruction were still advancing. By last summer, U.S. intelligence agencies knew that the policy of buying off North Korea also had failed and that Pyongyang had secretly worked on nuclear weapons even as it sought further deals with Washington. To continue these failed policies, especially given the existence of terrorist networks known to be seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, would have invited catastrophic outcomes in a few years' time. Yet in deciding to work more actively to prevent the emergence of new U.S. adversaries armed with dangerous weapons, the Bush administration made confrontation with those enemies more likely now.

Having embraced this difficult but necessary strategy, Mr. Bush must now see it through. That he will do so seems far from certain at the moment: Though the president certainly appears determined to disarm Saddam Hussein, the administration's plan for North Korea -- "tailored containment" -- seems as vague and toothless as that term; and there appears to be no real policy at all for Iran. There are no easy or risk-free options in these cases; military action or preemption must necessarily be a last resort. But neither would it be wise for the administration to react to its present situation by returning the challenges it has taken on to the back burners where it found them. This looks like one of those formative moments in international affairs. Even a few months of inaction, or indecision, could force the United States to face a more dangerous world for years to come.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 5, 2003


2003-01-12-Washington Post
The Iraqi Charade

The inspection process in Iraq, regrettably, is proceeding according to past form, both on the ground and at the United Nations Security Council. While feigning openness before television cameras, Saddam Hussein's regime has resorted to the same tactics of evasion it practiced all during the 1990s. Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix reported Thursday that the weapons declaration Iraq was required to submit last month was "practically devoid of new evidence"; that some of the information it provided about nerve gas was contradicted by documents already in the inspectors' hands; and that Baghdad had not "made a serious effort" to supply the names of its weapons scientists. Consequently, and predictably, Mr. Blix reported that the inspectors had not found "any smoking gun" proving Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of action against Saddam Hussein, in turn, seized on Mr. Blix's phrase, arguing that unless such absolute proof is discovered by his team, the Security Council will have no option but to delay any decision on enforcement while extending the inspections indefinitely.

This is the same script that played out for seven years after Iraq's disarmament was first ordered in 1991, allowing Saddam Hussein to evade compliance before finally forcing the inspectors out. Because of that record, and because everyone knows that weapons can be successfully concealed, the Bush administration insisted that U.N. Resolution 1441 be framed differently: not as the mandate for another prolonged detective exercise but as a "last chance" for Iraq to voluntarily comply with past resolutions by disclosing its arsenal and cooperating in its destruction. The resolution says that a false disclosure, coupled with a failure of cooperation, requires the Security Council to convene and consider "serious consequences." Mr. Blix's report makes clear that these terms have been met; the discovery or non-discovery of weapons by the inspectors, under the resolution's terms, is irrelevant. Barring a radical change in Saddam Hussein's behavior in the next two weeks, the council ought to respond to Mr. Blix's first full report on Jan. 27 by drawing the obvious conclusions and following its own, unanimously approved outline for action. The British government and some in the administration are arguing for postponement, mostly for political reasons. That would risk dispatching 1441 to the same dustbin where lie the council's previous 16 resolutions on Iraq.

Senior Bush administration officials accept this logic; they also realize that, as a practical matter, the United States will find it hard to lead a successful military campaign -- or stabilize Iraq afterward -- unless it can convince most Americans and most U.S. allies that war is justified. This, in turn, will almost certainly require some public demonstration of the facts behind such statements as that made Thursday by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who said U.S. officials "know for a fact that there are weapons" in Iraq. As Mr. Blix's report made clear, the inspectors now are unlikely to produce such evidence, given the Iraqi stonewalling: In fact, they may not be able to talk to the people who have it. Mr. Blix said the list of weapons scientists that Baghdad provided did not even include all the names of those previously identified. And few are likely to speak openly following the sinister public announcement by the general who heads Iraq's weapons monitoring directorate that "nobody is ready" to leave the country for an unsupervised interview with the inspectors, as provided by 1441.

Perhaps a final tactical move will flush out the needed evidence. There is talk of submitting a list of specific questions to Baghdad, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told The Post that the administration has been feeding the inspectors intelligence. Should such a move fail, the Bush administration must shoulder the obligation to make clear to Americans and to the world what it knows about Saddam Hussein's arsenal. There may be no satellite photographs of smoking guns, but what there is should be made known, coupled with a demand that the Security Council hold Iraq to account for its material violation of Resolution 1441. The alternative is to slip into a game of charades that has been performed before -- one that Saddam Hussein has proved he can win.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 12, 2003


2003-01-16-Washington Post
Mr. Blix's Irresolution

The Security Countil's Resolution 1441 on Iraq, passed unanimously two months ago, was unambiguous in its purpose: to "afford Iraq . . . a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and to "set up an enhanced inspection regime" to verify whether a voluntary disarmament takes place. Iraq has so far refused to comply: In fact, it has already violated the resolution by submitting a declaration to the council denying that it has any weapons to dismantle. Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix, a Swedish diplomat, can see that his mission is failing. But rather than report that to the Security Council, as required by 1441, he is attempting to redefine both his mission and the resolution. In a series of interviews in recent days, Mr. Blix has said that the report he is required to make to the council on Jan. 27 will mark only "the beginning of the inspection and monitoring process, not the end of it," even though any extension must be the council's decision. He says he will report to the council again in March, even though 1441 provides for no such report, and supply a list of "key remaining disarmament tasks" for Iraq, even though the council has asked for no such list. "I am operating on my own timeline," says the nominal U.N. servant. He also has invented a new mission for his team: deterring, by its simple presence, future Iraqi misbehavior. "It's a form of containment," he said.

Opponents of the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq argued in the past for a mission like the one Mr. Blix now describes: "containment" of Saddam Hussein through the deployment of inspectors. Their arguments were rightly rejected by both the administration and the Security Council. The council did not decide to contain Iraq through inspections: It decided to strip it of weapons of mass destruction, either through Iraq's "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation, or by confronting Iraq with "serious consequences." Mr. Blix now tries to evade these terms by falling back on a previous council resolution, 1284, adopted in 1999 but never implemented. Technically, that resolution created Mr. Blix's inspection team, though it entered Iraq only under the terms of 1441. The text, adopted at a time when the council's will to confront Saddam Hussein had all but evaporated, calls for quarterly inspection reports, and offers Iraq the prospect of a lifting of U.N. sanctions if the inspectors decide it has complied with a list of disarmament tasks. By Mr. Blix's interpretation -- backed, of course, by Baghdad's advocates on the Security Council -- sanctions on Iraq could be lifted as early as this July.

The latest U.N. resolution mentions 1284 only in passing, along with 10 other unfulfilled U.N. resolutions on Iraq, and nowhere explicitly calls for its three-year-old timetable to be implemented. In fact, at the insistence of the United States, 1441 deliberately substitutes a new and tougher regime. Yet Mr. Blix would now contend that he is operating under the authority of the old resolution -- rather than the one passed on Nov. 8. His motive is obvious: He would like to head off U.S. military action at any cost, even though such action clearly has been justified by Iraq's failure to comply. "We can all be anxious and worried" about the current U.S. buildup, the diplomat said. "I represent disarmament through inspections, and we do our best to move on that line." Mr. Blix is entitled to his opinion; but his job is to implement, not reformulate, the Security Council's decisions. The Bush administration should insist that his freelancing end, and so should Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 16, 2003


2003-01-22-Washington Post
The U.N. Endgame

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 22, 2003

The United Nations Security Council may have reached an impasse on Iraq. Saddam Hussein's refusal to accept the "last chance" for voluntary disarmament offered by the council's Resolution 1441 has split the council into two opposing camps. One, led by the United States, takes seriously the council's threat of "serious consequences" in the event of Iraqi noncompliance -- meaning, very likely, a military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein's vile regime. The other, including France and Germany, in the face of war would abandon 1441 and fall back on a strategy of "containing" the Iraqi threat through continued inspections. Unless this divide can be overcome, the Bush administration will have to choose in the coming weeks between giving up on Iraqi disarmament and leading a military campaign without further approval from the United Nations. President Bush signaled yesterday that if pressed he will choose to act with a "coalition of the willing" rather than be blocked by the council's failure of nerve. That was the right message to send.

The report to the Security Council due Monday by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, could well touch off an acrimonious debate about whether Iraq has or has not complied with the council's last order for disarmament -- particularly as Mr. Blix, who sees his mission as heading off a war at any cost, is likely to duck the central issue. That question is relatively simple: Has Iraq agreed to immediately and voluntarily disclose and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, and to allow inspectors to verify those actions? The answer is equally plain: It has not. In fact, it has denied that it has any weapons to dismantle, submitted a declaration to the council that even Mr. Blix had to concede was manifestly false, and done its best to prevent the inspectors from uncovering its lies, in part by bottling up its scientists. Meanwhile, evidence is leaking out anyway: Undeclared chemical warheads have been found, illegal imports of missile parts discovered, explosives that could be used in nuclear warheads gone missing. The only way to avoid the conclusion that Iraq is again refusing to disarm, and that action must thus be taken, is to ignore all these facts or recast the U.N. mission.

France and Germany have chosen the latter course, with the tacit cooperation of Mr. Blix. War against Iraq, they argue, would create unacceptable risks: It could increase terrorism, widen the gulf between the West and the Islamic world and destabilize the Middle East. Why take those risks, they argue, when just stationing inspectors in Iraq would likely ensure that Saddam Hussein did not use his arsenal? "Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin argued Monday. It's true that any war will bring risks and painful costs. But Mr. de Villepin's strategy has been tried before. The results were these: Iraq never fully disclosed its weapons, and inspectors were never able to find many of them. France soon turned from supporting the inspectors to demanding that their mission be wrapped up. Eventually Saddam Hussein succeeded in driving the inspectors out, while keeping biological and chemical warheads as well as a nuclear weapons program.

"This looks like a rerun of a bad movie," President Bush said yesterday. He's right; and the United States cannot afford to allow the French script to be replayed. Instead, Mr. Bush should offer a detailed public explanation of what the United States knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and challenge the United Nations, one last time, to preserve its relevance by acting to implement Resolution 1441. In the meantime, the administration should continue to prepare the military coalition that even now is taking shape in the Persian Gulf. It would be best if that coalition could act with full Security Council support; but it can, if necessary, succeed without it.


2003-01-26-Washington Post
Follow the Resolution

Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, offered a revealing hint the other day of what the thrust of his first report to the U.N. Security Council will be tomorrow: Saddam Hussein's cooperation with the latest U.N. resolution ordering his disarmament, he said, has been "a mixed bag." That sounds to us like an awfully generous description of the facts, considering that Iraq, by Mr. Blix's own account, responded to Resolution 1441's requirement for a full disclosure of its weapons of mass destruction with a blatantly false declaration; that it has refused to make its scientists available for unmonitored interviews; that it has blocked U-2 aerial overflights; and that despite all this, the inspectors have already found undeclared chemical warheads and illegally imported missile parts. Yet even if it is accurate, Mr. Blix's phrase points to the most serious emerging problem in the Security Council's handling of Iraq. Resolution 1441 offered Saddam Hussein "a last chance" to voluntarily disarm; it said that a false disclosure, coupled with "failure by Iraq at any time to comply . . . and cooperate fully" is a "material breach" that should trigger consideration by the council of "serious consequences," including military action. There is no tolerance in this formulation for "a mixed bag"; yet Mr. Blix probably will decline to report a material breach by Iraq, and both he and several members of the council will likely propose that instead of considering consequences, the council should simply allow the inspections to continue.

There is simply no way to square this proposed course with the terms of 1441, and the advocates of temporization, led by France and Germany, don't try very hard to do so. Instead, they set aside the text and offer a series of hypocritical rationalizations. It's true, they say privately, that Saddam Hussein hasn't complied with the resolution, but he might once he feels the pressure of the U.S. and British troops assembling around Iraq -- deployments Paris and Berlin publicly condemn as a "rush to war." Privately, officials acknowledge that Iraq does have hidden chemical and biological weapons; publicly, they insist that no action can be justified unless the inspectors manage to uncover them. At bottom, the argument is this: Saddam Hussein might be flouting a unanimously approved U.N. resolution, but as long as the inspectors are there, he is unlikely to use his weapons, and such containment is preferable to war, with all its risks and costs.

The French and Germans are right about war: It is always terrible, it can have unpredictable results, and democracies can embrace it only as a last resort. Yet their posturing, combined with the waffling of Mr. Blix, has made war more rather than less likely. Saddam Hussein can draw only one message from the current debate: that the Security Council no more has the will to force disarmament on him now than it did in the 1990s. Mr. Blix's report and the European reactions will encourage him to cooperate not more, but less. He might be contained for a while, but in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, another failure by the world's powers to enforce Iraqi disarmament would be a disaster even worse than war: It would touch off a rush by rogue states for nuclear weapons. Consequently, the absence of firmness by the council will only force the Bush administration to conclude that it has no choice other than to bypass the United Nations and lead a "coalition of the willing" into Iraq. That coalition likely would include half or more of the members of the NATO alliance; France and Germany, more than the United States, would risk isolation.

The rift towards which the Western allies now are headed, which only the world's despots and terrorists could welcome, can still be avoided. A solution could begin with a simple statement of the truth tomorrow by Mr. Blix, who ought to drop his mixed bag and simply report the indisputable fact that Iraq is in material breach of the terms of 1441. The council could then decide on actions, or at least set a deadline for action to be taken. If European governments wish to postpone a final decision on military intervention for a few weeks, the Bush administration should be ready to show patience; but if inspections are to be continued despite Iraqi noncompliance, the council ought to clearly define what their purpose is. In the end only a unified and determined stand by the council, backed by a readiness for war, has a chance of bringing about the necessary change in Iraq by peaceful means. If that fails, council members will have to decide whether to preserve the credibility of the United Nations -- or hand over the enforcement of global order to the United States.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 26, 2003


2003-01-28-Washington Post
No More Last Chances

The vital point of the presentations by Iraq arms inspectors to the United Nations Security Council yesterday came at the beginning. "The fundamental aim of inspections in Iraq has always been to verify disarmament," said chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. But Iraq, he said, "appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it." Mr. Blix went on to present, in a deliberately understated way, a devastating catalogue of lies, omissions and obfuscations by Iraq in the 21/2 months since the council passed Resolution 1441, which was meant to give Saddam Hussein "a final opportunity" to give up weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of nuclear inspections, made it clear that Iraq did not embrace that chance. Yet the two men dodged the obvious question their reports raised: If Saddam Hussein did not accept voluntary disarmament, what purpose could be served by the continued inspections they both advocate?

Mr. Blix seems to hope that Saddam Hussein might change his mind. He offered Baghdad suggestions about what genuine cooperation might look like: It could declare banned weapons and destroy them under U.N. supervision, turn over documents it has hidden, allow unmonitored interviews with scientists it has effectively silenced - - or at least disclose the thousands of scientists' names it has withheld. This indeed would give his inspectors something to do. But there is no indication that Iraq is contemplating such an about- face: On the contrary, Mr. Blix made clear that Iraq's response to a list of questions and demands he delivered in a showdown meeting in Baghdad last week was another stonewall.

Mr. ElBaradei also invited a dramatic reversal, teasing Iraq with the possibility that if it fully cooperated with his team, he could declare it clean of nuclear weapons programs within a few months. But Mr. ElBaradei's real plea for additional inspections was a familiar one: Even if Iraq is not cooperating, he said, inspectors might be able to uncover its weapons programs through "investigative inspections"; meanwhile, the mere "presence of international inspectors in Iraq today continues to serve as an effective deterrent." This strategy was tried during the 1990s, but it decisively failed; consequently, it was explicitly rejected by the council during the drafting of 1441. Mr. ElBaradei, like Mr. Blix, is trying to use his technical position to recast the Security Council's decisions.

Rather than yield to the inspectors and offer Iraq yet another last chance, the council would do better to simply obey the resolution it approved unanimously just 11 weeks ago. The terms of 1441 said that if Iraq submitted a false declaration of its weapons - - as all agree it did on Dec. 8 -- and failed "at any time" to "cooperate fully" -- Mr. Blix detailed a number of instances -- Baghdad would be in "material breach" of the resolution and the council would be bound to meet to consider consequences. Only if the council sticks to its own decisions will there be any chance that Saddam Hussein will change his.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 28, 2003


2003-01-29-Washington Post
‘Decisive Days’

President Bush approached his State of the Union address last night facing a critical moment in international affairs, with a war looming in Iraq and another crisis unfolding on the Korean Peninsula. Much of the country -- and the world -- was waiting to hear how he would describe his policy toward dictators Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, members of the "axis of evil" he defined a year ago -- particularly as Mr. Bush had not yet made a concerted effort to explain to Americans and foreign allies why his administration is preparing to launch an invasion of Iraq that will involve painful costs and considerable risks. Yet the State of the Union is never a single-issue affair, and Mr. Bush, after acknowledging the "decisive days that lie ahead," chose to begin with his distinctly less dramatic agenda for the U.S. economy. He devoted half of his address to a rehash of proposals for energy policy, faith-based social programs, hydrogen-powered automobiles and, of course, tax cuts, coupled with a vague sketch of a new plan for including prescription drug coverage in a reformed Medicare. Then he reprised the administration's case against Saddam Hussein but did not expand on it, instead saying that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would brief the United Nations Security Council next week on Iraq's weapons programs and connections with terrorist groups. Along the way, he blithely ignored a connection that ought to be obvious: that there is, or should be, a tradeoff between the huge continuing costs of the war on terrorism and the ability of the government to offer both expensive new social programs and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Mr. Bush promised not to "pass along our problems to other Congresses, other presidents and other generations," yet that would be the effect of his proposed $670 billion tax cut, which would worsen the already mounting deficit and result in less leeway to deal with a war in Iraq and other looming costs. The gauziness of Mr. Bush's proposal to reform Medicare -- "all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs" - - avoided the serious questions of how that can be achieved, even with the hefty price tag placed on it by the president himself: an additional $400 billion over the next decade. Likewise, the president sidestepped the difficulties facing the Social Security program.

The most striking new proposal was Mr. Bush's welcome pledge to do more to combat the AIDS epidemic. Noting that the cost of rescuing one of the 30 million people in Africa infected with HIV had fallen to less than $300 a year, he asked Congress to appropriate $15 billion over the next five years, including $10 billion in new money, "to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." Such a commitment, he said, would offer drug treatment to 2 million Africans -- still slight compared with the challenge, but a huge and overdue improvement. Congress should quickly embrace this plan.

When at last he turned to the crises abroad, Mr. Bush restated his administration's approach to North Korea without making any clearer a policy that has appeared mostly muddled in recent weeks. On Iraq, where American soldiers could be fighting and dying in a few weeks' time, Mr. Bush chose to focus once again on Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations' demand for disarmament. He reprised, again, Iraq's failure to account for biological and chemical weapons or materials and its attempts to block or deceive U.N. weapons inspectors. But Mr. Bush revealed little of the intelligence the administration says it has on the Iraqi arsenal, and he said little about what the costs of a war might be, or about the commitment the United States would make to a postwar Iraq. His case against Saddam Hussein was strong; but it left him with much still to do in the coming weeks.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 29, 2003


2003-01-31-Washington Post
Test Mr. Sharon

Although he disagrees with the vast majority of voters about the most important issue facing the country, Ariel Sharon was easily reelected this week as Israeli prime minister. The reasons for this paradox are relatively straightforward. Though Israelis overwhelmingly favor a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians based on the creation of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the withdrawal of Jewish settlements to make room for it, they also accept Mr. Sharon's contention that no credible Palestinian leadership exists with which such a deal can be struck. More than an indication of Israeli hawkishness, the election reflected the failure of Palestinian moderates, and their allies in the Arab Middle East and Europe, to stop suicide bombings and implement serious political reforms.

Mr. Sharon, who wishes to postpone a permanent peace settlement indefinitely, played a role in that failure. He effectively destroyed the infrastructure of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority during his first two years in office, and more recently he has helped block the emergence of moderate alternatives to Mr. Arafat. He also encouraged the steady expansion of West Bank settlements, including the creation of dozens of new outposts on previously unoccupied land. But the prime minister knows his public: During the campaign he repeatedly assured Israelis that he supports President Bush's vision of peace between side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states, and he promised to cooperate with the administration's effort to realize that vision. Israeli skeptics question his sincerity; they note that as a practical matter, Mr. Sharon opposes many of the provisions of the three-year "road map" prepared by the administration, starting with the freeze on settlements penciled in for this year.

The election results nevertheless offer the administration an opportunity to press for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Mr. Bush has seemed to make a principle of avoiding friction with Mr. Sharon; on the rare occasions when they have been at odds, Mr. Bush has usually backed down. No serious administration initiatives can now be expected until after the confrontation with Iraq is resolved -- and even then no progress will be possible unless Palestinians can muster the will to stop their terrorists and implement serious political reform. Yet Mr. Bush can, and should, take Mr. Sharon's public acceptance of the American vision at face value. Israel, like Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, is seeking a supplemental package of U.S aid to compensate it for the costs of turmoil in the region: Mr. Sharon has asked for $8 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and an additional $4 billion in new military aid. New aid to Israel may be merited on security grounds; but if so, it should be directly linked to U.S. security goals. The administration and Congress need attach only one condition to the Israeli package: that it be disbursed as soon as a full settlement freeze is implemented. Doing so would put Mr. Sharon's promises to the test, both for the White House and for Israelis who gave him their votes this week.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Jan 31, 2003


2003-02-05-Washington Post
*** The Case for Action

Even before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council today, it is clear that Iraq has not complied with Resolution 1441, which offered it a "final opportunity" to voluntarily disarm. Neither the U.N. weapons inspectors nor any permanent member of the council contends that Iraq has "fully" cooperated, as the resolution requires. Barring a dramatic change of behavior by Saddam Hussein in the coming weeks, that means a military intervention to disarm Iraq would be justified, even if the council passed no further resolutions. Still, there is a larger question that the United States and its allies must answer, and that underlies the debate that will begin: Even if it is lawful, is war the right course? The threshold for deciding on military action must be high, and there are legitimate questions to answer: Is Iraq genuinely a threat to U.S. security, and must it be dealt with now? Given the suffering that every war brings, the potential economic and political costs, and the likelihood of unforeseen consequences, would it be better to settle for a strategy of containing Saddam Hussein through continued U.N. sanctions and inspections? This would involve abandoning the tougher course the Security Council approved by a unanimous vote just 12 weeks ago; but if the Bush administration endorsed it, much of the country -- and the world -- would approve.

Yet we believe that it would be a mistake for the United States and its allies, confronted with continued intransigence, to shrink again from decisive action in Iraq. Unless unexpected change takes place in Baghdad, the United States should lead a force to remove Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and locate and destroy its chemical and biological weapons and its nuclear program. The Iraqi regime poses a threat not just to the United States but to global order. The removal of Saddam Hussein would advance the task of containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states. It also would free millions of Iraqis from deprivation and oppression and make possible a broader movement to reshape the Arab Middle East, where political and economic backwardness have done much to spawn extremists such as al Qaeda. In contrast, a continued failure to act would send dictators and terrorists a devastating message about the impotence of the United States and the United Nations. It would encourage extremists in their rush for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

That Iraq has the capacity to threaten vital U.S. interests has been clear at least since 1990, when Saddam Hussein's army invaded Kuwait, seized its oil fields and stood ready to move on to Saudi Arabia. Had Saddam Hussein waited the few months that his scientists then needed to complete a nuclear weapon, the United States might not have reversed the invasion; should he acquire them and again seek domination of the Middle East, the West would face a challenge like that now posed by North Korea, with far higher stakes. The 1991 Persian Gulf War did not eliminate the Iraqi threat, because Saddam Hussein and most of his army and arsenal survived; so the first Bush administration and the Security Council adopted a strategy of containment. This involved ordering Iraq to give up chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, dispatching inspectors to verify that process, and indefinitely extending sanctions that crippled Iraq's economy.

Those who advocate containment through inspections ignore that strategy's costly failure during the 1990s. Inspectors traipsed through Iraq for seven years as Baghdad defied or ignored one Security Council resolution after the next. The most dangerous chemical and biological weapons were not discovered for four years, and then only with the help of a defector. After that, Iraq stepped up its concealment operation, leaving thousands of tons of chemical and biological materiel and dozens of missiles missing; as inspector Hans Blix reported last week, they are still unaccounted for. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people suffered terribly, even as Saddam Hussein built new palaces. There were widespread reports of deaths through malnutrition and lack of medicine, and many Arab extremists, including Osama bin Laden, reaped political capital by blaming the United States. Eventually, the Security Council's will to maintain the containment regime collapsed, and in 1998 Saddam Hussein was able to drive out the inspectors.

At the time, there was broad consensus about the lessons and consequences of what had happened. Congress passed, and President Clinton endorsed, a resolution shifting U.S. policy in Iraq from containment to regime change. "In this century, we learned through harsh experience that the only answer to aggression and illegal behavior is firmness," Mr. Clinton said while he still occupied the White House. "If we fail to respond today, Saddam, and all those who would follow in his footsteps, will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council."

Yet Mr. Clinton did fail to respond. Saddam Hussein had four years to strengthen his arsenal, even as the sanctions effectively collapsed. According to Mr. Blix and Western intelligence agencies, he illegally imported hundreds of new missile engines and rebuilt production facilities. He created drones and mobile biological laboratories and sought nuclear material from several nations. Mr. Powell probably will add more to that indictment today. The Bush administration promised a tougher response, but only after Sept. 11, 2001, was it able to summon the will. President Bush, along with most of Congress and the American public, was driven to accept the point made by President Clinton: that the United States, and the world, cannot allow rogue regimes to build deadly weapons in open defiance of international law and the United Nations. The fresh documentation of al Qaeda's hunt for weapons of mass destruction, and the danger that it has or might acquire such weapons from Saddam Hussein, have only sharpened that point.

The people of Iraq and its region would benefit from an end to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, who is guilty of some of the most terrible war crimes and human rights violations of the past 50 years. He has tortured, gassed and slaughtered his people and has invaded two neighboring nations. The liberation of Iraq's people would present the United States and its allies with a difficult and prolonged challenge of nation-building. If poorly handled -- and reports of the administration's planning so far do not inspire confidence -- the postwar era could inject serious new problems into a troubled region. But if the goal of preserving a unified Iraq under the administration of a democratic regime were achieved, it could give decisive impetus to nascent movements for reform that exist throughout the Middle East.

In the end, though, a war in Iraq would not be primarily a humanitarian exercise but an operation essential to American security. President Bush's move toward action on Iraq has not been a bolt from the blue or a departure from past U.S. policy, though the administration's clumsy handling of its arguments and allies has sometimes made it look that way. Nor must it be seen as an exercise in Mr. Bush's new doctrine of preemption, though ideologues on both sides would portray it as such. Rather, it is the completion of a vital mission of international security repeatedly confirmed by the U.N. Security Council, by a Democratic president and by bipartisan majorities of Congress. War is never to be welcomed. But a decade of failed diplomacy and containment has brought the nation and its allies to a point where war may soon be the only credible option for ending the threat of Saddam Hussein.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 5, 2003


2003-02-06-Washington Post
Irrefutable

After Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Powell left no room to argue seriously that Iraq has accepted the Security Council's offer of a "final opportunity" to disarm. And he offered a powerful new case that Saddam Hussein's regime is cooperating with a branch of the al Qaeda organization that is trying to acquire chemical weapons and stage attacks in Europe. Mr. Powell's evidence, including satellite photographs, audio recordings and reports from detainees and other informants, was overwhelming. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called it "powerful and irrefutable." Revealing those tapes and photographs had a cost, as Iraq will surely take countermeasures. But the decision to make so much evidence public will prove invaluable if it sways public opinion here and abroad. At a minimum, it will stand as a worthy last effort to engage the United Nations in facing a threat that the United States could, if necessary, address alone or with an ad-hoc coalition.

Whether Iraq is disarmed through the authority of the United Nations or whether the United States effectively assumes responsibility depends on how the Security Council responds. Though much of Mr. Powell's report was new to many Americans and Europeans, it probably did not surprise the governments that have most strongly opposed action in Iraq, including France and Germany. Diplomats from these nations do not dispute Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's assertion that "any country on the face of the Earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." All supported Security Council Resolution 1441, which said a false statement by Iraq about its weapons, coupled with failure "at any time" to "cooperate fully" in disarmament, would be a "material breach" leading to "serious consequences." None say Iraq has complied. Until now, however, they have cynically argued that the inspectors must uncover evidence proving what they already know, or that it's too early to judge Saddam Hussein's cooperation. Mr. Powell's presentation stripped all credibility from that dodge.

France was ready with a fallback position yesterday. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin acknowledged Iraq's defiance of the Security Council and the consequent failure of inspections and then argued that the world should respond by . . . dispatching more inspectors. This hardly qualifies as the "serious consequences" Paris formally endorsed on Nov. 8, but Mr. de Villepin argued, in effect, that a climb down is preferable to war. Indeed, war must always be a last resort, but the French solution offers no credible path to Iraqi disarmament. Twelve years of experience have demonstrated that it is impossible to strip an unwilling totalitarian government of its weapons by such means. As Mr. Powell asked, how could inspections ever determine which 18 of Iraq's tens of thousands of trucks carry mobile biological weapons labs? By choosing such a course, the Security Council would send Saddam Hussein the message that it remains the ineffectual body that shrank from enforcing 16 previous resolutions. By proposing it, France and those who support it are setting the stage for another momentous development they claim to oppose: the transfer of responsibility for countering the most serious threats to international security from multilateral institutions to the world's sole superpower.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 6, 2003


2003-02-09-Washington Post
More to Do

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation of evidence against Iraq last week had a predictably powerful impact on public opinion, at least in the United States. Polls now show that a substantial majority of Americans believe the Bush administration has laid out enough proof to back up its case for action against Saddam Hussein -- meaning that Mr. Powell may have plugged one of the largest holes in what has, since last summer, been a concerted but sometimes poorly managed campaign. Still, there is much political and diplomatic work President Bush must do if he is to maximize his chances of success in what would be a risky and costly intervention. It's not enough for the administration to convince the country that Iraq represents a threat that has to be faced. Mr. Bush must now be clear with Americans about what the costs and commitments of a Middle East war will be; he should articulate a clear postwar plan for Iraq and the region around it; and he must try to prevent a split with historical U.S. allies.

At the center of these issues is an obligation that the president finally address, squarely and in public, the question of how Iraq will be secured and governed after a war that removes Saddam Hussein, and what the U.S. commitment to that effort will be. Mr. Bush has talked vaguely of preventing Iraq's dissolution and fostering a representative government, but he has yet to lay out a clear road map. Who will rule Iraq, and how? Who will provide security? How long will U.S. troops remain? Will the United Nations have a role? Who will manage Iraq's oil resources? Many of these questions appear not to have been answered even inside the administration; this has fueled considerable anxiety among both European and Arab governments, which worry that the United States will not commit to the long haul of building a peaceful and democratic Iraq. Mr. Bush should publicly and convincingly offer that long-term commitment, even if some of the operational details are missing. Better still would be the articulation of a broader vision of how the United States can help to foster political liberalization and economic development in the Middle East in the aftermath of a war, together with an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

A clear postwar plan would likely alleviate another pressing problem -- the danger that the debate over Iraq will inflict deep and possibly irreversible damage on institutions that have been anchors of global order, from the U.N. Security Council to the NATO alliance and even the European Union. The looming rift is not all or even mainly the fault of the United States: France, Germany and other European states have for years irresponsibly ducked the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and now they appear to view constraining the United States as a higher priority than disarming a rogue state. Still, the Bush administration has made a difficult situation worse through arrogant and high-handed treatment of countries that have stood with the United States for decades: The gratuitous jibes of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who last week lumped Germany with Cuba and Libya, are one example. Mr. Bush and his Cabinet would do far better to use their energy to try to fashion a new U.N. resolution on Iraq that could be supported at least by France and Russia, if not by Germany; even if the effort failed, it would be preferable to public exchanges of insults.

The reality is that any U.S. intervention in Iraq will surely be the beginning of a new, prolonged and costly engagement in the region -- whatever the administration's promises and plans. It will likely dwarf U.S. involvement in the Balkans, where the six-month campaign in Bosnia promised by the Clinton administration has stretched to seven years and two neighboring countries; it could become the most ambitious American foreign venture since the Vietnam War. The effort is overdue and, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, unavoidable. It will be well worth even a high cost if it eventually succeeds not only in disarming Saddam Hussein but in alleviating the political oppression and economic failure that have done much to foster Islamic extremism. Still, the United States cannot sustain such an engagement unless there is a strong public consensus behind it, and so far Mr. Bush has made little effort to explain the challenges, much less prepare the country to meet them. It is time for him to begin.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 9, 2003


2003-02-11-Washington Post
Standing With Saddam

France and Germany have finally responded to Iraq's flagrant violation of United Nations disarmament orders by mounting an offensive. Yet the target of their campaign is not Saddam Hussein but the United States -- and the proximate casualties look to be not the power structures of a rogue dictator but the international institutions that have anchored European and global security. Yesterday in Brussels, the two European governments, seconded by tiny Belgium, blocked the NATO alliance from making preparations to defend Turkey in the event of a war, even though the planning was supported by the alliance's 16 other members. The two governments, meanwhile, sought support from Russia for a proposal to substitute an increase in U.N. inspectors, possibly accompanied by peacekeeping forces, for the "serious consequences" the Security Council threatened if Iraq did not voluntarily dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. Berlin and Paris say their purpose is to offer a peaceful way out of the Iraq crisis. But their exclusion of the Bush administration from their planning suggests that the real aim is to obstruct council endorsement of the military intervention that the United States is preparing.

One result will be the enfeebling of both NATO and the United Nations -- the very disaster that Germany and France once feared the United States would cause. Only six months ago it was Germany and France that appealed to the United States to take the case of Iraqi disarmament to the United Nations; a year ago they reproached Washington for not involving NATO more in the war against terrorism. The Bush administration responded by making a powerful and detailed case against Iraq before NATO and the Security Council, and challenging both to act. With France's support, the Security Council crafted Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq "a final opportunity" to peacefully disarm while making clear that anything short of "full cooperation" at "any time" would forfeit the chance. Having passed such a resolution, the Security Council risks a crippling forfeit of its credibility if it backs down now -- yet that is exactly what France and Germany propose.

Their idea of reinforcing the inspectors makes little sense even to Hans Blix, the chief of the inspection team. "The principal problem," Mr. Blix said yesterday, "is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side." Saddam Hussein is trying to create the illusion of that cooperation through incremental procedural concessions, such as the reported acceptance yesterday of surveillance flights. But there remains no substance: Mr. Blix reported receiving no "new evidence that I can see" on his latest visit to Baghdad. That is the product of the French-German posturing: Saddam Hussein, perceiving the rift in NATO, now calibrates his actions to perpetuate it, while still avoiding disarmament. Yesterday he made the connection explicit, saying that those who want aerial surveillance for inspections "should tell America and Britain not to open fire at us." Added his longtime henchman, Tariq Aziz: "Mr. Bush . . . should give weapons inspectors enough time to continue their work."

That their slogans are being mimicked by Baghdad's thugs ought to trouble French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. And perhaps they would be uneasy if their priorities were to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, restore the credibility of NATO and the Security Council, and steer the Bush administration into a multilateral approach to global security. More and more, however, the two leaders behave as if they share the same overriding goal as the Iraqi dictator: thwarting U.S. action even when it is supported by most other NATO and European nations. They have next to no chance of succeeding, but they could poison international relations for years to come.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 11, 2003


2003-02-13-Washington Post
The Perils of Passivity

Many Washingtonians, frightened after several days of new threats and increased talk of war, wonder whether the nation is foolishly poking a hornet's nest. Why must the United States attack Saddam Hussein if that will only anger much of the Islamic world? Don't the latest threats from Osama bin Laden or his proxy prove the recklessness of America's aggressive stance? Such questions reflect an understandable and justified anxiety. But they also reflect a mistaken view of the broader war in which the United States finds itself, through no choice of its own.

For more than two decades, the country tried a strategy of not poking the hornet's nest -- a strategy of accommodation, half- measures and wishful thinking. In the 1980s the United States sold arms to the Iranian government that had kidnapped American citizens and withdrew its Marines from Lebanon after a suicide bomber destroyed their barracks. In the 1990s a warlord's attacks prompted America to retreat from Somalia, and a fundamentalist government in Afghanistan allowed thousands of Islamist extremists to learn to kill Americans while America, knowing what was happening, did not interfere. Terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, a U.S. military dormitory in Saudi Arabia in 1996, two American embassies in Africa in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000 -- and each time America responded feebly or not at all. During the past decade the United States vowed many times to disarm Saddam Hussein, who made no secret of his hatred and enmity toward the United States; but when the Iraqi dictator resisted, the United States chose to abandon its vows rather than use the force that would have been needed to enforce them. In every case, the calculation, stated or unstated, was the same: Pay tribute, don't make trouble, and maybe nothing worse will happen.

In the ruins of Lower Manhattan in September 2001, most Americans saw evidence that this calculation was incorrect as well as craven. The nation's enemies would not be deterred or mollified by a gentle response; they would be emboldened. President Bush rightly concluded that the nation had to defend itself more vigilantly -- but also that no defense could succeed unless accompanied by an offensive against the terrorists and the states that sheltered them.

The resolve to disarm Saddam Hussein, finally, 12 years after the United Nations first insisted, grows inescapably from this new understanding. He shelters terrorists who have killed Americans and who would like to kill more. He owns large stocks of chemical and biological weapons and has considerable experience in their use. To allow him once again to outmaneuver the United Nations and continue his quest for nuclear weapons would subject Americans to unacceptable risks. It would also show other terrorist sponsors that, brave 9/11 rhetoric notwithstanding, they still have nothing to fear. The longer he remains unchallenged, the greater the risk.

Last week's orange alert and this week's al Qaeda tape remind the nation of real perils. The audiotape shows the Islamicists' willingness to set aside their disdain for Iraq's secular rule in the greater shared struggle against America. Al Qaeda does not need new pretexts to launch new attacks, but it may seek to time attacks to coincide with American war or preparations for it. Americans are right to prepare as best they can and to insist that the government do more to inform and defend -- and they are right to be nervous.

Yet they would be wrong to let fear cloud their judgment. A war with Iraq, if it comes to that, won't automatically make the world less dangerous; much will depend on America's commitment to help Iraq rebuild and reform. But what is certain is that the attacks will not stop, nor the dangers fade, if the United States backs down in the face of threats. That approach has been tried.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 13, 2003


2003-02-15-Washington Post
Sound and Fury

The latest meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq generated much emotional rhetoric but little change in the situation. Inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei reported again that Saddam Hussein has not accounted for his weapons of mass destruction or cooperated fully with the inspectors, as required by Resolution 1441. They suggested no alteration of Iraq's practice of offering partial collaboration on procedure but no collaboration on the actual substance of disarmament. Britain and the United States tried again to call attention to the path laid out by the council in a unanimous vote three months ago: Failure by Iraq "at any time" to comply was defined as a "material breach" mandating the council's consideration of "serious consequences" -- which all understood to mean military intervention. Finally, France, Germany and Russia argued -- to the applause of the gallery -- that the terms of Resolution 1441 simply be disregarded and that inspections continue despite Iraq's refusal to cooperate. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, ignoring Mr. Blix's statement that "it is not the task of the inspectors" to locate Iraq's stockpiles, proposed that they be charged with doing just that -- and that force not be considered unless the inspectors reported that they were "unable to work."

Most of the speeches, like that of Mr. de Villepin, were directed at global opinion. The French minister devoted far more of his speech to proclaiming France's love of peace than to explaining how the dispatch of more inspectors would get results when even the chief inspector doesn't think so. But it's worth considering how one particular spectator -- Saddam Hussein -- must have reacted to this show. Surely he noticed the deep divide in the council and the focus by France and its followers on blocking action by the United States. He listened as meaningless or even ludicrous gestures on his part, such as yesterday's announcement of a decree outlawing the production of chemical and biological weapons, were described as gratifying steps forward by veto-wielding members of the Security Council. And he heard the French government say that as long as he stops short of forcing inspectors out of his country, there will be no war. Saddam Hussein's conclusion is easy: He can safely continue his strategy of dickering over procedure with the inspectors while continuing to hide his weapons.

Yesterday's session diminished hope that the council will face up to the responsibility of implementing its resolutions on Iraq. Mr. Blix did report that Iraq has produced dozens of illegal missiles that should be destroyed; if Iraq refuses orders to do so in the coming weeks, the council could feel compelled to respond. Both the inspectors and the French also contended that inspector-managed disarmament could be completed quickly. If that's the case, then they should be prepared to set a deadline for full Iraqi compliance. The Bush administration still intends to seek another council resolution, and it should do whatever it can to prevent the Iraq debate from damaging the United Nations and the NATO alliance -- including curbing the intemperate rhetoric it has directed at Paris and Berlin. But the United States cannot again join the Security Council in backing down from a confrontation with the Iraqi dictator, as it did repeatedly during the 1990s, also under pressure from France and Russia. Saddam Hussein was offered a "final opportunity"; no member of the council contends that he accepted it. Even if others lose their nerve, the United States must ensure that this time the dictator suffers the "serious consequences" that are due.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 15, 2003


2003-02-16-Washington Post
Debating Points

Although the debate over Iraq has been prolonged and heated, the grounds on which it takes place, at least in the United States, have steadily narrowed. Most congressional critics of President Bush start by conceding most of his case against Saddam Hussein. As Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, put it last year, "the one thing which we can all agree upon is that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East." Also, that "he has defied the will of the entire world, as expressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions." And also, that "the threat . . . could ultimately lead to committing U.S. military forces, including ground forces, into combat." Yet Sen. Levin, together with a number of other members of Congress and foreign policy experts, continues to oppose the administration's move toward a military intervention in the coming weeks. The opponents' arguments are sometimes incoherent or groundless, such as the suggestions that the U.S. campaign is motivated by an undisclosed agenda to defend Israel or seize Iraq's oil. But several are worth careful consideration.

Begin with Sen. Levin, who has been one of the most cogent critics. In a recent television appearance, the senator acknowledged that Saddam Hussein has violated Resolution 1441, the "final opportunity" offered him by the Security Council. He nevertheless argued that the United States should go along with proposals for continued inspections, because any action without additional approval from the United Nations would be wrongly "unilateral." The first part of this argument makes the least sense: By its logic, the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, which Sen. Levin supported, also would have been "unilateral" and thus unjustified. In this case, the Security Council has passed a specific resolution providing for "serious consequences." The problem is not that authority to act is lacking but that a handful of countries are seeking to block the implementation of a unanimously approved resolution. If they succeed, they, and not the Bush administration, will have subverted the Security Council.

Sen. Levin's larger argument, that intervention in Iraq would be too risky without a broad alliance, is stronger. Yet it now appears that at least two dozen nations, including a decisive majority of the NATO alliance, will back the United States. The risk of a war must also be balanced against the damage to global security from another prolonged and feckless routine of inspections in Iraq. Those who propose such containment rarely acknowledge the previous failure and collapse of that strategy, nor do they explain why it would not be repeated. But history suggests the result would be the survival of a dangerous threat, and a rush by other rogue states to stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. Levin and other Democrats also point to the difference between U.S. treatment of Iraq and North Korea. As Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle put it recently, "North Korea could also be an immediate threat and we're not going to war with North Korea. . . . If we can talk with the Koreans to try to reduce the level of threat, why is it that we can't talk with the Iraqis?" Why not sit down and negotiate with Saddam Hussein? For the simple reason that - - thankfully -- the U.S. position in the Persian Gulf is not as weak as it is in Northeast Asia. The Bush administration has been pushed toward an unsatisfactory combination of containment and dialogue with dictator Kim Jong Il because military action would likely result in the devastation of an ally, South Korea. In contrast, almost all military experts believe Iraq's armed forces can be defeated without such costs -- and military intervention has been justified by Iraq's repeated violation of U.N. resolutions. It may not be possible to disarm North Korea anytime soon -- but does that mean Iraq should not be disarmed?

The critics' ultimate argument is about timing and urgency. Yes, Saddam Hussein must be disarmed, they concede, but why now? "I don't think he's an imminent threat to us," said Sen. Levin. That conclusion implicitly rejects the considerable evidence that terrorists planning attacks with chemical and biological weapons are now based in Iraq, and assumes that Saddam Hussein would never supply them with anthrax, VX nerve agent or other weapons. Yet, even taking that chance -- which strikes us as unwise -- the issue of Saddam Hussein's continuing defiance of the United Nations would remain. The Iraqi dictator was granted a cease-fire 12 years ago on condition that he disarm; he did not do so, despite repeated orders from the Security Council. Last November he was given a "final opportunity," which he also rejected. In any such standoff, a moment finally arrives when those who would preserve global order must act, or abandon that order. This is that moment.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 16, 2003


2003-02-23-Washington Post
Democracy's Choices

One of the greatest virtues of democracies is that they do not go to war easily. That is true even when they have been subjected to attack; it is even more so when they are challenged to use force without a proximate act of aggression. The case of Iraq is no exception: In the United States, where a substantial majority of the public supports military action to disarm Saddam Hussein, there have nevertheless been large and passionate demonstrations in opposition. In Europe, where the sense of danger from Iraq and weapons of mass destruction is less, big majorities oppose a U.S.-led campaign, and protest rallies last weekend attracted immense crowds. We continue to believe that war with Iraq will be necessary, unless there is a dramatic change in Baghdad. But if this clamor of opposition is making it harder for the Bush administration and its allies to go forward, that is probably for the better. In a democracy, before any bombs fall, governments should be challenged again and again to explain why force is necessary, why the alternatives are not acceptable and why the outcome will be worth the always terrible costs. The continuing dissent both here and abroad should inspire President Bush to make his case more clearly and strongly.

But it should not paralyze him or the several dozen other leaders who now appear ready to stand with him. Democratic opposition can prevent irrational belligerence. But leaders of democracies sometimes must make painful and even unpopular choices, whether to raise taxes or to send young men and women into battle. The greatest vulnerability of democracies comes when their leaders falter in the face of such choices, as in the Europe of the 1930s. In contrast, the ability of American leaders to persevere with the costly and often controversial measures needed to contain the Soviet Union eventually yielded a triumph of freedom over totalitarianism.

In the case of Iraq, the functioning of American democracy has been pretty straightforward. President Bush has been respectful of opponents, at least at home, as he should be on such a momentous issue. He accepted advice to seek congressional approval and to make his case before the United Nations. His policy is supported by close to 70 percent of the country, a remarkable figure in a nation that split down the middle in the last presidential election. Some complain that Congress, or the Democratic Party, has been fainthearted in checking the president's preparations for war. But even most opponents in Congress share the country's sense of the threat from Saddam Hussein. Their questions are mostly about tactics, about preserving alliances and about postwar plans -- all issues that the administration could, and should, address better.

The case in Europe is more complex. A handful of leaders, including French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, have chosen to ride a wave of antiwar and increasingly anti-American opinion. Remarkably, however, a far larger number -- 18 and counting -- are looking past the polls and reasserting their support for the United States. Maybe Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder really believe it is wrong to forcibly disarm and depose Saddam Hussein; maybe they hope to use the sentiment in the streets for their own political ends. Either way, the path they have chosen isn't the hard one. The toughest political act in the world today is being performed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and their allies. Mr. Blair and Mr. Aznar watched the protests that filled their capitals last weekend, acknowledged the message, then called Mr. Bush to say they would not back down before Saddam Hussein. Theirs is a stand on principle, a recognition that this is one of those rare moments when leaders must insist on the tough course that their voters would rather avoid. They know they will be held accountable for the results. If Iraq is successfully liberated and disarmed in the coming months, its people will have Mr. Blair and Mr. Aznar to thank, along with Mr. Bush. If Saddam Hussein survives in power, he, too, will know which leaders helped preserve him.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 23, 2003


2003-02-26-Washington Post
The Second Resolution

The new draft resolution submitted to the U.N. Security Council by the United States and Britain this week has the advantage of simplicity. It asks only that the council judge whether Iraq has complied with the terms of the disarmament resolution unanimously approved by the council last Nov. 8. The language of Resolution 1441 is very precise: It offers Iraq a "final opportunity" to voluntarily disarm but says that false statements or omissions by Iraq in its weapons declaration, combined with failure "at any time . . . to cooperate fully," would be a "material breach" of the resolution. Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix has reported to the council that Iraq's weapons declaration was incomplete; he has also said in each of his reports that full cooperation has not been forthcoming. No council member disputes those findings. So the new resolution merely restates these uncontested facts, together with the inescapable conclusion: Saddam Hussein has failed in his "final opportunity."

Council members who oppose this text will not be resisting some unilateral diktat from the Bush administration; they will be voting to repudiate a U.N. resolution adopted little more than three months ago. No wonder that French President Jacques Chirac, who last fall insisted on the idea of a second resolution, now argues with equal fervor that none is necessary. And that is only the first of his contradictions. In their effort to free themselves from the Security Council's solemn commitments, the French and their German and Russian allies have adopted a position that is as convoluted as the new resolution is simple.

A memorandum distributed by their governments Monday begins by acknowledging the main point: Iraqi cooperation "is not yet fully satisfactory," as required by 1441. Yet rather than follow the resolution's terms, the opponents instead propose a very different scheme -- that of an earlier resolution, 1284, adopted in December 1999. Mr. Chirac's government and that of Russia fought fiercely to block or weaken that resolution, and neither voted for it. Yet now they unashamedly champion the plan, which calls for the inspectors to draw up a list of "remaining disarmament tasks" for Iraq, along with a timeline for accomplishing them. Iraqi disarmament would be limited to those areas stipulated in advance by the inspectors -- thus excluding any stockpiles that have not already been identified - - and there would be no penalty for failing to complete the work. On the contrary, 1284 would mandate that sanctions on Iraq be suspended after 120 days if Iraq is judged to have made "progress" on its assigned tasks. Paris and Moscow already argue that such progress is being made; if their scheme were adopted, they could be expected to demand a lifting of sanctions on July 1, even if Iraq's chemical and biological weapons remained undiscovered.

All this may sound like a legalistic debate over the wording of resolutions, but vital principles lie behind it. Resolution 1441, which the Bush administration painstakingly negotiated with the French and Russians, says what it does because past attempts to disarm an unwilling Iraq with U.N. inspections had failed. Saddam Hussein this time was to be offered a stark choice between immediate voluntary disarmament and "serious consequences," which all understood to mean war. This was a sound strategy, and it might have succeeded had the forceful message not been quickly undermined by the French and their allies. The most damaging contradiction in their position is this: They would insist that the United States act through multilateral institutions such as the Security Council; but they themselves will not support those institutions if the outcome is a sanctioned exercise of U.S. power. That's because their priority is not disarming rogue states, or strengthening world government, or even preventing war per se. It is, rather, to neutralize what the French call the American "hyperpower." When its security is threatened, there is no reason for the United States to accept such paralysis -- especially when it has the unambiguous terms of U.N. resolutions on its side.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 26, 2003


2003-02-27-Washington Post
*** ‘Drumbeat’ on Iraq? A Response to Readers

"I have been a faithful reader of The Washington Post for almost 10 years," a recent e-mail to this page begins. "Recently, however, I have grown tired of your bias and endless drumbeating for war in Iraq." He's not the only one. The national and international debate over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and our editorials in favor of disarming the dictator, have prompted a torrent of letters, many approving and many critical. They are for the most part thoughtful and serious; the antiwar letters in particular are often angry and anguished as well. "It is truly depressing to witness the depths Washington Post editors have reached in their jingoistic rush to war," another reader writes. It's a serious charge, and it deserves a serious response.

That answer, given the reference to "Washington Post editors," probably needs to begin with a restatement of the separation at The Post between news and editorial opinion functions. Those of us who write editorials have no influence over editors and reporters who cover the news and who are committed to offering the fairest and most complete journalism possible about the standoff with Iraq. They in turn have no influence over us.

For our part, we might begin with that phrase "rush to war." In fact there is nothing sudden or precipitous about our view that Saddam Hussein poses a grave danger. In 1990 and 1991 we supported many months of diplomacy and pressure to persuade the Iraqi dictator to withdraw his troops from Kuwait, the neighboring country he had invaded. When he failed to do so, we supported the use of force to restore Kuwait's independence. While many of the same Democrats who oppose force now opposed it then also, we believe war was the correct option -- though it was certainly not, at the time, the only choice. When the war ended, we supported -- in hindsight too unquestioningly -- a cease-fire agreement that left Saddam Hussein in power. But it was an agreement, imposed by the U.N. Security Council, that demanded that he give up his dangerous weapons.

In 1997 and 1998, we strongly backed President Clinton when he vowed that Iraq must finally honor its commitments to the United Nations to give up its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons -- and we strongly criticized him when he retreated from those vows. Mr. Clinton understood the stakes. Iraq, he said, was a "rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed."

When we cite Mr. Clinton's perceptive but ultimately empty comments, it is in part to chide him and other Democrats who take a different view now that a Republican is in charge. But it has a more serious purpose too. Mr. Clinton could not muster the will, or the domestic or international support, to force Saddam Hussein to live up to the promises he had made in 1991, though even then the danger was well understood. Republicans who now line up behind President Bush were in many cases particularly irresponsible; when Mr. Clinton did bomb Iraqi weapons sites in 1998, some GOP leaders accused him of seeking only to distract the nation from his impeachment worries. Through the end of Mr. Clinton's tenure and the first year of Mr. Bush's presidency, Saddam Hussein built up his power, beat back sanctions and found new space to rearm -- all with the support of France and Russia and the acquiescence of the United States.

After Sept. 11, 2001, many people of both parties said -- and we certainly hoped -- that the country had moved beyond such failures of will and politicization of deadly foreign threats. An outlaw dictator, in open defiance of U.N. resolutions, unquestionably possessing and pursuing biological and chemical weapons, expressing support for the Sept. 11 attacks: Surely the nation would no longer dither in the face of such a menace. Now it seems again an open question. To us, risks that were clear before seem even clearer now.

But what of our "jingoism," our "drumbeating"? Probably no editorial page sin could be more grievous than whipping up war fever for some political or trivial purpose. And we do not take lightly the risks of war -- to American and Iraqi soldiers and civilians first of all. We believe that the Bush administration has only begun to prepare the public for the sacrifices that the nation and many young Americans might bear during and after a war. And there is a long list of terrible things that could go wrong: anthrax dispersed, moderate regimes imperiled, Islamist recruiting spurred, oil wells set afire.

The right question, though, is not "Is war risky?" but "Is inaction less so?" No one can provide more than a judgment in reply. But the world is already a dangerous place. Anthrax has been wielded in Florida, New York and Washington. Terrorists have struck repeatedly and with increasing strength over the past decade. Are the United States and its allies ultimately safer if they back down again and leave Saddam Hussein secure? Or does safety lie in making clear that his kind of outlaw behavior will not be tolerated and in helping Iraq become a peaceable nation that offers no haven to terrorists? We would say the latter, while acknowledging the magnitude of the challenge, both during and especially after any war that may have to be fought. And we would say also that not only terrible things are possible: To free the Iraqi people from the sadistic repression of Saddam Hussein, while not the primary goal of a war, would surely be a blessing.

Nor is it useful merely to repeat that war "should only be a last resort," as the latest French-German-Russian resolution states, or that, as French President Jacques Chirac said Monday, Iraq must disarm "because it represents a danger for the region and maybe the world . . . but we believe this disarmament must happen peacefully." Like everyone else, we hope it does happen peacefully. But if it does not -- if Saddam Hussein refuses as he has for a dozen years -- should that refusal be accommodated?

War in fact has rarely been the last resort for the United States. In very recent times, the nation could have allowed Saddam Hussein to swallow Kuwait. It could have allowed Slobodan Milosevic to expel 1 million refugees from Kosovo. In each case, the nation and its allies fought wars of choice. Even the 2001 campaign against Afghanistan was not a "last resort," though it is now remembered as an inevitable war of self-defense. Many Americans argued that the Taliban had not attacked the United States and should not be attacked; that what was needed was a police action against Osama bin Laden. We believed they were wrong and Mr. Bush was right, though he will be vindicated in history only if the United States and its allies stay focused on Afghanistan and its reconstruction.

So the real questions are whether every meaningful alternative has been exhausted, and if so whether war is wise as well as justified. The risks should not be minimized. Everyone agrees, for example, that the United States would be stronger before and during a war if joined by many allies, and even better positioned if backed by the United Nations. If waiting a month, or three months, would ensure such backing, the wait would be worthwhile.

But the history is not encouraging. The Security Council agreed unanimously in early November that Iraq was a danger; that inspectors could do no more than verify a voluntary disarmament; and that a failure to disarm would be considered a "material breach." Now all agree that Saddam Hussein has not cooperated, and yet some countries balk at the consequences -- as they have, time and again, since 1991. We have seen no evidence that an additional three months would be helpful. Nor does it strike us as serious to argue that the war should be fought if Mr. Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agree, but not if they do not. If the war is that optional, it should not be fought, even if those leaders do agree; if it is essential to U.S. national security, their objections ultimately cannot be dispositive.

In 1998 Mr. Clinton explained to the nation why U.S. national security was, in fact, in danger. "What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? . . . Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."

Some argue now that, because Saddam Hussein has not in the intervening half-decade used his arsenal, Mr. Clinton was wrong and the world can rest assured that Iraq is adequately "contained." Given what we know about how containment erodes over time; about Saddam Hussein's single-mindedness compared with the inattention and divisions of other nations; and about the ease with which deadly weapons can move across borders, we do not trust such an assurance. Mr. Clinton understood, as Mr. Bush understands, that no president can bet his nation's safety on the hope that Iraq is "contained." We respect our readers who believe that war is the worst option. But we believe that, in this case, long-term peace will be better served by strength than by concessions.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Feb 27, 2003


2003-03-02-Washington Post
Words and Deeds

President Bush has offered an ambitious first sketch of U.S. aims in the Middle East following an intervention in Iraq. The postwar administration, he said in a speech last week, would "show the power of freedom to transform this vital region." Mr. Bush pledged that American forces would begin by supplying food and medicine to Iraq's 23 million people, along with security against those who would "spread chaos or settle scores." He went on to promise "a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own," that would lead to a new regime in which "all Iraqis have a voice" and "all citizens have their rights protected." Finally, he said his administration would work to encourage the spread of democratic values throughout the region, beginning with "a truly democratic Palestinian state." The neo-Wilsonian rhetoric was alarming to some Arab and European leaders; they worry that the United States will impose an unrealistic agenda on peoples who are deeply suspicious of foreign intervention. While there is reason for caution -- and humility -- we think Mr. Bush is right to make political liberalization a principal postwar goal. But with it comes another danger: that the president's bold rhetoric will not be matched by concerted follow- through on the ground. That has been the pattern in Afghanistan, where Mr. Bush's promise of a "Marshall Plan" has been mocked by the thin flow of resources for security and reconstruction. A repeat of that pattern in Iraq could trap the United States and its troops in a losing situation.

Administration officials spent the past week briefing the press and Congress about what they say are detailed plans for managing the postwar situation. But leading humanitarian organizations say they are deeply worried; the Pentagon, they say, has not made adequate plans for feeding or housing Iraqi civilians and refugees, much less protecting them from possible biological or chemical weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein. Some nongovernmental organizations have not yet obtained the necessary waivers from international sanctions that would allow them to preposition supplies. They also question whether U.S. forces are prepared to maintain order in sensitive areas, such as the ethnically mixed cities of Kirkuk and Baghdad, where civil strife is possible. The open dispute between the Pentagon's civilian leadership and the Army staff about how many occupation troops will be needed -- the staff's number is far higher than that of the political appointees -- is one worrisome sign that the administration may be underestimating the scale of these challenges.

Beyond the first stage of establishing order, the administration's plan looks wobbly. Officials appear to agree, mostly, that Iraq will have to be managed by outsiders for a transition while a new governmental system is built. But it's not clear what the character of that transitional administration will be, and in particular whether it will continue to be American- dominated. Mr. Bush's formulation, of a commitment "by many nations, including our own," ought to be the guiding principle; there will be a far greater chance of success if an international civilian administration, ideally headed by a prominent non-American, manages the country. Extended American rule of Iraq will provide a ready target for extremists throughout the region and likely impede the political liberalization it is meant to promote. Though it may be harder to construct a multinational administration if the United States goes to war without traditional European allies, reconstruction could also provide a platform for reengaging those governments after the conflict.

Europe and key Arab governments also will be needed if Mr. Bush's larger vision for the Middle East is to be realized. In what sounded like a gesture toward those nations, Mr. Bush spoke of his "personal commitment" to the "road map" his administration has prepared for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in collaboration with European governments. That represented a step forward, because the Israeli- Palestinian front has been another area where an ambitious presidential vision has not been matched by action. The administration can no longer afford such a gap between its words and deeds; the stakes in the Middle East are too high.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 2, 2003


2003-03-09-Washington Post
Moment of Decision

The debate on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council no longer concerns whether Iraq has agreed to disarm; in fact, it hardly concerns Iraq at all. At Friday's meeting, once again, neither chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix nor any member of the council contended that Saddam Hussein has complied with the terms of Resolution 1441, which offered him a "final opportunity" to give up weapons of mass destruction. But most members chose not to discuss the "serious consequences" the council unanimously agreed to in the event of such non-compliance. Some, such as Mexico and Chile, essentially argued that Iraqi disarmament was less important than avoiding a split of the Security Council. Others, such as Russia and France, sought to change the subject from Iraq to the United States' global role. They argued for using Iraq to establish that international crises should be managed solely by the Security Council -- and not through military action that necessarily must be led by the United States.

It's painful to imagine Saddam Hussein's satisfaction in observing the council once again descend into internal quarrels rather than hold him accountable for his defiance of its resolutions. But it's not hard to understand much of the diversionary argument. Few countries outside of the Middle East feel directly threatened by Iraq, other than the United States. Many have an understandable aversion to war when their own citizens' lives don't appear to be at risk. Some, notably Russia and France, have been unsuccessfully seeking for a decade to check American influence and create a "multipolar world"; the Iraq crisis offers a fresh platform for an agenda more important to them than the menace of a Middle Eastern dictator. The Security Council's action on Iraq "implies the international community's ability to resolve current or future crises . . . a vision of the world, a concept of the role of the United Nations," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. "There may be some who believe that these problems can be resolved by force, thereby creating a new order. But this is not what France believes." To oppose the use of force in Iraq, in other words, is to oppose the exercise of the United States' unrivaled power in the world.

We share the concern of those on the council who spoke of the damage of an enduring rift over Iraq -- damage for which the Bush administration's clumsy and often high-handed diplomacy will be partly responsible. Yet we would argue that the only way to preserve international cohesion is for the council to face up to the tough question that it has been avoiding for weeks -- not world order or U.S. power but Saddam Hussein's defiance of an unambiguous Security Council disarmament order. In their bid for global opinion, the French and Russians now invoke principles they would never agree to if they were applied to Chechnya or Francophone Africa. As President Bush pointed out in his news conference Thursday, Iraq's continued stockpiling of banned weapons is a direct threat to the United States, and the country has a right under the U.N. Charter to defend itself against that threat.

By taking its case to the United Nations, the Bush administration tested whether the Security Council -- which only rarely in the past 50 years has been able to respond to the world's crises -- could serve as a place where such threats could be addressed. Yet after six months of intensive effort, France, Russia, Germany and others refuse to accept the consequences of the process they claim to favor. They would rather the Security Council abandon its own resolutions, or split apart, than endorse a U.S. use of force against an outlaw tyrant. If their goal is really to preserve the U.N. security system, they should join in supporting the enforcement of U.N. resolutions; if it is merely to contain the United States, they should not be allowed to succeed. The United States, for its part, must remain open to reasonable compromise. If a few more weeks of diplomacy will serve to assuage the legitimate concerns of undecided council members, the effort -- even at this late date -- would be worth making.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 9, 2003


2003-03-11-Washington Post
Are Inspections Working?

Though they recognize that Iraq has not complied with the United Nations Security Council's last and supposedly "final" disarmament order, a number of governments nonetheless have suggested that the U.N. arms inspections should continue. Reports by the chief inspectors last week, they say, showed progress: Saddam Hussein has destroyed a few dozen illegal missiles and become incrementally more cooperative in other areas. The inspectors suggest that if they are allowed to proceed, they might be able to complete their work in a few months. So why not extend their mandate, as France, Russia and Germany propose, rather than launching a war?

The answer to this reasonable-sounding question is not that the U.S. and British troops poised on Iraq's borders cannot be kept waiting, or that weather or some other factor dictates immediate action. In fact, if a delay of a few weeks, now being explored by Britain as part of a compromise formula for a new Security Council resolution, would serve to overcome the current rift in the council, or at least add to the international coalition confronting Iraq, then it would be worth the wait. But it's important to understand that any extension of the inspectors' mandate would only delay, not prevent, a conflict. That's because the three months of inspections so far have demonstrated what arms control experts have been saying all along: that without a strategic decision by Saddam Hussein to fully cooperate, it is not possible even to locate Iraq's most deadly weapons, much less ensure disarmament.

That Iraq's dictator has failed to make that decision has been obvious since Dec. 8, when he submitted a declaration to the Security Council asserting that he had no chemical and biological arms. You don't have to listen to the Bush administration to regard that as a lie; even French officials say they believe Iraq still has those arms. The declaration served to detach the inspection process from reality. The inspectors have been put in the position of verifying that Iraq has no weapons -- by definition an impossible task -- rather than overseeing the destruction of those that exist. The only exceptions are the few score surface-to-surface missiles that Iraq could not avoid declaring -- but the lethality of these arms is minor compared with the probable hidden stores of anthrax, sarin and VX nerve agent.

So why do the inspectors sound so upbeat? Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei are international civil servants who are desperate to prove that agencies like theirs can be effective. Their reports to the council have been constructed as arguments for continued inspections, rather than as reports on Iraq's compliance. Mr. Blix has dodged repeated requests that he judge Iraq against the terms of Resolution 1441; instead, he has retailed indications of "progress" on such issues as interviews with scientists, which in turn are hailed by some as proof that the "inspections are working." Such discussions have a surreal quality, because they ignore the elephantine fact that Iraq has still not disclosed its weapons. Mr. Blix doggedly pursues "unanswered questions" about huge stores of unaccounted-for materials -- but in reality, his team has little of substance to do. It can only wait to see if Iraq will be more forthcoming, or hope for a lucky break that will lead it to hidden stockpiles.

Mr. ElBaradei has responded to similar problems by turning on Iraq's accusers. In his first report to the council, Mr. ElBaradei argued against the logic of Resolution 1441, saying that inspectors could be used to contain Iraq even if Saddam Hussein didn't cooperate. He has used his two subsequent presentations to dispute evidence offered by Britain and the United States, while coming close to declaring Iraq free of any nuclear program. Last Friday, Mr. ElBaradei made headlines by denouncing one secondary piece of evidence, about an alleged Iraqi attempt to obtain fissile material from Niger, as a forgery. But the allegation is not central to the case against Saddam Hussein, and it did not even form part of Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent presentation to the Security Council. Such diversions have lamentably become the substitute for U.N. oversight of real Iraqi disarmament; weeks or even months more of them may help unify the international community, but can yield little else.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 11, 2003


2003-03-12-Washington Post
Blaming the Jews

Our view that Rep. James P. Moran Jr. is unfit to serve in Congress is not new. Last July, citing Mr. Moran's ethical obtuseness, we urged Democrats in Alexandria and surrounding neighborhoods to find another candidate for the fall election. Now, by blaming American Jews for an Iraq policy he opposes, the seven- term congressman has confirmed our opinion about him. House Democratic leaders quickly dissociated themselves from his remark; it will be interesting to see whether they, and Northern Virginia Democrats, will make an effort to find a better candidate to run in 2004.

Meanwhile it may be useful to examine Mr. Moran's assertion, for he is far from alone in his view. "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," Mr. Moran said, as reported first by the Reston Connection newspaper. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should." The comment perpetuates a stereotype of Jews as a unified bloc steering the world in their interest and against everyone else's. Over the centuries anti- Semites have used this libel to distract attention from their own failings and to instigate violence and discrimination against Jews. In the United States today, though anti-Semitism is far from eradicated, such violence may seem a mercifully distant danger. But Mr. Moran's comment will be used to concentrate the poison of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world where it remains virulent and dangerous.

Jews in fact are far from unified in their opinion of President Bush's Iraq policy. Nonetheless many people argue, often in more sophisticated ways than Mr. Moran, that the Bush policy is being engineered by and on behalf of Jews or Israel. At its most conspiratorial, the theory goes like this: A small group of Jews (sometimes referred to, in a kind of code, as "neoconservatives" or "neocons") decided years ago that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown to improve Israeli security. Evidence is contained in a memo that some of them wrote in 1996 for Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu. These "neocons" then insinuated themselves into the Bush administration and seized on 9/11 as the pretext to put their plan into motion. Mr. Bush and his top foreign-policy team -- Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet -- are presumably too weak and gullible to evade the manipulations of these Jews.

Unfortunately for this theory, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was a very minor part of the memo in question, and many Israeli officials never accepted the American view of Iraq; they regard Iran as a greater threat to Israel. Moreover, those who wrote the Netanyahu memo are but part of a far larger group of American conservatives who for years have campaigned loudly and openly in Washington for the removal of Saddam Hussein. In a public letter on Jan. 26, 1998, they urged President Clinton to adopt regime change in Iraq as a goal, arguing that Iraq threatened Israel -- and also American troops, moderate Arab states, much of the world's oil supply and, ultimately, "the security of the world." Signatories included a number of people, Jews and non-Jews, who have since moved into government: Richard L. Armitage, John R. Bolton, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert B. Zoellick.

It's perfectly legitimate to debate Israel's place in U.S. Mideast policy, or Israel's own behavior; charges of anti-Semitism shouldn't be permitted to stifle criticism. It's not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinians' human rights. It wouldn't necessarily be anti-Semitic -- just demonstrably wrong -- to argue that Mr. Bush's Iraq policy is motivated primarily by a desire to protect Israel. But the argument moves from merely wrong to patently offensive when it attributes to Jews or "the Jewish community" a single view and a nefarious influence. Some Jews and some non-Jews, in Israel and America and Europe, support disarming Iraq; some don't. In their respective countries, they try to make the arguments on their merits. Mr. Moran and his ilk should do the same.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 12, 2003


2003-03-16-Washington Post
Damage Control

We hope the summit today in the Azores will offer a way out of the impasse on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. But the flurry of activity at the White House on Friday, when President Bush's meeting with the British and Spanish prime ministers was abruptly confirmed, looked more like damage control than serious diplomacy. Even while announcing the summit, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer flatly ruled out the most plausible compromise formula for a U.N. resolution, which would involve a 30- to 45-day postponement of any military campaign. Mr. Bush, meanwhile, shifted the focus toward his postwar strategy, announcing his support of a "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Hours later, the White House summoned reporters for a briefing on plans for an interim Iraqi administration. It appears the stage is being set not for more diplomacy but for war -- a war the United States will enter with less support than it should have.

Military action to disarm Iraq appears to us both inevitable and necessary, because of Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with repeated U.N. disarmament orders. Still, we have argued that the United States would do well to agree to a delay if it seemed likely to lead to greater international support, including most of the countries on the Security Council. The Bush administration appears inclined to act with a considerably narrower alliance -- thereby exposing key allies such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair to grave political peril -- rather than hold off for a few weeks. That increases the risks and potential costs of an Iraq campaign, as well as those of the postwar reconstruction.

Mr. Bush deserves credit for insisting since last summer that Iraq's intransigence was an issue that could no longer be ducked. In the intervening months, it has become clear that some countries, including France and Russia, would oppose meaningful action against Saddam Hussein no matter what. These countries have defended Iraq for years, and they see containment of U.S. power as more important than the disarmament of rogue states. Yet with more diplomatic suppleness, more flexibility on timing and less arrogant tactics and rhetoric, the administration might have won the backing of long- standing friends such as Turkey, Mexico and Chile. In effect, Mr. Bush and some of his top aides, most notably Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, have managed to convince much of the world that French President Jacques Chirac is right and that America's unrivaled power is a danger that somehow must be checked -- ideally by the votes of other nations on the Security Council.

The United States has never accepted such a constraint, and it cannot do so now. On the contrary, the Iraq crisis should make clear to France and its sympathizers that after the catastrophe of Sept. 11, the United States is ready to use its strength to face threats to world peace that it tried to contain or ignore in the first decade after the Cold War. For all the bitterness and diplomatic turmoil, that is an important and necessary outcome -- which is one reason why, even without another Security Council vote, Iraq must be disarmed. Yet the quagmire at the United Nations, and the now- massive opposition in countries around the world to the removal of a murderous dictator, ought to offer some lessons to the Bush administration. If it is to succeed in its hugely ambitious agenda of combating terrorism and spreading democratic values, it must repair the rift among the Western democracies and build broad and effective coalitions. That, in turn, will require listening more to allies, showing flexibility in strategies and timetables, and speaking to the world in a voice that sounds more reasonable than arrogant. The right place to start is with the issues the White House raised Friday: the Arab-Israeli peace process and the postwar administration of Iraq. In both areas, the Bush administration could try to go its own way -- or it could pursue policies that would enlist the support of a broad front of allies. Given the very small circle of friends that will gather in the Azores today, recruiting allies will only become more important in the coming months.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 16, 2003


2003-03-17-Washington Post
Final Days

President Bush and his Azores allies yesterday gave the United Nations one day to agree to decisive action on Iraq. In the event that there is no such decision today, Mr. Bush will probably announce a second deadline, this time addressed to Saddam Hussein. If neither ultimatum proves effective, which seems likely, tens of thousands of American military personnel will be ordered on a mission to disarm Iraq and remove its dictator by force. In our view, military action has been made necessary by Saddam Hussein's repeated defiance of U.N. disarmament orders; we believe Mr. Bush is right to go forward despite opposition from France and other nations. Mr. Bush spoke angrily about France's threats of vetoes in the Security Council, but he and Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain also committed themselves to preserving the transatlantic alliance and the United Nations, which Mr. Bush stressed would have a role in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. "I understand the wars of the 21st century are going to require incredible international cooperation," Mr. Bush said. If the Security Council fails to act, he said, "all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the U.N. work better."

If he pursues such pledges, Mr. Bush could greatly improve the chances of success for the ambitious and risky mission he is about to begin. But there are other steps he should be considering in these final prewar days. Aides say it is likely the president will address the nation, possibly tonight. When he does so, Mr. Bush will have a final chance to level with Americans about the huge commitment his administration is making in the Middle East, and its likely costs. These will come not only in the lives of American military personnel but also in the potentially enormous burdens of seeing Iraq through a transition to the representative government Mr. Bush has promised. So far the administration has refused to discuss these costs -- especially the dollar amounts -- in public, and its announced plans for the postwar period remain worryingly vague. Mr. Bush has rightly assured Iraqis and the world that U.S. forces will not remain in the country any longer than is necessary. But he needs to honestly tell Americans that this time may well extend for years and cost the country tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mr. Bush could further help this long-term cause by acknowledging, at last, what is already obvious to most economists: that the United States cannot afford to fight foreign wars and take on far-reaching commitments while simultaneously slashing federal revenue. Mr. Bush has behaved as if his assertive approach to Iraq and other foreign threats since Sept. 11, 2001, need have no impact on his domestic policy -- and yet, it must and it eventually will. The president has the chance now to shape the impact, by frankly acknowledging that wars demand sacrifices and by asking Americans to accept them. By withdrawing or modifying the new round of tax cuts he has proposed to Congress, he could make an excellent start.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 17, 2003


2003-03-18-Washington Post
‘A Question of Will’

President Bush last night set the United States on course for its most ambitious military campaign since the Vietnam War, one that should eliminate Saddam Hussein's illegal arsenal of weapons and replace his brutal regime with a representative government. Mr. Bush gave the Iraqi dictator and his sons 48 hours to leave the country. If they do not, he said, he will "apply the full force and might of our military." Mr. Bush warned Americans that the war might prompt terrorist attacks, either by Saddam Hussein or others; but he said that threat only underscores why action is necessary. Much of his televised speech was addressed to Iraqis: He warned Iraqi officers and soldiers not to commit war crimes or resist U.S. forces. To Iraqi citizens, he promised: "The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near."

Mr. Bush is right in insisting that Saddam Hussein face the "serious consequences" unanimously agreed upon by the United Nations Security Council in the event Iraq rejected a "final opportunity" to disarm. Though they agreed to those terms, France and Russia refused to respect them; they argued, as they did throughout the 1990s, that no forceful action should be taken against Saddam Hussein. In recent weeks their diplomats did their best to transform the United Nations' attempt to eliminate a rogue state's chemical and biological weapons into a global debate about the United States and its leadership -- and to a large extent, they succeeded. Whether their underlying intention was to protect the Iraqi regime or to create a political mechanism for containing the United States -- or, as they claimed, simply to avert war -- they made it impossible for the Security Council to act effectively. Their claim that no legitimate military action can take place without further U.N. approval, echoed by some Bush administration opponents in the United States, is groundless. The Security Council has explicitly sanctioned armed force only a few times in its history; most interventions have occurred without it, including several initiated by the Clinton administration and others by France. As Mr. Bush said last night: "This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will."

A number of countries likely will join the United States and Britain now in the Iraq campaign. Still, the war will be conducted with less support than the cause should have commanded. The Bush administration has raised the risks through its insistence on an accelerated timetable, its exaggerated rhetoric and its insensitive diplomacy; it has alienated potential allies and multiplied the number of protesters in foreign capitals. It also has refused to level with Americans about the human and financial costs of the coming war and the commitment the United States will have to make to postwar Iraq. Mr. Bush missed another opportunity last night to be clear about those costs; he persists with domestic policies that are entirely at odds with the demands of war, such as his huge and unaffordable tax cuts. We believe that the administration should work hard in the coming months to heal the rifts in the transatlantic alliance, invite international collaboration with the postwar Iraqi administration and honor the president's pledge to seek U.N. endorsement for that administration. It must also adjust its domestic policies to the realities of its foreign commitments.

For now, however, the priority must be to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein, with as little harm to U.S. forces and noncombatant Iraqis as can be managed. No such campaign can be embarked on without trepidation; there are many risks, including, as Mr. Bush said, that the cornered dictator will use his horrific weapons, either on the battlefield or against civilians. But Iraqis, even more than Americans, have much to gain from the downfall of a tyrant guilty of some of the most terrible human rights crimes of the past half-century. A regime and an arsenal that have threatened and destabilized the Middle East for two decades can be eliminated; prisoners can be released, ethnic minorities freed from brutal repression, war criminals brought to justice, and a polity based on torture and murder replaced by one that respects basic political and human rights. That is the kind of cause that the United States has always embraced; it is a cause worthy of the sacrifices that will now be asked of American men and women in uniform.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 18, 2003


2003-03-20-Washington Post
First Strike

As American forces launched their first strikes on Iraq, President Bush told the country that a "broad and concerted campaign" against Saddam Hussein had begun. The attacks last night were limited to what the president called "selected targets of military importance"; the explosions of cruise missiles and guided bombs in and around Baghdad suggested an attempt to eliminate senior Iraqi leaders. Far more intensive air and ground strikes were expected. Mr. Bush said that "now that conflict has come . . . this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory."

Military experts in and outside the Pentagon are confident that allied air and ground forces can overcome Saddam Hussein's defenses, and there are some who believe that victory will come swiftly and with few casualties. We certainly hope so. But as Mr. Bush rightly warned last night, the war may also be "longer and more difficult than some have predicted." Iraqi resistance may be bitter; Saddam Hussein and the war criminals around him may use chemical or biological weapons or try to stage terrorist attacks. More American servicemen and women may be killed or wounded than in any previous post-Cold War conflict. One hundred forty-seven died in combat during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, and 36 have died so far in Afghanistan, losses that were painful but relatively light. There will almost certainly be civilian casualties, collateral damage and tragic mistakes, as there are in all wars. Even after Iraqi forces are defeated, U.S. commanders will face a daunting task to maintain security in a country riven with ethnic divisions and long- repressed fury at Saddam Hussein's brutal apparat.

Attacks on the home front are possible too, either by Iraqi agents or terrorists from al Qaeda or other groups. President Bush warned of possible strikes earlier this week, shortly before the administration raised the national warning code to orange. The sense of danger means that residents of Washington, New York and other large cities will experience this war with a greater sense of immediacy and tension than earlier conflicts with Iraq. There will also be more dissent at home and abroad, reflecting the divisions over the decision to take military action. Authorities in Washington and elsewhere will have to combine rigorous security measures against terrorism with tolerance for legitimate public protests.

Yet, even if the operation does not go smoothly or fast, it must go forward. Saddam Hussein has threatened his neighbors, and the United States, with war and weapons of mass destruction for two decades; he has violated the cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War and defied multiple disarmament orders from the United Nations Security Council. The war that has now begun stands to end the single greatest threat to peace in the Middle East; it will help establish that rogue states will not be allowed to stockpile chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community. It will also free the long-suffering Iraqi people, who have endured one of the cruelest and most murderous dictatorships of the past half-century. The days and weeks ahead may be difficult, and the costs high, both for Americans and for Iraqis. But the reward, if America and its allies can sustain their commitment, will also be great: the end of a despot who has haunted a people, and the world, far too long.

Copyright The Washington Post Company Mar 20, 2003



Postwar Editorials on Iraq


2007-03-18-Washington-Post
Lessons of War
The fighting in Iraq enters its fifth year.

Sunday, March 18, 2007; Page B06

TOMORROW MARKS the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, as appropriate a moment as any to take stock. What matters most is finding the best policy now -- doing whatever can be done to help Iraq and safeguard U.S. interests in a vital region. But looking back also is essential, particularly for those of us who supported the war.

We will never know what might have happened had Saddam Hussein and his sons been left in power. Nor do we know how Iraq will evolve; history's judgment in five years or 10 may look very different than today's. But the picture today is dire, and very different from what we would have hoped or predicted four years ago. The cost in lives, injuries and dislocations, to Americans and Iraqis, has been tragic; the opportunity costs for U.S. leadership globally have been immense. So there is an obligation to reassess. What have we learned?

The easy way out is to blame President Bush, Vice President Cheney or former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld: The decision was right, the execution wrong. There's no question that the execution was disastrous. Having rolled the dice on what everyone understood to be an enormous gamble, Mr. Bush and his team followed up with breathtaking and infuriating arrogance, ignorance and insouciance. Read Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran's account of the first year of occupation, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," and weep at the tales of White House operatives sending political hacks to overhaul Baghdad's stock exchange and tinker with its traffic rules as a deadly insurgency gathered strength.

But the war might have spun out of control even under wiser leadership. Decisions that seem so obviously wrongheaded now, such as disbanding the Iraqi army or deploying too few troops, had smart people arguing both sides at the time. Even a larger force might not have stopped the looting; total forgiveness of Baathist officers might not have forestalled Sunni insurgency or might have spurred the Shiites into rebellion. Wars unleash unpredictable and ugly forces, even short and "successful" wars. The United States is still paying a price for the betrayal of Shiites and Kurds after the Persian Gulf War; U.S. forces remain bogged down in Afghanistan after dislodging the Taliban regime in that brilliant, brief campaign of 2001.

An overarching lesson is that the failure of diplomacy is not a sufficient argument for war. It seems as evident today as it was four years ago that sanctions on Saddam Hussein's regime were eroding and that the U.N. Security Council had no appetite to prolong "containment" in any meaningful form. David Kay's postwar report suggests that Saddam Hussein would have used the resulting loosening of bonds to build a dangerous arsenal. Yet we should have considered that not as an argument for war but only as a predicate for beginning to weigh war's risks and benefits.

Such weighing must include a far more aggressive challenge to prevailing wisdom than we offered. We were not wrong that Iraqis, like all human beings, crave freedom. But people also crave security. Their loyalties to country may jockey with loyalties to tribe and sect. We may have underestimated the impoverishment brought about by misrule and sanctions and the brutalization born of totalitarian cruelty. We underestimated, too, the regime's determination to fight back and its resourcefulness in doing so.

Clearly we were insufficiently skeptical of intelligence reports. It would almost be comforting if Mr. Bush had "lied the nation into war," as is frequently charged. The best postwar journalism instead suggests that the president and his administration exaggerated, cherry-picked and simplified but fundamentally believed -- as did the CIA -- the catastrophically wrong case that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented to the United Nations.

The question that Gen. David H. Petraeus posed (as recounted in Rick Atkinson's history, "In the Company of Soldiers") as he led the troops of his 101st Airborne Division from Kuwait across the Iraq border, "Tell me how this ends?" -- that question must be the first to be asked, not the last. The answer won't always be knowable. But the discussion must never lose sight of the inevitable horrors of war. It must not be left to the generals in the field. And it must assume, based on experience from Germany to Korea to Afghanistan, that a U.S. commitment, once embarked upon, will not soon be over.

We raised such issues in our prewar editorials but with insufficient force. In February 2003, for example, we wrote that "the president [must] finally address, squarely and in public, the question of how Iraq will be secured and governed after a war that removes Saddam Hussein, and what the U.S. commitment to that effort will be. . . . Who will rule Iraq, and how? Who will provide security? How long will U.S. troops remain? . . . Many of these questions appear not to have been answered even inside the administration. . . ." They were still unanswered when the war, which we nevertheless supported, began. That should never happen again.

Even now, though, many of the lessons that others draw from Iraq do not strike us as obvious.

Unquestionably, for example, the experience has shown the risks of preemptive war. Yet it remains true in an era of ruthless, suicidal terrorists and easily smuggled weapons of unimaginable destructive power that not acting also can be dangerous. The risks of war with North Korea or Iran are evident; but the cost of leaving nuclear weapons in the hands of a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or a Kim Jong Il may not become evident until the price has been paid. And while Iraq illustrates the importance of challenging intelligence estimates, there will also be risks in waiting for certainty that may never be achievable.

Similarly, Iraq has shown the disadvantages of acting without full allied support. Multilateralism and U.N. authorization are force multipliers, morally and literally; unilateralism should be a last resort. But ask the victims of genocide in Darfur whether international law and multinational organizations can always be counted upon. And, yes, the past four years have demonstrated the difficulty of seeding democracy in unaccustomed soil. But no American foreign policy will be supported at home or abroad if it does not include as one ambition the spread of freedom.

Unfortunately, none of this provides bright guidelines to make the next decisions easier -- not even those facing the nation right now in Iraq. It's tempting to say that if it was wrong to go in, it must be wrong to stay in. But how Iraq evolves will fundamentally shape the region and deeply affect U.S. security. Walking away is likely to make a bad situation worse. A patient, sustained U.S. commitment, with gradually diminishing military forces, could still help Iraq to move in the right direction.

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