Truth or Consequences for Saddam - November 17, 2002
It comes down to this: Somebody's lying. Is it Bush and Blair, or is it Saddam Hussein?
The new U.N. resolution, created after two months of arm-twisting and some probable payoffs to France and Russia, has forced Saddam to welcome inspectors back to Baghdad for some unrestricted sightseeing. It's one more last chance for Hussein to comply with the disarmament obligations that he agreed to in order to remain in power.
The media have focused on whether or not the inspectors will be allowed to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction. But contained in the language of U.N. Resolution 1441 is perhaps a more important provision the one that requires Saddam Hussein to tell the truth.
Under the unanimous Nov. 8 resolution, false statements or omissions by Iraq will place Saddam's regime in "material breach of its obligations." As far as the U.S. is concerned, material breach means military consequences.
Now, Saddam and the truth haven't hung out together in a long, long time. And the Stalin-adoring dictator has been caught with his hand in the weapons-of-mass-destruction cookie jar before.
Despite the fact that Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds, previous inspectors found nerve gas and documents indicating biological weapons, defectors suggested the development of a nuclear capability, and Iraq recently purchased nerve gas antidote, Saddam continues to tell the world that he's clean of any offending chemical, biological and nuclear material.
Maybe he's watched one too many U.S. politicians manipulate the truth, and he thinks it's no big deal. Remember, Saddam cheated, tricked and conned earlier weapons inspectors for eight years, sometimes moving stuff out the back door as inspectors came through the front.
Still, if the resolution means what it says, Saddam is in a sticky situation as the deadline approaches. He's got until Dec. 8 to disclose detailed information about anything he's squirreled away. He's required to give a complete and accurate declaration of any chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and any ballistic missiles and/or other delivery systems that are in the hopper.
Saddam's "acceptance" letter the nine-page rant he wrote to the U.N. says he doesn't have any nukes, chemical weapons or biological material.
President Bush used the term "zero tolerance" to describe the U.S. position on Iraq, saying, "We will not tolerate any deception, denial or deceit."
Here's the problem. The deceit has already occurred.
So, will Iraq admit it on Dec. 8? There's about as much chance of that happening as a camel stumbling on an iceberg in the desert.