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Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is out to get us

MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 2002 ó In recent days, readers have contacted me about the possibility of an American war with Iraq. Without exception, all think itís a bad idea. I suppose theyíre writing and calling me with their opinions because itís clear from my past writing that I think itís a good idea. In a piece published a few weeks ago about Al Goreís absence from the New Hampshire presidential-campaign scene, I wrote as an aside that Goreís decision to oppose current action against Iraq will look like a mistake if Saddam Hussein is easily vanquished.

The case for American military action against Hussein is based on three prongs, which Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman laid out for me when we met in March. "Heís a ticking time bomb for the US," Lieberman told me. "The case is there," Lieberman said. "He has weapons of mass destruction, hates the United States, has used the weapons against Iraqis and Iranians." When asked about increasing Democratic uneasiness with expanding the War on Terror, Lieberman was undeterred: "Iím going to do everything I can to rally Democratic support for an anti-Saddam move."

Objections to a potential war often rest on taking issue with each of Lieberman's three prongs. Letís examine them in more detail. Does Hussein have weapons of mass destruction? If we include poison gas and biological toxins in this category, the answer is almost certainly yes ó despite current assertions in the media. Itís true that former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter now maintains ó as stated in a July 20 Boston Globe op-ed piece ó that he was able to verify a 90 to 95 percent level of Iraqi disarmament regarding these weapons. But Ritter is no longer a credible source on Iraq. The reason is simple: everything Ritter is now saying about Iraq directly contradicts everything he said about Iraq back in 1998 when Hussein kicked him out of that country. Those who believe in Ritter might say that he was in the thrall of the defense establishment back then, and can only now tell the truth. But this requires too great a leap of faith. For me, Ritter is the David Brock of foreign affairs ó not worth listening to.

Cast Ritter aside and there is the array of evidence suggesting that Hussein is as busy as ever on his weapons program. A recent defector from Iraq, Adnan Saeed al-Haideri, told American intelligence officials about Iraqi work on biological and chemical weapons in eight locations across the country, according to the Times of London,,3-353672,00.html. Al-Haideri has recounted for investigators how Husseinís weapons manufacturers repeatedly out-foxed UN inspectors, such as Ritter. "My feeling, and I have dealt with this for about 11 years, is that he has been the most important, and least talked about defectors since the Gulf War," Nabeel Musawi ó political liaison for the Iraqi National Congress, a London-based opposition group ó told the Times. As for Husseinís nuclear program, we still have the compelling story of Khidhir Hamza, the father of Iraqís nuclear program, who himself defected in 1994. In his book Saddamís Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda (Scribner, 2000), Hamza demonstrates Husseinís zeal to develop these dangerous weapons. The correct conclusion with regard to this prong? If Hussein doesnít have these terrible weapons, he will ó if left unmolested ó have them soon enough. We canít risk that danger.

Has Hussein used these weapons against his enemies? This one is a no-brainer. Throughout the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, Hussein resorted to using chemical warfare against his Iranian enemies. The United Nations concluded that Hussein had used both mustard gas and nerve gas. Hamza, Husseinís nuclear scientist at the time, claims the Iraqi leader even asked him to study the possibility of preparing a "dirty bomb" for use against the Iranians.

An episode that illustrates the savagery of Husseinís regime more dramatically than his actions in the Iran-Iraq war is the March 1988 military action against the Kurds in Halabja, retold in Jeffrey Goldbergís March 25, 2002 New Yorker story, " The Great Terror. " Hussein ordered helicopters to rain poison gas down upon the Kurds, an event that resulted in hundreds of deaths ó at least.

Hussein, of course, has also fired SCUD missiles against Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel ó a country that had not even attacked him. The conclusion: Hussein has used unconventional weapons and would likely do so again in the future.

Does Hussein hate the US? Look no further than Husseinís speech last Thursday, the anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq War, for evidence of Husseinís ongoing hatred of the United States. "The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs, to die in disgraceful failure, taking their schemes back with them, or to dig their own graves, after they bring death to themselves on every Arab or Muslim soil against which they perpetrate aggression, including Iraq, the land of Jihad and the banner," thundered Hussein about the United States. It should also be noted that Husseinís rhetoric has become increasingly bellicose (and reminiscent of his vow to "burn all of Israel" only months before his invasion of Kuwait in 1990). Hussein tried to assassinate former-president Bush in the early days of the Clinton administration and has made no secret of his hatred of America and our allies in the region. He has continued to sponsor and encourage suicide bombers in Israel, and, according to at least one report, he permitted one member of his intelligence team to meet with September 11 terrorist Mohammed Atta in Prague prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The case against Hussein is clear. The US must act. It is up to President Bush ó and strong voices in both parties, such as House minority leader Richard Gephardt, Senator Lieberman, and Senator John McCain, to acquaint both the American public and our European allies with our rationale for action. The consequences of failing to act will surely be worse than doing nothing at all.


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Issue Date: August 12, 2002
"Today's Jolt" archives: 2002  2001

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