What's Left

November 15, 2002

Is there any doubt Washington will cheat?

By Stephen Gowans

Neither former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, or US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are optimistic that a US-led attack on Iraq can be averted.

But their pessimism has different roots.

Ritter says inspections don't matter; Washington wants regime change, and will ensure inspections don't happen.

Powell and Rumsfeld, on the other hand, say they're not optimistic Saddam Hussein will fully comply with the latest UN Security Council Resolution. And the media are following suit. "There is no doubt that Saddam will cheat," one newspaper intoned (The National Post, Nov. 15, 2002).

But how is it known that Saddam will cheat? A history of deception? A motive to lie?

Perhaps. But if we take history and motives into account, there's another conclusion to be drawn: There's no doubt Washington will cheat.

Iraq is required to make a full declaration of all its weapons programs. It's assumed that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, even though Iraq was effectively disarmed, according to Ritter, when inspectors were withdrawn in 1998.

And under the crippling sanctions regime that's been in place for over a decade, it's unlikely that Iraq has been able to reconstitute its weapons programs in the meantime.

So what if Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction, as seems likely?

If Baghdad continues to plead the case that its weapons have been destroyed (which is what it says), it will trigger a tripwire (of Washington's -- not the UN's -- devising) that sends US forces into Iraq. That's because Rumsfeld says there's no question about it: "they do have weapons of mass destruction" (Globe and Mail, Nov. 15, 2002).

The result of a US-led attack, apart from the possible deaths of as many as 500,000 Iraqis, according to Medact, an organisation of British health professionals (NewScientist.com, Nov. 12, 2002) is that Washington will get its wish: regime change. Washington therefore has a motive to make the case that Saddam is lying, whether he is or isn't.

As to whether Washington has a history of lying on Iraq, ask the Washington Post. In an October 22 article, staff writer Dana Milbank points to a "presidential tradition of embroidering key assertions," adding "for Bush, facts are malleable," and notes that the administration's statements on Iraq have been "dubious, if not wrong."

What's more, Bush is said to be  guilty of "distortions and exaggerations," and we're reminded that "presidential embroidery is, of course, a hoary tradition."

In other words, Bush -- no, more than that, Washington -- is lying.

And Washington has already cheated on inspections.

"United States officials said today that American spies had worked undercover on teams of United Nations arms inspectors," reported the New York Times on January 7, 1999.

In a March 3, 1999 report the Washington Post revealed that the U.S. "infiltrated agents and espionage equipment for three years into United Nations arms control teams in Iraq to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military without the knowledge of the U.N. Agency."

So, on the basis of the US having a history of cheating on inspections, Bush's lies on Iraq, and Washington having a motive to bomb Baghdad, is there any no doubt Washington will cheat?


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