There's a folk saying that President Bush might want to pass on to the United Nations: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
The United Nations should bear that in mind as it assembles the inspectors and forces necessary to finally strip Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, a process that was begun at the end of the Persian Gulf War more than a decade ago.
Saddam Hussein, following a decisive and quick defeat at the hands of the allies, abandoned his talk about the mother of all battles and promised to cooperate in his own disarmament if only the allies would stop destroying his army.
But he never kept that promise. From the start, he did everything he could to frustrate the process, and in an almost brilliant public relations move, he managed over the years to make the United States appear to be the bad guys. The United States stood firm and almost alone in support of economic embargoes as long as Saddam reneged on inspections.
We share the skepticism of the Bush administration regarding Saddam's willingness to actually allow inspectors to ferret out his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and to identify the plants and laboratories in which his researchers are working to develop nuclear capabilities.
There is very good reason to believe that Saddam is once again attempting to buy time. Member states of the United Nations should not allow Saddam to fool them again.
Inspection teams that enter Iraq should be accompanied by sufficient military forces to allow each target site to be effectively sealed off while the inspectors go about their work. There should be no chance that while inspectors are coming in the front door, Saddam's minions are running things out the back door. There should also be no chance for inspectors to be intimidated by Saddam's goons, as they were in earlier, failed attempts at inspection.
Finally, the United Nations must be prepared to mount a military attack on that inevitable day when inspectors get too close to Saddam's prized weaponry, and he once again orders them out of the country.