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Iraq returns to its old, arrogant self in record time



Published: Mon, September 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Perhaps President Bush should just sit back for a while and let Saddam Hussein work his magic.

Saddam has always had a penchant for arrogance, and he's exhibiting it once again. We can only hope that the United Nations, and especially its Security Council, will recognize this arrogance for what it is.

Iraq, which just a couple of weeks ago surprised some of the world with its announcement that it would open its doors to weapons inspection by United Nations teams, has already begun backtracking. This was to be expected. If there is anything surprising about it, it is the speed with which it came.

Iraq has rejected any new conditions on U.N. weapons inspections from those in place in 1998, when inspectors, who had been thwarted by Iraqi obstructionism at almost every turn, threw up their hands and left.

He forgets he lost

Where, we wonder, does Iraq get the idea that it is in a position to reject anything. Iraq remains in violation of the accord that ended the Persian Gulf War. At the time, Saddam was apparently willing to say anything in order to keep the allied forces from destroying his retreating army and, ultimately, getting its hands on him.

Among the things he agreed to was inspections aimed at identifying and eliminating his various programs to produce weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

As soon as he was no longer under the gun, Saddam began to renege on his agreement and, thanks to greedy Western allies who were more interested in his oil than in the need to keep a madman from developing an atomic bomb, he found some support in the United States. Suffice it to say that those were not France's and Russia's finest hours.

Saddam is now trying to see if he can work his magic twice. The United Nations should not allow him to get away with it.

Put U.N. interests above Iraq's

There are at least three good reasons for that.

One: The nations of the world do, indeed, have a vital interest in finding Saddam's stores of biological and chemical weapons and his programs aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Two: The United Nations should want to send a clear message to dictators that if they start wars, as Saddam did in invading Kuwait, they do get to dictate the peace terms after they've been driven back and defeated.

Three: If the United Nations backs down again, President Bush seems quite committed to taking unilateral action. We're not convinced that would be a good thing for the United States or the world.

U.N. teams entering Iraq this time are going to have to have greater access than they were being given last time if for no other reason than that Iraq has had four unfettered years to hide what it has been up to.

Also, the Iraqi government pursued an active effort to delay inspectors from arriving at inspection points. While the inspectors were being delayed, Saddam's minions were busy moving or destroying evidence.

This team of inspectors is going to have to come in with some teeth, with well-equipped military back-up that will insure that inspectors are barred from no sites.

If Saddam doesn't want to agree to such stringent inspections, that's too bad. Or at least that's what the Security Council should have the guts to tell him. If Saddam won't welcome true and unfettered inspections, the United Nations has the power to force it on him. The only question is, does it have the integrity to do so?




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