Secretary of State Colin Powell made a persuasive case Wednesday for the United Nations to take forceful action against Iraq, which has been dragging its feet for 12 years in complying with the provisions of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire and has obviously failed to comply with U.N. Resolution 1441, passed last November.
The only response Iraq's ambassador had was to label Powell's hour-and-a-quarter presentation a pack of lies -- "utterly unrelated to the truth" was the diplomatic way in which Mohammed Al-Douri phrased it.
But it has never been a question of who is lying and who is telling the truth. The United Nations has known for more than a decade that Iraq has lied about its possession of weapons of mass destruction and its failure to disarm.
Resolution 1441 is premised on the recognition of the threat to peace posed by "Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and [its] proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles." Further, the U.N. was told last week by weapons inspectors that Iraq did not fully comply with the new inspection regimen.
And yesterday Powell provided audio and visual evidence of the ways in which Saddam Hussein has attempted to conceal his weapons program.
It's a world problem
We have argued against the United States taking unilateral action against Iraq or launching a pre-emptive attack without the backing of the United Nations. This nation's enemies should not be given the opportunity to portray military action to disarm a rogue state as a case of the United States attacking "defenseless Iraq."
If Saddam Hussein does not fully comply with all demands by the U.N. weapons inspectors and cooperate in every way -- including making any scientists available for interviews and opening all air space to U2 and other surveillance flights -- the General Assembly will have no option but to authorize military action. And it must do so quickly.
France -- or any other permanent member of the Security Council -- should know that a veto or threat of a veto would have the most serious diplomatic consequences on that nation's future relations with the United States.
The United Nations should join President Bush in expressing to Saddam Hussein a single and clear message: Time is running out for him to disarm and disarm fully.
There is far more at stake than the fate of Saddam Hussein or any other single nation. The credibility of the United Nations is at risk. If it is incapable of enforcing a cease-fire it negotiated 12 years ago, how can it be trusted in the future?