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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 13:14 GMT
War View: US could snatch defeat from jaws of victory
Scott Ritter, former UN arms inspector in Iraq, says President Bush is determined to make sure Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction. But, he says, the only way to do something about it is by acting together.

The ongoing anthrax scare here in the United States has led many to speculate as to the potential source of the deadly bacteria used in the letter-borne attacks.

Topping the list of possible suspects was one nation - Iraq.

President Bush seems intent on going to war with Iraq

While scientific and technical evidence accumulated so far makes an Iraqi link highly unlikely, the association of Iraq with anthrax underscores the still unresolved matter of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, including its anthrax and other biological weapons capabilities.

The lack of weapons inspectors in Iraq has fuelled speculation over what has transpired inside Iraq since UN weapons inspectors were pulled out of that country in 1998.

This has led to wide-ranging speculation, most recently conjured up by the American Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton, who said Iraq's continued possession of biological weapons is "without dispute".


Mr Bolton did not provide any evidence to back up his unequivocal statement, raising the question of whether or not such evidence does indeed exist.

We lack the smoking gun that could connect Iraq with the terrorists

Such uncertainty could be avoided if UN weapons inspectors were returned to Iraq. Indeed, this week President Bush forcefully demanded just that. "He needs to let inspectors back in his country to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.

Asked what would happen if Saddam refused, Bush replied: "He'll find out."

The Bush administration is working hard on drawing Iraq into the list of targets for the ongoing War on Terror.


Since 11 September, reports abound that Iraqi intelligence agents conspired with some of the terrorist hijackers prior to their crime, and that Iraqi intelligence used a secret base south of Baghdad (in Salmon Pak) to train terrorists belonging to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

However, these reports lack the substance and veracity required to pose as a "smoking gun" that could connect Iraq to the terrorists.

It must be pursued within the framework of broad international consensus

Regardless, even void of a direct link between Baghdad and the terrorists, the logic of the Bush administration holds that Saddam's continued flouting of the UN-mandated disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction only serves to embolden those who wish to commit acts of anti-American terror.

President Bush seems intent on going to war with Iraq. His jargon-laced rhetoric demanding that Iraq permit the re-entry of UN weapons inspectors represents little more than the unilateral dictate of the United States.


Instead, it must be pursued within the framework of broad international consensus, which can only be derived through the unified action of the United Nations Security Council.

Could the successes had against the terrorists in Afghanistan today have been achieved without the support of Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other nations?

What needs to be kept in focus is the reality that the prospect of unilateral American action against Iraq represents an illusory path to victory.

The victorious coalition against Saddam in 1991 had as the foundation of its legality a Security Council resolution.

Likewise, the coalition that has been assembled to confront terror today has similar legitimacy in regards to current UN Security Council action.

Hard intelligence

Anyone thinking that the US can go it alone against Iraq should only consider this: could the successes had against the terrorists in Afghanistan today have been achieved without the support of Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other nations? The answer appears to be a resounding "no".

And yet these three nations, along with a score or more additional nations (including Great Britain, France, Turkey and Germany), have stated clearly that they feel there is not sufficient hard intelligence that would link Iraq to the terror attacks of 11 September.

Without this evidence, there can be no consensus, and the foundation of legality that such would bring to the table.

Without this evidence there can be no consensus

The fact is, any unilateral US military action against Iraq would most probably cause the fragile coalition assembled to confront terror to rapidly collapse.

Given that the forces of Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terror network are on their last legs in Afghanistan, such a collapse would represent a regrettable snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory by the United States, something which given the gravity of the ongoing War on Terror, should be avoided at all cost.

You can add your comments to this or other personal opinions we are publishing during the current situation. Add them using the form below.

Your comments: Quit being such a wimp. Appreciate that the US can protect the world from this thug Saddam. If this "frail" coalition dissolves because of unilateral US military action in Iraq....then so be it. You don't seem to understand our motives and goals since the 11 September attack. We simply don't care about appeasing coalitions anymore...that was pre- 11 Sept political cowardice.
David Schechter, US

It would be impossible to have a coalition against Iraq under present circumstances. Turkey, a member of Nato, has problems with the Kurds and wants to avoid the creation at any cost of a Kurdish state on their border (the Kurds live partly in Iraq, partly in Turkey). Therefore they will use their influence through Nato to leave Iraq geographically as it is today. If the US storms unilateraly into Iraq, they run the serious risk of breaking up Nato.
Gavin, France

Terrorists are everywhere. What of the terrorists that caused the death of half a million Iraqi children from lack of medicine, that covered their land with depleted uranium? The West does not, in my eyes, really have the moral high ground.
John J. Cunningham, Ireland

I would just like to thank you for the open-minded view that you expressed. In the US, it seems as if everybody is prepared to battle whomever the government wishes without question. I am just happy that I am not alone in the thought that maybe the US should realize that it is not the head of the UN
Jake Khoury, United States

Ritter seemingly can't make up his mind whether to be for or against Saddam. First, he's all over the American media warning of the weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's possession, and now, he's telling all that will listen that there is no threat. He can't have it both ways.
Bill Elliott, US

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See also:

29 Jul 00 | Middle East
Ex-UN inspector back in Iraq
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