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Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 10:21 GMT
Viewpoint: Why Saddam must go
BBC News Online has asked a range of contributors to comment on the Iraq crisis.

Here, James Phillips from the conservative US think tank, the Heritage Foundation, argues the case for the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Ultimately, the only way to be certain of removing weapons of mass destruction from Iraq is to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power.

Given Saddam's long history of terrorism, the US and its allies cannot allow such a dangerous regime to attain the most lethal weapons.

Saddam Hussein has never lived up to his obligations to disclose weapons of mass destruction and destroy them. And Washington must not allow him to continue to make a charade of those obligations as he did in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war.

If the UN is not capable of undertaking collective security action, then the US would be fully within its rights to defend its own national interests by taking unilateral action, if necessary

One of the problems with the inspection process is that it cannot work unless the regime co-operates.

Inspectors are not going to be able to find weapons in a country that is bigger than the state of Texas. That's harder than finding a needle in a haystack - it's more like finding a needle in hundreds of haystacks.

If the inspection process is going to work it needs a very aggressive leader who does not blink at challenging the Iraqis and forcing them to do what they say they were going to do.

In the past, Hans Blix has proven to be more of a diplomat then an aggressive proof finder. When they report to the UN Security Council in a few weeks, the inspectors will not be able to say that Iraq has complied with its obligations.

But it is unclear whether the council will follow through with the logic of the resolution. It is possible there could be a deadlock.

If the Security Council defaults on its obligation to enforce its own resolutions, then I think the US will do the right thing and follow through with a coalition of the willing to disarm Iraq.

The 12,000-page dossier submitted by Baghdad was a recycling of Iraq's previous prevarications

If the UN is not capable of undertaking collective security action, then the US would be fully within its rights to defend its own national interests by taking unilateral action, if necessary.

And other countries can no longer complain about American "unilateralism" given that the Bush administration has bent over backwards to include the Security Council.

Evidence

It is important to note that the US and its Nato allies intervened in Kosovo without a UN resolution supporting it, so it is possible to take concerted international action without a UN imprimatur.

Some people may argue that the US has provided no evidence that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqis will reap the benefits of liberation, just as the Afghan people benefited from the fall of the Taleban

But, according to resolution 1441, it is not up to America to provide the evidence, it is up to the Iraqi regime to prove that it has disarmed by accounting for proscribed weapons and materials that it was found to possess by past inspections and by its own admissions.

The 12,000-page dossier submitted by Baghdad was a recycling of Iraq's previous prevarications that fails to account for hundreds of aerial bombs and artillery shells containing chemical and biological warheads that Iraq claimed to have lost after the Gulf War.

In the event that Saddam is overthrown, the Iraqi people will be the biggest winners. They suffered under his leadership after he invaded Iran in 1980 and fought a very bloody war. He also invaded Kuwait a decade later and fought another one.

They have been extremely oppressed over the past 11 years and, ultimately, they will reap the benefits of liberation, just as the Afghan people benefited from the fall of the Taleban.

The US should try to replace the present regime with a broad-based representative government that will pose no threats to US interests, Iraq's neighbours, or the people of Iraq.

While the Iraqi people should determine the precise form of government for the post-war, post-Saddam Iraq, Washington should set out the parameters for an acceptable accord on its formation.

James Phillips is a research fellow in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation in Washington. He is also the author of Disarming Iraq: The lessons of Unscom.

James Phillips was talking to BBC News Online's Kathryn Westcott

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James Phillips makes some good points. Saddam has been playing cat and mouse and ridiculing the inspectors for more than a decade. He sends the inspectors out of the country makes more weapons and then when the heat is on and he has hidden them in various places or even allied countries he says OK, you can come back in now. This is not a game of hide and seek and I don't think that we should be playing this game.
Chris Lee, England

I still think the constant air strike is enough to make Saddam know that the US and the UK means business. Overthrowing still has a lot of risk factors. Launching an all-out war is not a viable option.
Sam Huang, Taiwan (now in the UK)

When George W Bush declared his desire for a regime change in Iraq, the CIA had admitted that they had no evidence of a firm or tenuous link between Bin Laden and Iraq. Tony Blair, to his credit, managed to steer Bush towards the UN for their authority on the weapons issue and also the moral and legal right to enter Iraq. If the weapons inspectors do not find anything and are not blocked from any sites by Saddam, what authority does the US (and UK) have for entering the country? True the world would be a better place without Saddam, but the US has no ethical, moral or legal right to change a regime change in any country. Without the proof of weapons of mass destruction, for the all world to see, the war should not go ahead. Once proof is there then, yes, remove Saddam as quickly, and as painlessly for the Iraqi people as is possible.
Mike Smyth, England

The US rained bombs over Kabul and other major cities and promised to rebuild. No rebuilding has taken place and some of the promised funds have not been delivered. Now the US is planning another war, but this time against Iraq. The Americans say they cannot cope with funding the rebuilding and has asked help from the International community. First of all, they have enough money to send troops and equipment to occupy the whole Asian continent, let alone "free the Iraqis from the current regime", but they cannot afford to build a country that they destroyed so that they could also "free the people from the Taliban regime". Besides all of this, he has failed to submit any evidence or valid justification for the war on Iraq and is continuing his military even though the Iraq have not so far broken any UN resolution. Will the US help rebuild the country and really help the citizens of Iraq who have been dragged to many conflicts, not only by their leader but by encouragement and funding for weapons from the US and UK?
Khaled Arikat, UK

"Given Saddam's long history of terrorism", well done. A contrived and not very intelligent attempt to link Iraq and the 'war against terrorism'. It's also nice to see that the US now considers the Iraqis' interests as having suffered during the war with Iran - when they where actively supporting Saddam at the time. The only lessons I can draw from this is that the US only cares about its own interests, and what is an acceptable government to the US can easily change. Not from any higher motive but pure self interest. What happens if the US changes its mind again? If any country deems the government of another as being against its self interest are we to assume that war is now an allowable means of foreign policy?
Chris Starr, UK

It is now understood beyond doubt that the US is going to attack Iraq, regardless of whatever disclosures or cooperation Saddam offers. Had the dossier contained specific information about weapons that he has, he would have been punished for that - catch 22. There are even plans on who is going to rule which part of Iraq. The repercussions that this action (invasion of Iraq) is going to have in the region are enormous. The US must point out the exact substances and weapons of mass destruction, and the world will be behind them in condemning Saddam.
Aftab Khan, Pakistan

Finding a needle in a haystack is made easier if one has a highly sensitive electromagnetic detector, a team of research scientist and access to the haystack itself.
Tim Hoe, UK

I agree wholeheartedly that Saddam should go, for the benefit of his own people as much as for the security and stability of the region. However, Bush persists in looking for war in a manner that makes it look like a personal vendetta. He refers to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but does not produce evidence - he says he has proof but will not deliver it. Even a tyrant is innocent until proven guilty by fact, not public opinion. Bush's seeming contempt for international law and natural justice wins him no friends and does much to stir up the enmity of many. If Bush is such a fan of world peace, why is he not taking action against North Korea (who proudly proclaims its weapons of mass destruction!) or Zimbabwe where millions are suffering under a tyrant every bit as evil as Saddam, but with no mineral resources at stake? For an intelligent man, Bush does a powerful impression of a simple minded, war-mongering hillbilly!
Phil, UK

As all logical atheists know, it is impossible to prove the non-existence of something. The burden of proof always lies with the claimant, therefore it is up to America to prove that Iraq has weapons of destruction. Until it does, it remains morally and ethically wrong to start a war.
Matthew Cole, UK

While I am far from supporting totalitarian regimes, in many instances countries who have had such regimes removed have fallen into anarchy. The current state of Afghanistan has been kept very quiet, but looks very, very unsettled. Yugoslavia plunged into anarchy in the early 90s which spawned despots and civil war etc, etc. I think the motives of the US need to be looked at more closely before any intervention takes place. From what I've seen, George W is hell bent on starting a fight with anyone - just look at the way he defaulted on the agreement with North Korea. Any military tactician would be able to tell Bush that war on more than one front is suicide. At such an economically unstable time, with such flimsy motives as detailed in Mr Phillips' article, are we simply not just asking for more trouble than we can handle?
James Canfer, UK

Well, since the US wants war, so be it. The US doesn't want to do things via the UN and it is not prepared to listen to the world, so let the war go ahead. There has been too much noise about this and we are tired.
mokgalo, south-africa

Mr Phillips wants things both ways. He wants Iraq to be subject to UN weapons inspections but rejects the finding of these inspections because he believes Mr Blix to be ineffective. He wants action against Iraq to be sanctioned by the UN, but then declares that it is down to the US to disarm Iraq if the Security Council won't agree. He should own up and declare that it was always the intention of the US regime to declare war on Iraq. The pretence of passing by the UN was a token effort to please certain allies, not an attempt to follow any international rule of law. The UN is good when it works in the favour of the US, but expendable when it does not. The US decides world politics, and fixes the result to please themselves every time.
Mark Schofield, France

I cannot imagine why after two decades of war and suffering that the people of Iraq want yet more war - as if they haven't suffered enough already. And all this in the name of American interests.
SA, UK

Saddam has lied constantly and threatened his people and neighbours. Do you think that if he had a nuke he wouldn't use it? The US didn't ask to become the worlds policeman, but if the UN cannot live up to is responsibility, then the US should take Saddam and his government out and free the Iraqi people.
Jason Palmer, UK

While I am sure that my American Government has some sort of special interest in removing Saddam, it is also true that any enemy of the United States or "Western culture" will gladly support those who are also against Western culture. I am sure that Saddam would be glad to hand over weapons of mass destruction to any anti-West coalition. But yet it seems the rest of the world's attitude is "Screw the United States if they do" and "Screw the United States if they don¿t". It would seem that the global community prefers seeing total death and destruction before there should be any move to action.
Sean, New York City, USA

Slowly but surely, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the US is looking for any excuse it can find to provoke a war with Iraq. Not because Saddam Hussein is a dictator, or that he has chemical and biological weapons, or has used weapons of mass destruction to kill Kurds, or supports the Palestinians against Israel. Quite simply, the Bush administration wants to control Iraqi oil. The policy makers in Washington realise that a quick and decisive military victory in Iraq would allow the US to install a Western-style government in a country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet. US and European oil companies would be free to rebuild an oil industry which has suffered from a 10+ year UN imposed embargo. The goal is not to flood the market with cheap oil as this would destabilise the world economy, but to remove Saudi Arabia as the controller of the world's oil supply. As long as Hussein controls Iraq, the US is forced to support, albeit reluctantly, Saudi Arabia's increasingly unpopular monarchy. This monarchy, if left on its own, might not survive a power struggle with a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement. Since the Saudis maintain the world's largest oil reserves, the US cannot jeopardize the global economy by simply allowing Saudi Arabia to fall into the wrong hands. Forcing a regime change in Iraq allows the US to pressure the remaining fragile, dictatorial Arab governments to install more democratic institutions, without fear of losing the control of the world's oil supply to fundamentalist, anti-western movements. Eventually, the theory goes, this would lead to a more prosperous, democratic and pro-western Arab world.
Peter W, USA

In 1991 General Schwarzkopf was within striking distance of Baghdad. But he was stopped, why? Nothing has changed in Iraq, so why does the US want to finish off now what Gen. Schwarzkopf had started? My guess it is something more than weapons of mass destructions and support for terrorism, it all boils down to a poor US economy. Wars have been used before to divert peoples attention from world economic recession and it always seems to happen when the Republicans are in power. I now wonder what Bush as promised Blair for siding with him. May be we'll get the Southern Iraqi Oil Fields, who knows.
John, England

From my point of view, the US threatens Arab and world peace. Why don't America and Nato render the huge amounts of money, which will pay for the war, to the development and welfare of very many poor and needy countries?
Nabil Abdel Ahad Abdel Baky, Egypt

Great article! Absolutely correct and many, many Americans concur.
Brian, New York, USA

Personally I think the US does what ever it wants to protect its economic interests. This situation is purely about oil and the stability in the Gulf, which the US needs. I guess the sad part is that no one can or wants to stand up to the US pressure and the almighty dollar. Everyone bows down. Even the Security Council gives a unanimous vote to send inspectors after all the noise. So as far as I see it all this discussion doesn't mean anything and the voice of the world or the UN doesn't mean anything. The only thing that matters is what the US thinks so lets just welcome the war.
P. K., Sri Lanka

So, other countries can't complain about American unilateralism because America tried to work with the UN? Isn't that the same as saying 'We tried very hard to do what we want within international law, but you wouldn't let us change the law to make it legitimate, so you can't blame us for going outside the law'?
Dan, Japan


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