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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 14:32 GMT
Iraq: You asked US Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Talking Point.
I don't blame anyone who has grave reservations about the prospects of war with Iraq. But those who feel the US or the UN needs to prove Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) should look at the UN's own reports on Iraq on the UN website. The UNSCOM reports - so reviled by Saddam - go a long way to demonstrate that Saddam, at the very least, has some crucial questions about his WMD programs that he has deliberately refused to answer for over a decade. Is this the US's fault? Perhaps, in that they - and other major powers, who are equally complicit - did not press Saddam to do this earlier. But this sin of omission is no excuse for the international community to recoil from its obligation to force Saddam to show his hand. The alternative - that he develops nuclear weapons - is unpalatable.
Mr. Bush is on the verge to throw this world into unnecessary war. All of us know that he is attempting to divert Americans' attention from their fragile economy at the moment. There is nothing like evidence out there. No smoking gun has been noticed by the inspectors. Why then are they still talking of a possible war? If they want one let them go and attack North Korea the one country which has come in public and admit for its nuclear involvements.
Denis O'Sullivan, Campoli Appennino, Italy
By now the situation is: the inspectors have not found anything, the intelligence has not revealed anything. The only undisputable argument by the US/UK leaders is: we don't like Saddam, so let's bomb the nation he rules. This is what the American crusade for democracy, freedom and justice ended up with. If it were only Iraq, perhaps other nations would cynically close their eyes. However, the nature of the current US behaviour is such that other nations would most likely hear the recent message by North Korean Kim: in the modern world the nuclear arms is the only guarantee against future aggressions by the US.
The only evidence that the US has concerning Iraq's WMD are its invoices from sales to Iraq in the 1990's. The US administration is too red faced to admit this. Regarding Saddam being an evil dictator, this can't be denied but what about Saudi Arabia etc.
Why is Iraq suddenly a threat for world peace? After ten years? Why is North Korea not so urgent? I thought they also are part of the axis of evil? And everybody is saying they are planning to develop a nuclear bomb. Why is the US planning a war against a country without teeth (Iraq)? And why are they all relaxed about a country that has a 1.2 million well trained army, chemical and biological WMD and the devices to get them into Japan or South-Korea?
Germany and France couldn't care less about American causalities. They are concerned about their business interests re.Iraq,and getting re-elected. They are happy to let America pay the price for world peace. Didn't this same thing occur prior to World War 2?
The evidence is overwhelming that the war-mongering western powers are swamping the media with their propaganda to consolidate their global hegemony.
Bush has been determined to go to war all along. First he said he'd do it as soon as WMD's were found. Now, when none have been found he says it's only because they've got them hidden better. So he wins whether anything is found or not. What does this do for his claim to not be determined to go to war unprovoked?
The US and UK have no evidence that Iraq has WMDs. Why else do they now want to go to war using the flimsy reason that Iraq is not cooperating with the inspectors. The inspectors can go anywhere in Iraq and from news reports have gone to all the places that the US and UK have told them to. Still no WMDs have been found.
Jack Franze, Millersville Pennsylvania USA
If Iraq really and truly had nuclear weapons, the U.S. would treat it with the same respect (and fear) that it shows North Korea, China, and Pakistan. There are other objectives in play here. World public opinion (aka the street) is not as dumb as Bush thinks.
It seems that is now politically correct and fashionable to hold an anti-war stance. Whist it is easy to align your opinions with the masses it must be noted that, if left untouched, Iraq will continue to run a ruthless and barbaric regime with Saddam still unaccountable for crimes against humanity. After all, we wouldn't be in this situation if Iraq had let the UN Inspectors stay in '98. It clearly has something to hide.
Rik van Riel, Brazil/Netherlands
I'm a member of the reserve force in Britain. I really can't get my head around the current situation. Although I feel the attack on 9/11 was hideous and repugnant, I can't understand how the US/UK governments can hope to win support for further action against Iraq without more concrete proof being released to the public at large. I know that there has been an unstable ceasefire since the end of the last war but I know many of my colleagues in both the reserve forces and regular forces of Great Britain have major reservations about fighting a war without more evidence that Iraq has plans to use weapons of mass destruction against us or our allies.
Please, give us the reassurance that we are not going to be putting our lives on the line for someone's commercial interests or that of a few politicians' careers. I personally will need a little more encouragement to "go over the top" than the current arguments that have been repeated to us over the last few months.
Saeed, UK / Iraq
During the American invasion of Vietnam, more munitions were used on both civilian and military targets than were used during both previous World Wars combined. The resulting reign of destruction with the deaths of over 5 million people did not succeed in overcoming the self-determination and independence of that nation.
In Iraq, we can more than likely envisage a similar scenario. Witness the same but more technologically lethal military might in full force. The battle will most certainly be over in a matter of days. In the shake of a hat, a puppet or client regime will be installed to insure that Iraqi oil will continue to flow directly into the gas-guzzling SUV's that clog the highways of the 'Land of the Free'.
Meantime, in the aftermath, the Iraqi people will continue to live in the bombed and broken infrastructure that war and 10 years of sanctions have produced, but their hearts and minds will bear the malice and contempt of a nation defiled.
Ron Hirsch, Woodside, NY USA
Compared with North Korea, Iraq is bending over backwards to accommodate the wishes of the UN Inspectors . This would seem to suggest an uneven hand in US foreign policy. The arguments that diplomacy is the best means of dealing with the North Koreans - a nation hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons - whilst a big stick is preferred for a more submissive Iraq just don't add up. We all know this is about oil at the end of the day. Why doesn't the Bush regime come clean with the world and state its true intentions? Its plain as day for the rest of us!
If the US had any convincing evidence of WMD they presumably would have shared it with officials from France and Germany. If that happened then it certainly wasn┐t persuasive enough to convince them to take a more aggressive stance. If no intelligence has been shared then it suggests the US is protecting its own self interests. I can only assume that if evidence does exist it is has been gleaned from US trade records with Iraq in the 1980s.
Timothy Brown, London, England
The US has no evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, otherwise why it did not provide it? The US should be more fair and neutral in the Middle East as this might very well alleviate their problems with the Arab world.
The US has stated that it is to hold the Iraqi oil reserves 'in trust' for the benefit of its people. Why then is a US Senator openly declaring that only those nations who support the US offensive should get access to these reserves?
Whilst I appreciate the need to keep confidential much of the intelligence the US possesses regarding Iraq possession of WMD, does the US administration understand that much of the world's population has genuine need of such information before being able to support an attack on Iraq? Can we expect the US to release some evidence supporting its case in the event of an attack on Iraq?
Why did the US not stop Saddam when he was gassing the Kurds 10 years ago, or when he was using weapons of mass destruction against the Iranians? Because he was then the ally of the US and was being encouraged and assisted by the West. If there was no oil in Iraq there wouldn't be any threat of war.
What do you think is the appropriate response of the US to opponents of war when unilateral action (albeit inclusive of the UK) is necessary and will be taken?
Should the US plan for possible sanctions and hostilities from so-called allies?
Thousands of British and US military personnel have been deployed to the Gulf in anticipation of a war with Iraq. Does the US and Great Britain have solid evidence beyond any reasonable doubt, that Saddam Hussein is building his reserve of chemical weaponry and weapons of mass destruction? Can you state the evidence to justify an invasion?
Marten King, USA
Over 200 inspections in Iraq and still no weapons found. It would seem that if the USA has any evidence of WMDs, and shared this information with the UN, then weapons would have been found a long time ago. No weapons, but plenty of oil, is this not what it is all about??
We have been dealing with Iraq for over a decade now. It's constantly a game of cat and mouse. The 12,000 pages they released did not account for a whole list of weapons. The inspectors have found other evidence like the chemical warheads. Do we need to find a nuclear bomb to be satisfied? It's fairly obvious that Iraq is not complying.
Ian Miller, UK
I would hope that our governments share with the public what evidence they have bearing on the decision to go to war. Evidence, of course, that will not compromise existing intelligence networks. So far, there has been little that would justify a war. It would seem, however, that we have government officials in place, people who do have access to military intelligence, who are equipped to make hard decisions affecting their own and other countries. Why else do we elect them?
If Iraq has so many weapons of mass destruction, why is the evidence not revealed? If the evidence is too sensitive to reveal to the public, why can it not be revealed to the UN weapons inspectors? Why is the war against terror taking a back seat to Bush's apparent vendetta with Saddam Hussein?
To Adam, England - the US did not use Agent Orange on the people. It is an herbicide, which was later found to cause various health defects in humans. Nor did they use depleted uranium shells in order to create radioactive effects on people, but rather used them for their destructive capabilities. Nor do I think that well-maintained empty chemical warheads are indicative of a defensive measure against chemical attacks. Bio suits, yes, but not warheads.
Has it not occurred to anyone that Baghdad is equipping its troops for the possibility of attack from chemical weapons, rather than use of them? America has a long history of using chemical weapons against its enemies, Agent Orange being the most notorious. In the Gulf War, it was the Americans who used depleted uranium shells, the medical legacy of which is still haunting those who fired them, those fired upon, and most tragically the people living in or near areas where DU shells were used.
In 1998 and 1999 there was quite a detailed report then of what was there the last time the inspectors left. So some accounting has to be made for all that material and it was anticipated that when Iraq made its declaration now to the United Nations they would describe how those weapons were destroyed or where they were. So the inspectors could assist the Iraqis or the international community in destroying them.
As we now know, the Iraqis did not detail this material - it's a mystery as to what happened to all it - tons of it as a matter of fact and the inspectors are being given impossible tasks of trying to find the needle in the haystack, literally.
This is where I think the world needs to understand, this is not a hide-and-seek business - it's a question in which the UN said already Iraq had been in material breach of UN resolutions many times. But we're giving them one last chance and this last chance and this last chance is in fact to come forward with these weapons.
But let me just indicate some of the rest of us have a responsibility too. The case is a fairly simple one - that the United States is not alone - we are with the international community in believing that it is not advisable for country after country to adopt weapons of mass destruction, particularly countries that have used weapons before on other people and would be aggressive. We ought to be moving the other way in the world towards non-proliferation.
Now in this particular case of Iraq, there is a government that has used those weapons, has developed the weapons, has the weapons. The question is whether the world at this point, unlike any time in the last 12 years, will with some unity, tell the leadership of Iraq to disarm - to get out of that business. It's not a question of wanting to go to war.
The United States has pushed diplomacy very strongly. We are not unique in this respect. Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, have been strong proponents of diplomacy. The thought is that we ought to come together again as we did on Resolution 1441 with the unanimous dealing at the UN on the so-called consequences which were a very important part of the first resolution - consequences if disarmament does not occur - material breach is clearly the verdict.
Now at this particular point however, there are many in America who would say, what are these weapons of mass destruction, why are they important, how do we know that there are any there, for example. What's likely to happen if we just simply let things drift, maybe for two, three, five years - will there be any dangers?
In fact, many Americans, in a very sophisticated way, are asking what will Iraq look like after conflict or even after disarmament - is there going to be change there in the Middle East that will be significant and how long will Americans, people from the United Kingdom - Germans, French, anybody - be in Iraq trying to help a governed situation with very diverse populations. These are important questions to be discussing right now.
Ian Miller, UK says: Does the US have any evidence as opposed to intelligence at all - evidence of information solid enough that it can presented in court or the equivalent? Intelligence is much easier to come by but intrinsically less reliable. Are we likely to see more of this intelligence made public to us or the weapons inspectors?
However, it appears to me, given the need for evidence that more and more intelligence will be revealed to the UN inspectors, who may or may not make use of it, but probably to the general public around the world. But there right now are the items that were in the last UN inspection reports just four years ago. Something has to happen that disposes of that evidence; namely, tons of materials, what happened to it? Iraq has not addressed that. Nor can the inspectors find anyone in Iraq who is willing to talk about it. So that is a very important question and that was the material breach before and that is why the UN said this time in Resolution 1441, this is the last chance.
I would just say from my experience in examining biological and chemical facilities in Russia, that I wouldn't have had a clue in most of these places, without scientists and people with a history who told me this was used to make anthrax - when I saw it, it was making shampoo. The dual use of all of this, even if it's a fairly extensive facility, is known only to some people who have a history, who can take you to the basement rooms where the material is being kept.
The inspectors now that Hans Blix has really don't have a pray without guides who at least in the last 15 minutes knew before the mobile lab went down the road, where it is. There's an impression in the world that somehow these are big installations and that scientists with certain intelligence might roam in and begin to scoop up the material - but this is really not going to happen. The ability of the Iraqis to control the scientists through fear is really pretty profound at this point.
For two months we have had the inspectors there and they have been - as I've read from the news - into all the places that the US and UK have indicated and so far have come up with nothing.
It appears to me that we all have our work cut out for us. But this is not a referendum on the United States or Great Britain and might makes right. The fact is that every nation in the world will suffer if there is nuclear proliferation in the event, for example, that the United Nations once again just simply loses track of Iraq and as we have done for the last 11 years, backs away, lets things proceed - then I think it's highly predictable other nations will develop programmes of weapons of mass destruction.
We're at a turning point in which the world really has to determine whether we want to make things safer for our children or not. I think we do, but we want to negotiate and we want to have the United Nations, we want to have the Security Council - as broad an alliance, not only to tell Saddam to disarm but likewise to think about the future of Iraq, the future of the Middle East.
Despite all the assertions which may or may not be true that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. How exactly is Iraq supposed to attack the West with them without committing suicide? What is the reality of the threat? In short it would be illegal on international terms and also immoral to attack a country without absolutely sound evidence of the existence of a true threat.
I'm very much reminded at the moment of past history. I'm reminded of President Kennedy's alleged US Soviet missile gap which led to a 30 year nuclear arms race. But in fact we now know on the record it was a false gap. It reminds me of intelligence about the Bay of Pigs which led to another fiasco or the Tonkin Gulf incident that in fact led to the United States destroying hundreds of thousands of Asian people.
We need hard evidence and I think we're all more than a little bit fed up with assertions from politicians about what intelligence services, who are frequently been proven to be at fault, tell them.
This e-mail from Marcus Sheen in Brighton, he says: If Saddam Hussain has weapons of mass destruction, why give him a reason to use them?
Adam in the England asks: Has it occurred to anyone that Baghdad is equipping its troops for the possibility of attack from chemical weapons rather than the use of them?
So here is this scepticism in Britain - we know that it's repeated through Europe. What do you say to that? How concerned is the United States that there is all this antagonism that seems to be building up on this side of the Atlantic?
Let me just say that war on terrorism began here in a big way when our World Trade Center was attacked, when the Pentagon - just down the street from where I'm sitting - was under attack. It happened not by nation states but by cells apparently of al-Qaeda or other terrorists. Now they fortunately did not have materials or weapons of mass destruction at that time but we know that they've tried to acquire them.
Countries such as Iraq and for that matter North Korea, which we've not mentioned today, are potential sources for those materials. That is the threat to Great Britain or to France or to Germany. In the intelligence services we are all working very co-operatively. I want to emphasise that there is strong unity in Nato when it comes to al-Qaeda. But we really need to realise where the grist for the mill is - it is in irresponsible regimes.
The UN has developed the fact that Iraq has these materials and weapons. There is a sense of denial on the part of much of the world that this is all that important and maybe it would take several years for a nuclear weapon to develop in Iraq. But always a footnote in the intelligence that if they get the fissile materials from somewhere else - from a laboratory unguarded in Russia or someplace else - then that could accelerate very rapidly. They do have rockets, they can extend their authority a good long way.
I would just say at this point if you're a responsible leader of a country then you have say, what is my responsibility - to walk away from all of this and simply hope that my successor will not face war and annihilation of cities, or in fact to prudently diplomatically bring the world together to say, enough is enough with Iraq - disarm, get rid of the stuff, move on at least into a non-proliferation regime.
I have an answer to this question - because they gave the Iraqis instruments to produce these chemical weapons during the Iran/Iraq war. Now that Iraq is out of control and now you ask for the weapons back and they are 100% sure that Iraq has the chemical weapons. However, I think war is inevitable and is useful for the Iraqi people because I think the next generation will be saved by this attack, as Mr Blair said.
My second point I'd like to make is about how the Bush administration or the West in general was defining terrorism. I don't think that we have to prove that Saddam Hussein is in league with al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organisation to take any action against them. He's been practising terrorism actively against his own people and against his neighbours - against Kuwait, against Iran. Isn't this enough to initiate a regime-change in Iraq?
But nevertheless we know that Saddam has the weapons. That's the point that many people seem to overlook now and that somehow we're searching for something that has been utilised rather extensively, brutally to kill a lot of people and it still happens to be there.
I would just say, the weapons programmes are the things that we want to see stopped. We want disarmament, we want verification that disarmament has occurred. It may or may not occur - I hope it will - the United Nations 1441 Resolution certainly hoped it would. But it said if it does not and this last chance is not taken by Saddam to make a full declaration and destroy the weapons, then there will be consequences.
What we'll be discussing at the UN, starting Wednesday - what are the consequences, what should we do. This is not a warmongering programme, but it is one that has to be resolute and our President has said finally, wearily, at the end of the day, after all the diplomacy, all the inspection effort and so forth - on this particular occasion, Saddam will be disarmed.
Now having said that, the reason why there are inspectors in Iraq now - why they have some credibility is because the United States, Great Britain and other nations have in fact moved troops into the area - they are credible - they can be seen on the BBC - Saddam can see them. What Saddam has not yet decided is whether in fact it's once again a monumental bluff such as the last two or three times we have approached this situation. At that moment that he knows it's not a bluff, we may have disarmament. I hope that will occur very soon - in the next few days and weeks.
But I would just simply say the United States is not fighting a war or advocating one over oil. We are in fact attempting to work in the Security Council with many nations who have contracts they believe are valid - the French, the Russians come to mind and they're not exclusive - who want to be involved with Iraq in legitimate ways.
We want in the United States to get into a situation where we can have trade and other nations can so that the Iraqi people are well fed. It is a talented nation under suppression.
Why there should be worldwide sentiment to maintain that regime of repression, of weapons of mass destruction is very unusual, it seems to me. I understand it however - there is a feeling on the part of many in the world that the United States is too assertive, seems to offer what they call unilateralism. What I'm trying to say today is quite to the contrary - we have tried to be negotiators - we have tried to bring together relevance for the United Nations, we have tried in fact to bring together unanimity in the Security Council. Those are important features, they continue as our policy.
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