by Franz Schurmann
his masterful speech before the United Nations, Colin Powell portrayed
Saddam Hussein as so massive a liar as to be totally unfit for
cooperation with the global community. Powell put biological weapons
first in his list of indictments against Saddam, followed by chemical
weapons, nuclear weapons and the use of deliberate deception and evasion.
Lastly, Powell tried to show that Saddam was working closely with al
Qaeda, his least convincing indictment. (For example, Powell charged that
an Islamist group, the Ansar ul-Islam, based in northeastern Kurdistan,
was getting biological and chemical weapons from Saddam. But a report
from an online news source quotes an American official to the effect that
Kurdish claims of Islamists smuggling chemical weapons from Iraq's
security services to al Qaeda "did not seem credible." (Random Aspect,
Jan. 16, 2003).
If Saddam's build up of biological and chemical weaponry is Powell's
strongest argument for war, it is also the best argument for not pursuing
it and for reaching a settlement with Saddam instead.
Look at it from Saddam's position. He hopes that the fearsome dangers of biological and chemical warfare will stay America's hands. Ever since George W. Bush became president, Saddam knew that Bush was out to get him and his regime. What better way of thwarting this fate than building up the lethal stockpiles?
Suppose some time this month American forces invade Iraq by land and air. As Powell said, a myriad of trucks ply Iraq's highways daily. As American vehicles start moving on those highways, it will be difficult for U.S. intelligence to sort out which trucks are carrying biological and chemical weapons, as Powell admitted. Explosives and winds will carry those deadly killers over vast areas, killing not only Iraqis, but American soldiers as well. Clearly, both sides could use a peaceful denouement to the confrontation, which is not out of the question.
In fact, Saudi strongman Prince Abdullah just days ago called on all people "to be patient, practice self-control, be peaceful and converse with God" (As-Sharq al-Ausat, Feb. 2). Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak continues to chastise Saddam for not cooperating in a settlement that appears to have been offered behind the scene. One possible settlement could involve letting U.S. forces occupy the northern and southern oil regions while leaving central Iraq, including Baghdad and the two holy cities Kerbala and Najaf, to Saddam.
Many, if not most, Arab sources say Saddam never will renounce power voluntarily. If they are right, Saddam is ready to sacrifice a good portion of Iraq's 24 million people to death by lethal germs and gases, not to mention many others in adjacent countries, and coalition forces.
But is Saddam really willing to go all the way?
In World War II, Hitler -- to whom President Bush often likens Saddam -- fought on until the German civilian death toll went into the several millions (250,000 alone in the Dresden bombing, just a few weeks before surrender), and all sides had stocks of lethal gas in WWII. But while lethal gas was widely used in World War I, there is no evidence it was used in the battlefield in WW II (outside of the gas chambers). Today, many nations have stocks of biological and chemical weapons that dwarf what Iraq could possibly have.
Powell's masterful speech did not stray once from the theme that Saddam was a megalomaniacal liar. But what the world wants to know is whether peace is still possible despite the escalating tension.
One clue may come from the fact that while Hitler had no family whatsoever, Saddam has a very large family. If dynasty is a factor in Saddam's thinking, then necessarily, the possible death of his entire family has to be on his mind.
Ironically, by not preaching to or castigating Saddam beyond the fact that he is a big liar, Powell kept the door to a settlement open. By choosing biological and chemical weapons as his opener, he may have given Saddam a chance to survive for himself, his family and the Iraqi people.
February 6, 2003 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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