- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2001

It was foolish timing on Saddam's part, really. The Bush gang was back in the White House, and Saddam was feeling frisky. Yesterday's 'thank you' bombings on Iraq for what White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called an increase in Iraq's nonguided anti-aircraft missile attacks on U.S. planes over the past six weeks should be just the beginning of U.S. efforts to eliminate Saddam's threat to American interests and his own people.

Granted, it was not exactly a public relations bonanza for President Bush's visit to Mexico's President Vicente Fox. The new Mexican president deserved more than questions about U.S. defense policy and bombings at yesterday's press conference in Mexico. But one can hardly forget the timing of a bombing during the previous administration on the eve of Bill Clinton's impeachment in December 1998, which left some thinking that Operation Desert Fox might have been named for a creature of a more feminine description.

Still, the deftness with which the Bush administration has set a no-nonsense policy for Iraq early on must be commended. There is reason to believe that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, and the president said yesterday the United States would take appropriate action if Iraq produces such weapons. U.N. inspectors have been barred from inspecting Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction since 1998. Such a defense threat, both to the United States and to the Middle East, cannot be allowed to be silently developed indefinitely.

Secondly, Saddam's aggression against Israel must be checked. He has made his support for the Palestinians clear over the past weeks, calling on his 6.5 million to prepare for a jihad on Israel, and preparing what he calls a "Jerusalem army" from an Iraqi military brigade and other volunteers. By doing this, Saddam tested his limits, and British and American forces did not look the other direction. Saddam reacted to the accountability session yesterday by declaring he would fight the United States and Israel on the air, land and sea. He called the attack south of Baghdad a "Zionist and American plot" which would pit the "Zionist entity against the Arabs and Palestinians."

CIA chief George Tenet also said in a testimony to a Senate committee last week that the Iraqi dictator was violating international sanctions with confidence and without penalty as he improved relations with other Arab states. Saddam's attempt to make his attack an Arab-Israeli issue cannot continue.

Yes, it's been 8 years since the Cheney-Powell-Rice team inhabited the Bush White House. But the tour de force that was visited on Iraq yesterday was not tired. Quite the contrary. Welcome to your nightmare, part two, Saddam.

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