- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

President Bush said it well when he called the regimes of North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil." That led to widespread speculation that military action against those countries might follow the operation in Afghanistan.

But then Secretary of State Colin Powell made a clarification, saying that while there is no plan to start a war with North Korea or Iran, the administration intends to take steps to change the regime in Iraq. Various options to topple Saddam Hussein are under consideration, he added. This statement by the most dovish of senior administration officials certified the victory of the anti-Saddam forces within the administration.

For months there has been an internal debate between those who want to take on the Iraqi regime, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and those in favor of restraint, mainly at the State Department and CIA.

President Bush clearly has sided with those who want to remove Saddam soon.

But why single out Iraq? All three regimes mentioned by the president are dangerous to their neighbors and world peace. All three have chemical weapons, have worked on biological weapons, and have or are developing nuclear weapons. All have ballistic missiles to carry their weapons of mass destruction, and are increasing their range.

The reason Iraq is the most dangerous is because it is the only country that has used such weapons, continues to develop them, has ties with international terrorists, has twice invaded its neighbors, and is threatening new invasions. Above all, it is Iraq's ability to produce large amounts of weapons-grade anthrax and other disease-causing agents, and Saddam's willingness to use them, that requires early action against his regime.

The figures are staggering. The U.N. inspectors who spent nearly eight years scouring Iraq for Saddam's germ weapons, reported that his regime produced 9,000 liters of anthrax, 19,000 liters of botulinum toxin, and 2,200 liters of aflatoxin. And that was in addition to huge stocks of mustard, sarin and VX poison gases. According to the U.N. inspectors, who were kicked out by Saddam three years ago, the anthrax he produced includes the dry form that remains lethal for decades.

The disaster that would follow the release of large amounts of these biological agents is only now obvious in the wake of the dislocations caused by a few letters with just spoonfuls of finely milled anthrax spores. Despite official doubts, it still is not known whether those spores came from Saddam's stocks of military-grade anthrax.

Saddam invaded his neighbors twice, Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, and his malevolent son Uday, who may be worse than his father, recently made a new claim on Kuwait. Saddam used poison gas extensively during the 8-year war with Iran, killing tens of thousands of young Iranian soldiers, and then sprayed poison gas on a village of dissident Kurds in his own country, killing men, women and children alike. If this is not evil, what is?

Yet, foreign offices around the world were shocked that the president spoke in plain language about the world's most evil regimes. The governments of Germany, France, Russia and others have warned the U.S. not to take military action against Iraq. The hand-wringers here chimed in, crying that action against Iraq will collapse our coalitions, ignite the Arab street, and destroy the new relationship with Russia.

They plead for inaction. But the same people issued the same warnings about military action against the Taliban and withdrawing from the ABM treaty. They forget that inaction in the face of danger encouraged Adolf Hitler, and ineffective action in response to terrorism led to worse terrorism.

Former U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has a substantial reserve of chemical and biological agents and could produce more on short notice. They are convinced Saddam is hiding some Scud ballistic missiles already fitted with chemical or biological warheads for use against U.S. troops, Israel and other U.S. allies.

Iraq probably did not use these weapons in Desert Storm because of the private warning conveyed by Secretary of State James Baker, who implied that the U.S. would retaliate with nuclear weapons. Iraqi officials claim, however, that it was the U.S. that was deterred. The first President Bush did not go on to Baghdad, they claim, because he feared Saddam would use chemical and biological weapons.

Regardless of Iraqi threats, the president has decided Saddam and his regime must go. A range of steps, eventually to include military action, likely will be taken. Russia, the allies, and the hand-wringers will complain until it is over, then they will support the winner and sulk about their own lack of importance. Theodore Roosevelt showed that decisive action is its own reward. George W. Bush is following in good footsteps.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in San Diego.

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