- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

It was easy to see the old Navy aviator in Don Rumsfeld as he appeared on the Sunday news programs this weekend. At one point in particular, during his "Face the Nation" interview, the defense secretary appeared almost to be saying "Now hear this" the traditional heads-up delivered on ships' public address systems in advance of any important announcement.

Mr. Rumsfeld clearly wanted to concentrate his audience's mind on the Bush administration's determination to deal, once and for all, with the menace posed by Iraq's despot, Saddam Hussein.

Toward that end, the defense secretary alluded to concerns he and other officials have expressed in the days since Mr. Bush first identified Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil." These include: the danger posed by Saddam's inexorable pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); his growing ability to deliver such weapons via terrorists and ballistic missiles; and the fact that the Iraqi dictator has shown himself willing to use such weapons in the past, not only against Iranian troops, but even against his own citizens.

Mr. Rumsfeld then proceeded to deliver another, arguably even more important message. With his characteristic candor and authority, he vaporized illusions that a solution to the threat posed by Saddam and his WMD program would be a renewal of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq.

For starters, he made clear how unsatisfactory was the experience before Saddam kicked out the inspectors: "Go back to when we did have inspectors in there, which was years ago. When they were there, they had an enormously difficult time finding anything. Under the rules and restrictions that were imposed on them by Iraq, the only real information they got was not by snooping around on the ground, finding things and discovering things, because [the Iraqis] were able to move [such things], hide them underground, lie about them, not allow [the inspectors] to go in, wait long periods before they could go in. The only real information they found was from defectors [who] got away from Saddam Hussein, got out of the country, told the inspectors where to look, which they then did, and they then found some things."

Second, the secretary warned that Saddam has used the years since the inspectors were expelled to make the job of any successor teams infinitely more problematic: "Now, what's happened in the intervening period? Well, technology has evolved. The Iraqis have had more time to go underground. They've had lots of dual-use technologies that have come in.

"They've had lots of illicit things that have come in. They have advanced their weapons of mass destruction programs. They've developed greater degrees of mobility. They are very accomplished liars, as to what's going on. You could you put inspectors all over that place, and it would be very difficult to find anything."

Finally, when pressed about the prospects for future inspections, Mr. Rumsfeld summarized as follows: "I guess what I'm saying is that we have to be very honest with ourselves about what we could accomplish, and recognize that using an old regime that didn't work very well except with the assistance of defectors, and trying to have that work today, with the [Iraqi] technology having advanced, with much greater skill [in] denial [and] deception, we would be fooling ourselves. We would have to have a much more intrusive inspection regime, in my view."

Unsaid, but certainly appreciated by Mr. Rumsfeld, is that it is inconceivable that either Iraq or its patrons on the Security Council, Russia and China, will agree to a new inspection regime with even the considerable latitude for no-notice, on-sight inspections that the original UNSCOM teams enjoyed to say nothing of "a much more intrusive" one.

In this fashion, Mr. Rumsfeld has added yet another invaluable contribution to the national interest to an already storied career of public service. Of course, many in the so-called international community, and particularly in allied capitals, will recoil from the latest Rumsfeld message as they have his previous admonitions about the necessity of missile defense and the attendant U.S. requirement to exercise its right to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Some will take heart from the secretary's admission on Sunday that he could not say what Iraq, the U.N. or even the Bush administration will ultimately decide to do about inspections.

Still, the world has been put firmly on notice: Even if Saddam Hussein were to decide, once again, to try to stave off U.S. military operations by diddling the United Nations, via protracted negotiations over a new Potemkin inspection regime or even a resumption of on-site visits in accordance with the relatively rigorous, post-Desert Storm arrangements, it won't work. Under President Bush, the United States is determined to put Saddam Hussein out of business permanently. And this means not just the weapons of mass destruction business, but that of brutalizing his own people and terrorizing his others, as well.

There is, consequently, no excuse for further delaying the equipping, training and empowering of opposition forces in Iraq, led by the broad-based, widely representative and decidedly pro-Western Iraqi National Congress (INC). Already a year of Mr. Bush's first term has been wasted, thanks to the State Department's refusal to support INC operations in country, and the CIA's insistence on fomenting a coup (despite seven failures to date and grave uncertainty about who would succeed Saddam if one actually worked). It is past time for the U.S. to help the INC establish a provisional government within the no-fly zone areas of northern and southern Iraq, turn over to it frozen Iraqi assets and lift sanctions on the territory under its control.

As it happens, this is a course of action Don Rumsfeld and many others now in senior positions in the Bush administration urged be adopted in February 1998. Let us hope that the rest of the Bush team hears this now, and gets on with the business of liberating Iraq.


Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.


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