- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) — It was a dialogue of the deaf at the United Nations on Wednesday.

On one side you had U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who accused Iraq of failing to respect the guidelines set out by Security Council Resolution 1441 — the resolution calling on Iraq to disarm.

The United States Secretary of State went on to point the finger at Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein has not given up on his efforts to acquire the banned weapons of mass destruction: biological, chemical and nuclear arms; of supporting terrorism; of having links to al Qaida and of allowing Osama bin Laden's terror network the use of Iraq's diplomatic mission in Pakistan.

On the other side, Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. Mohammad al Douri countered the U.S.'s accusations, calling them nothing but "fabrications and lies."

As the United States and Iraq continued to talk across each other, trading accusations, many are those who felt even more bewildered after the presentation. Powell made a powerful argument, but al Douri's rebuttal was equally strong. The intelligence presented by Powell, according to the Iraqi diplomat, was made up. After all, none of the proof offered by Powell could be scientifically dated. Whom to believe?

I'm not talking about those who wave the Red, White and Blue or those who have no doubt that Saddam is lying.

Just look at his track record. Saddam has lied, cheated, used civilians as human shields and pillaged an entire country out of spite when he failed to get his way.

I'm talking about those sitting on the fence, waiting to be convinced that in this particular case and for whatever reason, war is not the answer. Forget France for the moment, but a good part of Europe — Britain and Spain for example — fall under that heading, even if their governments fully support President Bush's hardball view.

When asked by CNN on Wednesday about Powell's U.N. presentation, showing that Iraq was still delinquent in respecting U.N. resolution 1441, and Iraq's rebuttal, Bob Barr, a former Republican U.S. Rep. from Georgia, said that one should always believe one's own country over others.

"First of all, a rule of thumb for all loyal Americans is to believe our leader before we trust our enemy's leaders," said Barr.

I have two problems with that statement. First, it has to apply to everyone, including the Iraqis. You cannot say, "Americans should believe their leader, but Iraqis should not."

Iraqis would, therefore, be right in believing their president when he tells them the U.S. is the aggressor. From their perspective, they would be following what Barr said — believing their leader over others.

We all know that Saddam is a pathological liar, and therefore Iraqis should dismiss his remarks. Even they are not fooled by him, but are powerless to voice their opinions. But does that mean that America's leaders never lie?

Barr's comment carries an almost eerie Soviet era-like diktat. He insinuates that one should believe and accept whatever those in power decide to feed the public.

Whatever happened to "questioning authority?" This is what has always put American learning institutions above others, in that students here are encouraged to think for themselves and not to take anything at face value.

Were we to believe that the Johnson administration was not involved in conducting a secret war in Laos and Cambodia and that the war in Vietnam was not a disaster? Were we to believe Richard Nixon was not involved in Watergate and was telling the truth when he was lying through his teeth? Or yet, were we to accept without questioning the Reagan administration's mix up in the arms-for-hostages deal and the Contras affair? Or should we not have laughed at George Bush's "read my lips — no more taxes?" What about Bill Clinton's denial of having intimate relations with "that woman," or staining the little blue dress? Likewise, should we not question George W. Bush's urge to commit the country to war with Iraq?

Yes, of course we must. It is the duty of every citizen to question authority? This is what makes a good Democracy. And a good Republic.

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