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The smoking intercepts
New York Daily News ^ | 2/06/03 | Michael Kramer

Posted on 02/06/2003 2:47:53 AM PST by kattracks

Tuned in: President Bush watches broadcast of Secretary of State Powell's address to the United Nations yesterday.
It worked for me - and even though it didn't, it should have worked for everyone else.

During 80 minutes at the Security Council yesterday, Secretary of State Powell persuasively indicted Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

In the broadest disclosure of intelligence secrets in decades, Powell made the case in a series of damning moments.

There were satellite photographs confirming the continued existence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs. There were well-sourced reports from secret agents, Iraqi defectors and Al Qaeda detainees attesting to Baghdad's continuing ties to Osama Bin Laden's terror network.

Most of all, to my mind, was the signal intelligence, the smoking intercepts in which the U.S. caught Iraqi officials discussing how to hide Saddam's weapons of mass destruction from the UN's weapons inspectors.

In one exchange, an Iraqi colonel tells a Capt. Ibrahim to cease talking about "nerve agents" in wireless communications - presumably because Baghdad knew the U.S. was listening.

In another, on the day before the inspectors arrived in late November, two Iraqi officers talk about "evacuating" some unidentified material, not revealing it, as the UN demanded.

"We have much more that we won't put out because it's even more sensitive," says an administration official. "But Powell made it obvious that Saddam isn't complying with the demand that he disarm and has no intention of doing so. Everyone should have gotten the point."

Everyone didn't.

After Powell spoke, the French - whose foreign policy has for years amounted to little more than standing against any U.S. position - led the naysayers in virtually ignoring Powell's appearance. In various ways, the French, Chinese and Russian foreign ministers (all with veto power in the Security Council) argued for continuing the inspections with beefed-up assistance and, apparently, an open-ended timetable.

To be fair, the foreign ministers' remarks were set pieces written before Powell spoke. If their nations' underlying positions changed after hearing the U.S. report, those shifts will become known only later.

No disarmament

The real power of Powell's multimedia presentation - besides the mountain of evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - was that it stripped away all pretext that the inspections can ever actually disarm Saddam. Thinking otherwise demands believing, at bottom, that the U.S. rather than Iraq is lying.

That leaves the opponents of U.S. policy with their real argument: That they're prepared to live in a world where Saddam has weapons of mass destruction because he's being contained from developing them further and from using them in the future.

Well, Powell formidably demolished the claim that Iraq has ceased pursuing his weapons programs. But since Saddam obviously hasn't used them yet, that's the thin reed to which the naysayers cling.

From America's standpoint, it is precisely the fear that Saddam will one day use his weapons - or transfer them to others who wish us ill - that propels President Bush to argue that Saddam be disarmed now.

If some nations don't get it yet, it's unlikely that argument rather than pressure will ever cause them to see the light.

But maybe, since many abroad view Bush as a crazed cowboy, they should consider the assessment of his predecessor.

In 1998, after Saddam's never-ending game of defiance and evasion caused the last group of UN weapons inspectors to withdraw from Iraq, Bill Clinton, and Congress, changed America's policy from containing Saddam to toppling him.

"If we fail to respond today," Clinton said at the time, "Saddam, and all who follow in his footsteps, will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the UN Security Council."

Clinton never followed through. Bush intends to. That's the difference - and those who enjoy their freedom in large measure because America is both free and strong should appreciate his determination.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events

1 posted on 02/06/2003 2:47:53 AM PST by kattracks
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