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[casi] Hans von Sponeck




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<http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,759446,00.html>

Go on, call Bush's bluff

If Iraq lets the arms inspectors back in, America's case for war will be
exposed as fiction

Hans von Sponeck
Monday July 22, 2002
The Guardian

During the 17 months of the Bush administration just about everything has
gone wrong for the US government in preparing the public for military
strikes against Iraq. Convincing friendly governments and allies has not
fared much better. Acts of terrorism against US facilities overseas and the
anthrax menace at home could not be linked to Iraq. Evidence of
al-Qaida/lraq collaboration does not exist, neither in the training of
operatives nor in support to Ansar-al-Islam, a small fundamentalist group
which allegedly harbours al-Qaida elements and is trying to destabilise
lraqi Kurdistan.

In the aftermath of the carnage of September 11, the political landscape in
the Middle East has changed dramatically. Years of US double standards in
dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have taken a heavy toll. The
Arab, Turkish and Kurdish public in the area is wary of facing more
turmoil, suffering and uncertainty.

The Beirut summit of the Arab League in March signalled that all 22
governments want to see an end to the conflict with Iraq. Saudi Arabia and
Iraq have since reopened their border at Arar and Saudi businessmen are
selling their wares in Baghdad. Iraq has agreed to return Kuwait's national
archives and to discuss the issue of missing Kuwaitis. Iran and Iraq have
accelerated the exchange of refugees. Syria has normalised its relations
with Iraq. Lebanon has done the same. Hardly a week passes without Turkish
and Jordanian officials and business delegations visiting Iraq. Jordan's
national airline flies five times a week between Amman and Baghdad.
Airlinks exist between Damascus and Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan maintains
contacts with Baghdad at scientific, cultural and sports levels and tries
to make the best out of its present (albeit tenuous) local stability.
Iraq's political and economic isolation in the Middle East is all but over.

A wave of senior US visitors has tried to dislocate these trends towards
normalisation and reconciliation in this troubled region. The US
administration has put the UN secretary general on a short leash in his
meetings with the Iraqi authorities. The only topic worthy of discussion
according to the Americans is the return to Iraq of the UN arms inspectors.
This became most apparent during the recently concluded talks with the
Iraqis in Vienna.

Europe is increasingly uncomfortable with this unilateral insistence on
solving the Iraqi conflict militarily. In varying degrees the same applies
to countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has served notice that the
Sultan air base near Riyadh will not be available for a new US offensive
against Iraq. Under severe US pressure, Qatar has agreed to permit the
transfer of logistics from Saudi Arabia to its territory. A political
crisis is looming in Jordan as a result of US demands to use Jordan as a
possible staging area in a war against Iraq. A similar debacle will face
the Turkish government once the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, decides to
relinquish his post and fresh elections are scheduled. An entire region is
being destabilised to suit American preferences for political change in
Iraq.

Concurrently, a systematic dis- and mis-information campaign, one of the
biggest ever undertaken by the US authorities, is intensifying. The US and
the international public are being sedated daily with increasing doses of
propaganda about the threat Iraq poses to the world in 2002. In the
forefront of those advocating war against Iraq has been the US deputy
secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who sees a military solution as the
only option. On July 14 he stated in Istanbul: "President Bush has made it
clear how dangerous the current Iraqi regime is to the United States and
that it represents a danger we cannot live with indefinitely."

To make such statements without offering supporting evidence is
irresponsible. It promotes government-induced mass hysteria in the US and
is meant to garner bipartisan support for military action. A war on Iraq
justified by conjecture is politically foolish and morally repugnant. In
the words of the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams: "It is deplorable
that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war, and the
threat of war, as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy."

The US Department of Defence and the CIA know perfectly well that today's
Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United
States. To argue otherwise is dishonest. They know, for example, that
al-Dora, formerly a production centre for vaccine against foot and mouth
disease on the outskirts of Baghdad, and al-Fallujah, a pesticide and
herbicide manufacturing unit in the western desert, are today defunct and
beyond repair. The UN concluded the former had been involved in biological
agent research and development and the latter in the production of
materials for chemical warfare. UN disarmament personnel permanently
disabled al-Dora in 1996. During a visit with a German TV crew to al-Dora
in mid-July - a site chosen by me and not the Iraqi authorities - I found
it in the same destroyed condition in which I had last seen it in 1999.
Al-Fallujah was partially destroyed in 1991 during the Gulf war and again
in December 1998, during operation desert fox. In between a UN disarmament
team disabled all facilities in any way related to weapons of mass
destruction there, including the castor oil production unit. My visit this
month disclosed beyond any doubt that the castor oil unit was inoperable.
Remnants of other production facilities are used to manufacture herbicides
and pesticides for plant protection and household use.

One does not need to be a specialist in weapons of mass destruction to con
clude that these sites had been rendered harmless and have remained in this
condition. The truly worrying fact is that the US Department of Defence has
all of this information. Why then, one must ask, does the Bush
administration want to include Iraq in its fight against terrorism? Is it
really too far-fetched to suggest that the US government does not want UN
arms inspectors back in Iraq? Do they fear that this would lead to a
political drama of the first order since the inspectors would confirm what
individuals such as Scott Ritter have argued for some time, that Iraq no
longer possesses any capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction? This
indeed would be the final blow to the "war against Iraq" policy of the Bush
administration, a policy that no one else wants. The Iraqis would be well
advised to seize this opportunity and open their doors without delay to
time-limited arms inspectors, thereby confirming that they indeed have
nothing to hide.

This would make a US war against Iraq next to impossible and start the long
journey towards the country's return to normality. What was it that Paul
Wolfowitz said on the west front of the US Capitol on April 15? "May God
bless all the peacemakers in the world." He still has a chance to be among
them.

 Hans von Sponeck was the UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq from
1998-2000 and has just returned from a two-week stay in Iraq


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