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[casi] An offer he couldn't accept

Filed October 15, 2002
By Jeremy Scahill

 BAGHDAD—Don Corleone once ordered his emissary to make someone an offer he
couldn’t refuse. Later this week George W Bush is going to push ahead with a UN
Security Council resolution Saddam Hussein couldn’t possibly accept. And what’s
becoming abundantly clear is that that’s precisely the point.

What’s unfolding now is so cliché that it shouldn’t even be necessary to spell
it out. At the end of the day, Saddam Hussein is going to reject peace. He will
reject diplomacy. He will invite upon “his own people” a massive US attack and
possible ground invasion. He will once again spit in the face of the
“international community” that Bush has recently discovered (you know the
insignificant folks that make up that soon to be debating society).

>From his prison cell at the Hague, former Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic must be feeling Saddam’s pain. He knows what it’s like to reject
America’s peace pipe. When Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright and company decided it
was time to attack Yugoslavia in 1999, they gave Milosevic one last chance. At the
talks at Rambouilet prior to the 78-day bombing, Yugoslavia was presented with a
document that read like an occupation agreement. It said that NATO troops could
deploy in Serbia and, along with their planes and vessels, would enjoy “free and
unrestricted access throughout all of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” and not
just Kosovo. It said that NATO troops would be immune from prosecution for crimes
committed during their presence in the country.

But back then, when it came time for “good reporters” to do their duty, they
told it like it was: Milosevic had rejected peace.

Fast forward to this week. Iraq is facing the possibility of a US-forced
security council resolution that says that if weapons inspectors return, the
“teams shall be accompanied at their bases by sufficient UN security forces to
protect them, shall have the right to declare for the purpose of this resolution
no-fly/no-drive zones, exclusion zones, and/or ground and air transit corridors,
(which shall be enforced by UN security forces or by member states;) shall have
the free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed and rotary winged aircraft,
including unmanned reconnaissance vehicles…”

Recent reports in the press have indicated that the Bush administration is
developing plans to impose a military governor on Iraq. This resolution would
certainly hurl the country in that direction. General Tommy Franks is probably
trying on the UN fatigues as you read this.

The resolution then “Decides further that Iraq shall immediately cease, and
shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or
personnel of the United Nations…”

>From reading this, one would think that peacekeepers are being gunned down in
Iraq, taken for ransom—that UN buildings are being stormed by the natives and
firebombed. But in the 11 years since the Gulf War ended, Bush—or for that matter
anyone—would be hard-pressed to name an incident in which any UN personnel came
under attack from the Iraqis, including the time in 1998 when Baghdad uncovered
that the US had infiltrated the weapons inspections regime with CIA spies. These
days most UN officials here, while deriding the infamous Iraqi bureaucracy, speak
of deep collaboration with the government in attempting to deal with the
devastating impact of the US-led sanctions.

Of course, no resolution put forth by the Bush administration would be
complete if it didn’t include that well-known bedrock of international law—using
UN resolutions to conduct espionage. The remarkable thing about this resolution is
that Washington is actually spelling it out in the draft: “…any permanent member
of the Security Council [i.e. America, i.e. the Pentagon, i.e. the CIA] may
request to be represented on any inspection team with the same rights and
protections accorded other members of the team, shall have unrestricted, and
immediate movement to and from inspection sites, and the right to inspect any
sites and buildings, including unrestricted access to presidential sites…”

And then there is the issue of interviewing any Iraqi the US, pardon me, the
UN sees fit. A shrewd Iraqi friend, who was educated in the US and trained as an
engineer often says: “I could have a great life abroad. All I would have to do is
‘escape’ to Europe and claim to be a former technician on Iraq’s covert weapons
program.” Parts of the US draft resolution read like a premeditated kidnap
doctrine. It mandates “immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access to
all officials and other persons,” saying that the inspectors may “at their
discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, facilitate the travel of
those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq…” It doesn’t mention in the
draft resolution whether those individuals or their families would have any choice
in the matter. Call it forced defection.

The inner circle in Iraq seems to be resolved to the idea that a massive
attack is a fait accompli and that this resolution could well be the highly
choreographed trigger. This resolution will ultimately constitute a sprawling text
of fine print that most journalists won’t bother to read and most newspapers won’t
bother to print. What matters is that it will be Saddam who has rejected peace.
Bush and his cronies need not worry about any uproar from the media on this one.
They know very well that you don’t need to read the manual of a product you know
quite well how to use.

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally
syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad,
Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the
only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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