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WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
The truth about UN weapons inspectors

By Sharon Smith | September 27, 2002 | Page 7

MANY PEOPLE who oppose U.S. war plans against Iraq hope that Saddam Hussein's new willingness to admit weapons inspectors "unconditionally" will slow down or even prevent an all-out war. Last week, protesters at the congressional hearings on Iraq chanted, "Inspections, not war," voicing this sentiment.

Unfortunately, in the past, United Nations (UN) weapons inspectors have provided the U.S. with a convenient excuse to escalate the bombing of Iraq--and the Bush administration's curt dismissal of Saddam Hussein's most recent offer make this the most likely scenario in the foreseeable future.

If Saddam has played a "cat-and-mouse game" with weapons inspectors, as the mainstream media so often asserts, much of the blame lies with the inspection program itself. This can be seen clearly in the events that led up to the last major U.S. and British bombing campaign against Iraq, in 1998.

First, Saddam's longstanding accusation that UNSCOM, the inspection team from 1991 to 1998, spied on behalf of the U.S. military turned out to be true--even though the mass media continues to ridicule this claim.

The Boston Globe broke the story on January 6, 1999, reporting, "U.S. intelligence agencies, working under the cover of the UN, carried out an ambitious spying operation designed to penetrate Iraq's intelligence apparatus and track the movement of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein." The U.S. supplied the UNSCOM team with "eavesdropping equipment, including commercial scanners and U2 spy photographs," according to the Globe.

Second, in 1998, the U.S. instructed UNSCOM director Richard Butler to provoke a confrontation. As Stephen Zunes recently wrote in the Nation magazine, "Without consulting the UN Security Council as required, Butler announced to the Iraqis that he was nullifying agreements dealing with sensitive sites and chose the Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad--a very unlikely place to store weapons of mass destruction--as the site at which to demand unfettered access."

And the media's frequently repeated assertion that Iraq "expelled" the weapons inspectors (presumably to hide a renewed buildup of weapons of mass destruction), is also false. In reality, Butler withdrew the inspectors, at the behest of Bill Clinton, days before the U.S. and Britain began the Desert Fox bombing of Iraq on December 16, 1998.

No inspections have taken place since then, allowing the Security Council to quietly replace the discredited UNSCOM program with UNMOVIC, led by Hans Blix.

As early as last March, Iraq indicated its willingness to cooperate with UNMOVIC weapons inspections. At that time, however, a U.S. intelligence official told the British Guardian newspaper that the White House "will not take yes for an answer" from Saddam Hussein. Once again, the U.S. has demanded unlimited access for the inspectors--conditions designed to force an Iraqi refusal--setting the stage for a new war, this time to remove Saddam from power.

Yet former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has repeatedly argued that Iraq poses no threat to world security. Earlier this month, Ritter traveled to Baghdad to address Iraq's parliament, stating, "The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government, has not, to date, been backed by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction."

And Bush's stated goal of disarming Iraq is equally suspect. In April, the Bush administration successfully demanded the ouster of José Bustani, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Bustani had offered membership in the OPCW to Iraq, which could have verified Iraq's compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention--thus complicating U.S. plans to invade Iraq because of its unconventional weapons programs. Bustani further angered the Bush administration when rumors began to circulate that the U.S. was one of the five countries the OPCW planned to inspect for chemical weapons.

While demanding of Iraq "unfettered" access to weapons inspectors, the U.S. has apparently ruled out any such intrusion on its own weapons sites--even though the U.S. boasts an arsenal of weapons and has inflicted a level of mass destruction far greater than all of its enemies combined.

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