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Yeah, right. And Al Gore invented the internet

Saddam Hussein has unconditionally agreed to the return of weapons inspectors. At least, if you listen to what Iraq says they said, rather than what they actually said:

This decision is also based on your statement to the General Assembly on 12 September 2002 that the decision by the Government of the Republic of Iraq is the indispensable first step towards an assurance that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and, equally importantly, towards a comprehensive solution that includes the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iraq and the timely implementation of the other provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 687 (1991).

To this end, the Government of the Republic of Iraq is ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the immediate resumption of inspections.

In short, Hussein is ready to "discuss" the arrangements. Uh, I'm no lawyer -- oh, wait, I am -- but I think there's a small chasm between "discussing" conditions for acceptance and accepting without conditions. Not to mention the fact that Hussein still tries to pretend that lifting sanctions is part of the quid pro quo for accepting inspections. This is just another stalling tactic, an attempt to split the growing international acceptance of the Bush administration's view that something needs to be done.

There's a much more important problem, though, which Bush's response demonstrates he clearly understands: inspections are not the goal here. Inspections are the means to an end. The goal is to eliminate Iraq's weapons capability. (That's the official goal, I mean; the unofficial one is regime change.)

The French don't get this:

Mr. Hussein's move seemed likely to deepen the dispute over tactics between the United States and France. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, forcefully arguing France's position at a midday news conference, outlined a plan for an initial Council resolution that would only require Iraq to allow the weapons inspections without spelling out any consequences if Baghdad does not comply.

France, one of the five permanent, veto-bearing members of the Council, wants to hold off until later a resolution to authorize the use of military force, depending on how the weapons inspections proceed.

In short, the French are playing right into Hussein's hands. They want to warn Hussein that he should let inspections resume, or else we'll call a committee meeting to decide what to do about it.

Which means that -- if Bush were dumb enough to believe Hussein and the French -- Iraq could diddle around, finally let inspectors in, eventually, and then interfere with their work. Then the UN would bluster about how Hussein needs to stop hindering the inspectors. Then Iraq would agree to back down, they'd negotiate some more conditions, some less Ineffective inspections would continue, and Iraq would continue to make life difficult. Eventually, inspectors would issue a partial report of findings, Iraq would demand that sanctions end, and the U.N. would pat itself on the back for averting a crisis. Of course, Iraq would still retain its weapons. And Saddam would still be in power. And would be free to restart his attempts to develop these weapons. And the message would be sent to other third world thugs: if the whole world is against you, just stall for a decade until people get tired of the issue, and you'll get away with it.

Fortunately, Bush isn't that gullible.

I note that Stephen Den Beste had substantially the same reaction as I did:

Which, in fact, is exactly the position they held last Saturday. The only thing they've done is to say that they unconditionally accept negotiations to determine the conditions under which inspections would take place and what else would be done at the same time for Iraq to pay it for this indignity.

They haven't change anything. There was no concession here, no alteration of policy in the slightest. They're still trying to get paid to do something they already promised to do, and they're still trying to delay and play for time.

The big question is going to be how many people fall for it, and part of that will be whether they want to. Those who are looking for a reason to believe that this actually represented a major step will start screaming when the US rightfully declares this as being totally phony. What will be needed is some sort of clear statement, by someone, that explains exactly what the word "unconditional" means, to try to make clear that it doesn't include negotiations or lifting of the sanctions or any kind of deal.

The only question is whether Bush's opponents, in the world community and the U.S., will effectively seize on this ploy or not.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 17, 2002 3:46 PM.

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